Yesterday a copy of the Exmoor Magazine dropped onto our door mat. I knew it was coming because I was interviewed in the summer for an article on artisan flower growers on the Quantocks. Those photos in the article reminded me that the gloomy February weather would pass and we’d be into the long days and warmth of Summer.
I always know that when I've submit my tax return at the end of January, it's time to turn my thoughts to plans for the coming season and start to plan the seed sowing schedule.
Last year was really busy, especially in the Autumn; we were making wedding flowers up until early December and managed to supply an all English-grown flowers for a funeral the week before Christmas. We did a real mix of DIY weddings (some with as little notice as two weeks) through to the full service where I decorate the church, bridal party, reception. But by far the most popular option was "bouquets and buckets" with the bride and her friends/family decorating the venue and church using my buckets of flowers.
As a result of this preference for a semi DIY wedding I’ve started to offer personal floristry support - a session here with me to learn how to make your own bouquets and buttonholes and the most economical way to fill jam jars with flowers or make venue decorations. I know I will be doing more of that this summer.
I've been sowing a few pots of seeds each week in the heated propagator and already have some that need to be pricked-out. I’ve ordered more glorious dahlias, the workhorse of the late Summer and Autumn garden and some of the new chrysanthemums. And I have seeds of some really lovely unusual plants that I know will be a "hit" with customers who want the "wild look". Can't wait to get going!
After the Christmas rush for wreaths and table decorations plus a couple of festive season weddings, I have been reviewing how The Somerset Cut Flower Garden has performed as a business in its second year of trading. Without all our lovely customers the business would not be progressing as well as it is and we have plans to broaden out our "offer" this year.
In 2016 we supplied flowers for 25 weddings as well as many gift bouquets and funerals and in November one of the weddings we supplied was featured in "Hello" magazine.
We supplied weddings in a variety of styles and colour schemes and in September we were very flattered to be invited to have a display of our seasonal British flowers at the RHS Malvern Autumn Show by the TV florist Jonathon Moseley from the BBC's Great British Allotment Challenge
We also provided flowers several times for the filming of "Midsomer Murders", for a local wedding venue photo shoot and we sold lots of bunches of flowers from the roadside to passers-by many of whom became regular customers.
I have to admit that I've found having floristry students, Ruby and now Reuben, on work experience from Bridgwater College a real boon.
Thinking ahead, I have teamed up with a local interior designer, Helen Dagger, to offer an event decorating service. Helen spent many years as an Art Director for the BBC and has an amazing knack of assessing a space and what will transform it into a fabulous party or wedding setting economically and effectively. We are available to plan and execute the entire decoration of a venue or to manage the process with the involvement of the wedding guests and bridal family.
After the coldest Spring I can recall we had a brief heat wave and now a deluge!
The weather is one of the hardest thing to cope with when you are growing flowers, but there is an upside to its downsides; this year it was such a cold Spring that the seeds didn’t germinate very well and we had to re-sow them several times, but it meant that we had tulips and narcissi for far longer than we’d normally expect. In fact I still had tiny jonquils flowering at the end of May.
The short hot snap in late May meant that suddenly the entire garden burst into flower with roses, delphiniums, peonies and lots of other flowers all out together so we had lots of flowers for the early summer weddings and for British Flowers Week this week.
I was invited for a live interview on the breakfast programme of our local radio station this week – BBC Radio Somerset. We talked about why British flowers are having a renaissance, the network of growers in the county and why our flowers are better than imports from South America and Africa via the Dutch auctions – they are picked to be at their best for the customer not for the transporter, you know that they aren't covered in chemicals and haven’t flown half way around the globe, and the sheer diversity of colour, texture and type is amazing.
When I had finished the interview the BBC technician asked me to make a bouquet while he filmed me (see video below).
As I write we've had a week of dull drizzle and today there’s been a cloudburst which won’t do the peonies any good as their enormous heads hold the water, but the sweet peas will love it and they are about to bloom in profusion. Watch out for photos on Facebook and Twitter
There are House Martins on the telephone wire across the field as I write this; that means that it's definitely Spring and there’s evidence of it everywhere here in the Quantock Hills.
After the long damp Winter the greenhouse is full of seedlings all pricked-out and ready to grow on before being planted out into the flower plot for summer weddings. There are dahlias sprouting in the greenhouse too and I often marvel at how a dried up dahlia corm can produce such luxuriant flowers in just 5 months.
The seedlings that have stood the weather outside are miles ahead ready for the early weddings -sweet peas, candytuft, cornflowers and other hardy annuals whilst the peonies have begun their sprint to glory in June.
