Farewell to November and hello to winter. I personally am very behind with my Autumn gardening chores. The fact that here on the Welsh borders we have only had a few mild frosts and many trees are still holding on to the remainder of their autumnal leaves has fooled me into thinking I still have lots of time before winter hits. I can guarantee I have now tempted fate and that by the time this newsletter reaches inboxes my garden will be under a foot of snow! Sorry, and yes you can blame me!
Lets kick off with our regular round up of the month from Victoria at The Flower Garden at Stokesay Court (I hope she's been more organised than me!) ..........
November at The Flower Garden at Stokesy Court
We are very excited about our newly-delivered roses from David Austin wholesale, which look absolutely fantastic with great roots and stout stems. There were too many needful varieties for us to plant ten (the requisite wholesale number) of each, so we shared an order with Lucinda at Blooms and Bees, to maximise the number of varieties we can squeeze into our one acre. Of less fine quality, but still healthy and very exciting, were the bargain rose plants we picked up from Aldi with Chloe of BareBlooms: glorious summer flowering old varieties such as 'Charles de Mills' and 'Ispahan' and the troublesome but divine 'Baron Girod de l'Ain'. We're hoping that these plants, carefully nurtured, will provide us with heaps of romantic party flowers, but we know that none of these varieties has a very long vase life. I've ordered four reputedly good 'doers' to put into bouquets, without (hopefully) compromising on romance: 'Lavender Ice', 'Hope and Glory' (can a thing so lovely really last well once cut?), 'Lady Marmalade' and 'Red Parfum de Provence', from Pocock's Roses, yet to arrive. In spite of lots of research into roses with good vase life before we did our ordering, it has been very difficult to find varieties with a consistent reputation. Such a nuisance. Perhaps we growers all need to pool our resources on this one, and come up with a really strong list.
The other all-engrossing activity this month has been the planting of tulip bulbs. I got really carried away this year. Boxes and boxes of bulbs all waiting to be planted; luckily they've kept well, stored in the handy old apple store at the bottom of the garden, along with our surplus jams, jellies and country wines (we're hoping that 'tea wine' will improve a little with keeping). Once Barney had recovered from the shock of my over-ordering spree, he discovered a silver lining: this was an ideal excuse for him to hire a mini digger, drive it about in the garden and churn up all the mud, and dig us some splendid deep trenches for the bulbs. The people who had the garden before us told me that they planted their tulips two feet deep, and although the flowers did come up for four years, we were not so brave, and aimed for about one foot deep. I hadn't found homes for all my fritillaries, muscari and triteleia, so I've scattered these into one of the big tulip trenches some inches higher than the tulip bulbs. Hope it will work. Right now it all seems very academic and I am not at all sure that I believe in the flowers coming up in the spring. All I can think of is hot blackcurrant, blankets and cosy evenings in playing games by the fire.
Thanks to Victoria for telling us about her November and for accompanying me to Aldi for a 'bargain'. I can't wait to come and visit the garden in the Spring and view the Tulips and maybe taste some of Barney's 'tea wine' ?!! If it's half as good as his 'rhubarb champagne' then it will be worth a taste!
After catching wind of Fiona's (one half of Pyrus) trip to NY state last month on the social media grapevine I knew that I had to hear more. It seemed the perfect opportunity to make Pyrus our Members of the Month and ask Fiona to tell us more .........
Growing in America
Some of you may have seen the blog post on my friend Mairead’s wedding in upstate New York with Sarah Ryhanen. Mairead is one lucky girl, not only did she have the most amazing wedding and flowers but she lives in flower farm country! I thought some of you who grow your own flowers might be interested in my trip.
The lady who supplied THE most beautiful Dahlias and a lot of the other flowers Sarah used was Anna Mack. She has a small farm growing flowers only a couple of miles from the wedding so I jumped at the opportunity to take a visit.
Her farm was spread out over three areas equating to a couple of acres. For me it was fantastic to see how she grew and what she grew. This really was the best post wedding hangover cure!
Her poly-tunnel was a blissful sight brimming with dahlias and huge amaranthus. I asked her about conditioning dahlias as sometimes ours don’t last as long as we’d like. Her answer was clean buckets. No searing, no cutting under water, just clean buckets. Her secret to the most enormous Zinnias I have ever seen was compost, chicken pellets and fish / kelp spray. She grows everything organically and mainly supplies direct to florists. It was inspiring to see the size of her plots given that it is just her who takes care of it all. At Pyrus everything is done by hand and I’m thinking we might be missing a trick as I found out Anna uses a tractor with buckets, disks annuals, rotivates the beds and has a manure spreader. A machine might be added to the Pyrus Christmas list!
When I arrived back in NYC I was desperate to get to the flower district and a little market that Sarah had told me about. After a few attempts to find it I met a couple of more large scale flower growers.
River Garden are a large wholesaler who sell to florists and markets and who knew Sarah well. They don’t use pesticides but they do use herbicides and fungicides which I guess is understandable as they have 60 acres of flowers. Everything is grown outdoors and sounded like a massive operation.
At the same market I met the Dutchmill Garden team based in New Jersey who have been growing for 30 years over 11 acres. They sell to markets three or four times a week.
It was a really inspiring trip and I hope that one day it will be quite common place to visit flower farms here in the UK or have a choice of local flower suppliers at the weekend markets. I guess it’s just a matter of time before this happens and when it does, we will all be at the ready with our flower revolution!
Many thanks to Fiona for sharing her floral adventure with us and of course non of us are even slightly envious that she got to work with Sarah ofSaipua fame !
Fiona and Natalya still have a few places left on some of their Christmas wreath making workshops. You can find out about their courses here. I love the sound of the course on the Colstoun estate (Pyrus HQ ) where the girls take you foraging for wintry foliages and treasures on the estate before teaching you how to create your own beautiful wild door wreath to take home. Finishing off the class with festive nibbles and a glass of fizz. Book asap though as some of the courses are already sold out !
At the other end of the country The Garden Gate Flower Company girls have a wreath making workshop with home made soup and bread on the 12th of December. You can find out more here
Georgie at Common Farm Flowers is running 'Dress your house for Christmas' workshops on the 13th and 14th of December. You can find out more, as well as booking your place here
Organic Blooms have wreath making workshops on the 8th and 15th of December and a table decoration workshop on the 15th of December. All workshops include refreshments. You can find more details as well as bookhere
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