Creating something from nothing

If you have ever been tempted to start flower growing and have been too scared to take the plunge, don’t be.  Whether it be as a business or simply just growing a few flowers for your own needs, in a patch of your garden,  all of us have the capability to do so.  You may not be a professional grower, your background may be in something completely alien to the world of flower growing but if it is something you feel passionate about then jump in to this crazy world.

We have managed to do it and have created a business that now supports us, it hasn’t been easy don’t get us wrong.  There have been lots of pitfalls and steep learning curves and unless your one of the lucky ones don’t ever expect to be a millionaire!  Riches in this job come in different forms.  From being immersed in the natural beauty that surrounds you everyday, even in the depths of winter when little is growing, to the smiles on customers faces when they pick up a bunch of flowers from you or a Bride’s joy when they receive their wedding bouquet.  These are the riches that keep you nourished.  They are the things that drive you to keep planning, planting and creating from the produce you toil hard over.

We always have a lot of people comment to us how much they would “love to do what we do” but please don’t be fooled, this job is hard graft.  Don’t be expecting to be wafting round the cutting garden in a Cath Kidston apron from dawn ’til dusk, with your flower trug and snips in hand.  We think many who say the aforementioned, have a misguided vision of how our life may seem.

Be prepared to get down and dirty!  Shoveling copius amounts of manure and mulch for hours on end, weeding, clearing beds and digging – be prepared to put your back out on a fairly regular basis, and have hands stained with in ground dirt, this is not a job for the glamorous.  Then there is the battling of the elements – from working out in the rain to making sure everything is either anchored down or supported against prevailing winds and in the summer season the relentless watering, to quench the plants after the intense heat of the day.  Be prepared to have to do these tasks all over again just because of these elements, they’re going nowhere, you just have to try to keep one step ahead of them all the time.  At moments this job can be disheartening, when you just think you have ‘cracked it’ something else will come along to test you.  The biggest test we have are Pheasants.  Sometimes in our walled garden it’s like trying to grow flowers in a Chicken run holding a thousand ravenous hens.  Our plot is on a beautiful country estate that holds a traditional shoot and rears several thousand Pheasants to release in the Autumn.  From late September to early Spring these birds are literally like marauding locusts, attacking everything green, even digging/pecking established plants and their roots completely from the ground.  I will leave it there (I could swear a lot about these birds) but over the years we have lost a lot but have now hopefully worked out the varieties that are most resistant!!

The good parts of this job, thankfully, always outweigh the bad and once the flowers start in earnest there is no place you would rather be.

This year through our blog we thought we’d let you in on a little bit about how we operate here at HQ and provide you with some hopefully informative blog posts on our growing with some  features of where our flowers end up in-between.

Everybody always thinks all of our flowers are produced at the cutting garden for the entirety of their life, and we have access to vast professional growing areas.  In truth all of our seedlings are started off in our small wooden 8ft x8ft greenhouse, that we built from scratch, at home.

                                          

Our cut flower garden, although beautiful, has no other services but water.  With this the case and our need for warmth in the early part of the year we converted our home greenhouse (with electric laid on) into our Spring season propagation unit.  Everything that is now established and is grown annually in our two acre plot has started life in this little space.  This goes to show you how incredibly productive a small area can be.  We sow intensively into small, half size, seed trays with  250-500 seeds per tray depending on type and transfer the seeded trays on to heated benches in the greenhouse.  Yes, the seedlings can come up like cress!  As soon as they’re up we have to work quickly, pricking out into plug trays, so the seedlings don’t stretch.  We then grow them on in the cooler polytunnel down at the plot.  Our propagation times are programmed so we start off with the hardier varieties and move on to the more tender types as the weather warms.  This little greenhouse produces around 30,000 plants a year, most of them over the Spring season, it’s intensive and it works for us but we really wanted to illustrate to you that you can develop anything, from near nothing, if your passion is strong enough!

 

 

 

Bring on Spring!!