To make sure that we can provide for Spring brides, we have a polytunnel and inside it’s like early Summer – ranunculus, tulips and anemones in bloom and poppies, ammi, clary sage, delphiniums, sweet Williams, nigella, sweet peas and larkspur all about to flower.
I've spent the winter not just preparing for Spring, but honing my floristry skills so that I can offer my brides the newest fashion in bridal bouquets – the natural look and also floral garlands to go over a church doorway or a garden arch or used as a table runner.
It’s so exciting to feel the warmth of the sun and I can't wait for our first wedding weekend. Not long now!
The autumn mists signal the final flourish for the flower garden with only the Dahlias and roses still flowering alongside a scattering of other flowers and foliage - just sufficient to make up a few bouquets if we need to.
2015 has been a great year for us here; we’ve supplied lots of brides with buckets of flowers that some ordered a year ahead and others just a week ahead of their big day. We’re happy to help whatever the time scale of your wedding. Most brides wanted vintage country style whites and pastels – apricot, peach, pink, green, but we had some wanting jewel colours of scarlet, cerise, purple and blue. We can cater for both and love the variety of colour schemes brides look for.
Late in the summer we branched out into funerals and were pleased to be able to supply small hand-tied bouquets for a family, each one with a different flower or plant that was special to their relative. These they placed on the coffin as a personal tribute to the person they loved and remember.
Bouquets for birthdays and other special events were also popular and we enjoyed seeking out some of the tucked-away houses in the villages here on the Quantocks or in Taunton or Bridgwater to deliver them.
November is not the end of the growing year: we have seedlings and bulbs growing in the polytunnel for early weddings next Spring and outdoors the ranunculus, sweet peas and other annuals are big enough to stand the winter weather and flower early next year. We are growing some really unusual plants for next year – Scabiosa Stellate, Allium Hair and Wode (or Woad) to add to our usual palette of traditional English flowers and our speciality, Delphiniums.
In 2016 we have plans to have group visits to the Somerset Cut Flower Garden so that anyone wanting to visit and talk cutting flowers and how to grow them can join us for a few hours. Keep an eye on the website for more information in the New Year.
So as we clear out the dahlias and put in the tulips, we look forward to lots of lovely commissions for next year’s weddings. Consultations are free and include a cup of tea while we look at the lovely photos to inspire you and your colour scheme.
Email or telephone Karen on 07528 724458 to book a meeting.
It was a busy winter caring for the plants and sowing seeds, fending off the mice who have a taste for ranunculus corms and the rabbits who love the tender shoots of young plants.
The flowering year got off to a busy start with two May weddings: one in a wild and country style and the other using the opulent colours of Asia. Both brides were thrilled with their flowers.
The warm April weather meant that the tulips were gone too quickly, but not so fast that I couldn't provide flowers for a set of Midsomer Murders on three occasions.
More weddings including one at three days' notice have kept me busy and we are quoting for a wedding in June next year already.
The late arrival of the dahlia plants in July hasn't delayed their development too much and there are some fabulous blooms just starting to open so we are on schedule for a glorious display for the late summer brides.
This weekend I am providing flowers for the tea tent at the Spaxton Village Show here on the Quantocks on Saturday 1st August. Come and see us if you can.
Well everything is looking wonderful with billowing ammi and orlaya in the polytunnel, sweetpeas galore and some truly amazing dahlias with long strong stems which withstood last night's thunderstorm really well.
Our local church was the lucky beneficiary of me being on holiday last week with lots of our flowers going into the displays.
Visited a lovely garden opened under the “yellow book” charity scheme last weekend – Glebe Court at West Monkton near Taunton. An inspirational walled garden and lots of lovely flowers, but it was the asparagus that caught my attention as mine planted in 2011, is so awful. Interesting that Monty Don was saying the same thing last Friday and he has dug all his up .... Not sure I can be quite that brave. Will continue to feed and mulch it in the hope that next spring it does better.
The glorious, fleeting perfume of honeysuckle was wafting over the garden yesterday evening while I was watering the young Antirrhinums and Sweet Williams for next spring’s flower garden – wonderful.
The first Orlaya flowers are out. I’ve never grown this plant before but already I can see why florists love it so much. It will add a little of bit of romantic softness to bouquets. Hot on its heels is Ammi Majus, a similar but much bigger flower for more robust bouquets.
We have always had a lovely garden, but early in the spring 2014, we began to expand our growing area onto part of the orchard to give us more space.
As we grow and develop the garden here at the SCFG, we will be writing a diary of what is happening in the Garden each week, giving information about seasonal tasks and advice on growing individual plants as well as sharing things that don’t go as well as we’d hoped – its all useful learning material!