Pricking out Lavatera Seedlings

 

After what seems like an eternity not writing on this blog, today sees a return to us trying to keep it up to date with all things happening this year.  We have noticed though through following blogs of others, flower growers, as we are, start off the year with these great intentions when things start to move and inspire us in the garden.  It then sort of drifts off, as we become consumed with caring for our plants, knowing their flowers have been allocated to events to come.  We get easily engrossed with  sowing, watering, nurturing, transplanting, weeding, watering, watering, pinching, weeding, watering. But then, hooray, cutting and arranging!!!  Last year our business took off in a way we hadn’t quite anticipated.  Our own ‘from the garden gate‘ sales, farm shop sales, numerous weddings, parties and funerals with many other events besides, left us with little time for blogging.  This year though, we are going to be ‘on it’!!  Or so we hope.  We will see what prevails.  This year is already nearly full with weddings and our workshop places are filling fast.   2018 Weddings are also booking well but we will aim, between Brides and plants, as best we can, to keep this blog going.  We have extra help this year and you know what they say, many hands make light work . We don’t know whether there is actually such a thing as light work with flower production but there is so much we want to tell you about; growing techniques, what’s best to grow, harvesting and arranging.  Follow us over the coming weeks to see what is going on here at HQ, we want to inspire you all.

Today at last we see the onset of Spring and we are wanting to alert you all of the beauty of what is to come for the seasons ahead.  As flower growers, we get all excited at this time of year, our passion is about to hit full throttle and winter has seemed long.  Although we’ve been planning and plotting our growing areas, to us this bit is the drudgery, the boring bits we have to do, as with any job.  This winter period does get enlightened, however, by the seed and bulb catalogues arriving, giving us pictures of perfect blooms that we all hope to grow, our budgets becoming a little stretched with the orders that we place in anticipation of what is to come.  This week though, the sun has come out, even if briefly, and the weather has warmed enough to get going outside in earnest.

Jobs outside in the flower garden throughout Winter, although they have been tackled as and when they should, seem difficult when its freezing, when the rain blows horizontally and the soil is cold and sodden, or rock hard with frost.  A little bit of warmth is all it takes.  To feel the soil actually crumble between your fingers rather than stick to them, to have the sun on your face rather than the the biting wind and to come in from work not actually drenched to the skin.  This is when you know Spring is arriving.

By Valentine’s Day the light levels have increased enough to start the seed sowing.  This fills any grower with joy.  The seeds we ordered whilst sitting in the darkest of days can at last get their chance to thrive.  As a little tip here, if you don’t have the privilege of vast amounts of under cover growing area with additional lighting and you rely on growing the bulk of your cut flowers out of doors, don’t even bother to plant a seed before Valentine’s Day.  Those that germinate before this time will produce weak and feeble plants, the day light levels are just not high enough to result in good growth.  Be patient.  All too often, as soon as the first seed packets arrive on our doorsteps we can’t wait to see some new shoots of life and sow straight away.  This is only to our own peril and we usually end up re ordering seed to have a second go!!   By the time mid February is here though- go for it, sow, sow, sow!  Start with your hardy perennials, then in a few weeks time progress on to your hardy annuals and half hardy annuals a few weeks later still.  Save those gems for sowing such as Zinnias and flowering Basils until right at the end of the Spring season.  These guys really don’t like any temperature lower at night than 10 degrees celsius to do well, so aim to sow these at in late April or the beginning of May for transplanting outside mid June.  Seed sowing doesn’t stop there though, it continues right on until October, for all the crops to give you succession.  Whether it be more annuals, to continue your summer harvest, or sowing of biennials ready for transplanting in the Autumn or even more perennials that need to overwinter in the cold to germinate the following Spring.

Jobs for a flower grower never really stop and at this time of year there are only a whole load more to come. This year we want to tell you all about them all.

Bring on this Spring!!!…..

The mad season is drawing to a close but another begins…..

table centre wreath 065With the onset of Autumn, in earnest.  The mad period of sowing, propagating, transplanting, tending and cutting is coming to a close, the mass clear up is underway.  Clearing the debris of this years spent crops, cultivating before it gets too wet to go on the land and getting all those Spring flowering bulbs and early flowering biennials into their final positions ready for an explosion of colour next year.  We always have to be that far ahead in our thinking.  Sometimes knowing what we have to grow, through knowing the all time favourites, sometimes not knowing and trying to choose varieties that will satisfy the oncoming trends.  At times with growing there’s always a bit of ‘pot luck’ involved!!

The planting of thousands of bulbs is underway and it won’t be long until the shorter days will make time for sorting out all the seed orders, in time for next Spring when the madness will start again.

With the close of one season comes another, and although we have been preparing for Christmas since July, gathering seed heads, drying hydrangeas, and sorting promotional material for workshops and the farmers markets we go to, the reality of it hasn’t quite hit yet.  It wont be long though.  Harvesting evergreens and holly, gathering hips and haws to embelish our winter designs and looking for that ever evasive material to make your products look just that little bit different, to help catch the onlookers eye.  However, there is a warmth to this oncoming time of year, even though you may be freezing whilst working outdoors, that feeling you get when you create what we do this time of year and know its usually going to be the main item that people see as they enter your home or sit around your dining table over the festive period.  Knowing that we have produced a focal point that’s involved when bringing family and friends together is heart warming…

A Railway Wedding…..

It all started with a Facebook ‘like’.

One day in 2014 when we posted on our page that we were to attend a 1940’s Vintage Railway event at the beautiful East Anglian Railway Museum at Chappel, Essex.  Here we would be selling our bunched, homegrown flowers from a track side stall, and within a minute or two a comment was received telling us ‘Thats where we are holding our reception next May, we will come and see you’!!

And sure enough we met.

That meeting was with Fiona and Dan.  They explained to us briefly and excitedly they were loving our seasonally grown flowers, and the style of flowers that looked like they had just been plucked from the surrounding countryside was just what they were after, to compliment their wedding theme.  And a theme it was….

After a couple more meetings to discuss and finalise everything we soon realised everything about their day had been thought through carefully with fun for themselves and their guests involved in every aspect.  It was to be based on a great ‘British’ day out (in retrospect the first journey they were to take as Husband and Wife), a marriage ceremony in the beautiful townhall of Colchester and after, a day out with buses, a trainride and a picnic for all.  View More: http://razialife.pass.us/fiona-and-dans-wedding

The flowers were to pick out colours of, perhaps, an excited journey you were to take as a child, when going to the seaside.  These colours and textures to reflect the fun they both wanted to achieve for their day but given more of a vintage 1920’s twist.  This achieved with the addition of fern leaves and succulents but the main flowers to remain, on the whole, quintessentially English, Peonies, Bluebells, Ranunculus, the odd Tulip and Cowslips from the garden to compliment the Bridal party’s dresses and the Groomsmen’s attire for the day.

It was great to work alongside a couple who had a great sense of fun and the vision to pay the attention to the smallest details, to ensure the whole day was enjoyable and memorable for everyone.

We were so pleased when Fiona and Dan sent us some shots of their day, it can be seen from the anticipation from the flower girl receiving her floral crown to the appreciation and smiles, not only from the Bride and Groom, but from the rest of the guests how the most amazing day was had.  We are so glad our flowers contributed to that.

All the best Fiona and Dan, we had great fun too…………..

Styling; Fiona and Dan Jones

Flowers; The Country Garden Flower Company

Photography; Razia N Jukes Photography

26th April 2015

Blossoms and branches………

April and May are the most dramatic two months of the year, the transformations we see are astounding, you can more or less see the changes by the minute.

Each night when we arrive home from work, just a quick glance around the garden will show us that.  The flower buds are beginning to form on the early summer perennials, the early Spring ones are now fading and the bounty of late Spring is now upon us.  Branches of pink blossom are now abundant among the trees, the Tulips are replacing the Narcissus and the Bluebells are beginning to bloom.  The Nightingale has arrived and is singing relentlessly, the Swallows have arrived and Cuckoo is beginning to call, all the signs that the beautiful English Summer is just around the corner.Blossom and boughs 064

It always seems such a rush at this time of year everything is in a hurry to have it’s showtime, some so fast you blink and miss them.  It is time now to take a moment gather that snapshot in time, as for week by week it alters, and the beauty that is around us will be lost for another year unless we do something to appreciate it more.  The combinations of flowers that can be cut and enjoyed indoors at this time of year is nearly overwhelming. Our minds buzz with how many of them we can achieve but at this time of year it is definitely about the trees, they are fleeting and their blossoms so varied in their forms, the Cherry with all its exuberance, the Maple and Viburnum with their dainty floret clusters down to the Willow and Birch trees and their catkins.

Use them simply, cut a few stems and place them without fuss into a vessel, combine with a few other blooms of the season and enjoy….

 

19th April 2015

Ramblings of a Gardener……..

 As we work outside today, the wind still bites. There is definitely not just a nip in the air here!!  Everything is still behind, when we compare what we were picking this time last year but hey, we were probably spoilt with the weather we all enjoyed in March 2014.

The leaves on most of the trees, except the Ash, are beginning to emerge.  Does this mean by the old saying ‘Oak before Ash, we’re in for a splash’, Ash before Oak we’re in for a soak’ is going to ring true??  If so it will mean lots of watering for us this summer!!  To be honest we could do with a bit of rain now to settle in the seedlings. 

It’s great, that at long last, the whole landscape is beginning to look 3 Dimensional again, after what seems like ages of barren branches and twigs.  The buds on the trees have started to give us that illumination of Spring Green, the Blackthorn is flowering like mad and gives, an almost ghostly white appearance in the hedgerows.  Spring,  although taking its time in arriving, as we thought it would, is happening in a hurry this year.  It won’t be long until our road verges are filled with frothing Cow Parsley, wafting aimlessly as we drive past.

In the greenhouse the seedlings are growing fast, our days are spent transplanting them into plug trays and transferring them to the polytunnel to grow on.  In the garden the Tulips are coming into their own, we’ve been picking them and arranging for others all week .  This evening it has been great to pick some, along with the beautiful Wallflowers and Euphorbia palustris, and just enjoy them for ourselves.

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12th April 2015

The season is kicking in……..

The wedding season is well and truly underway.  All of those meetings earlier on in the year with prospective couples have started to come to fruition.  The reality of transforming all of their ideas for their special day, brings the whole of  what we are about to life.   The exhilaration of  cutting our own flowers combining them together, with others if we need them,  to create their dream and then finally the apprehension.  The apprehension of hoping you have got it all spot on when the Bride views her venue and receives her bouquet.  There is nothing more scary than thinking we may have it ‘not quite right’ but absolute elation when we see the the results of our toil were everything that was wanted. 

Sometimes to create, all that is needed is observation.ranunculus bouquet 045  For us it is all about watching nature, looking at how things grow, their natural forms, how they combine together, this is not just flower arranging it’s about a whole garden, the season, and the plant combinations that we know work well.  Colours, textures, forms and using them to their best.

 

 

 

 

Nicola and Stephen’s wedding yesterday was all about that, seasonal, natural and beautiful

3rd April 2015

Blossom, bunches and buckets……

Some days it’s all about digging, planting and preparation but as Spring arrives and the blossom begins to appear in the hedgerows, it’s a sure indication to us that those in our garden will not be far behind.  The Narcissus, Anemone and Ranunculus have already been flowering for a week or two now, the intricate flowers of the Hellebores have been blooming since early February and will probably see us through for a little while yet, with their subtle tones, until they turn to green forever.

This last week has seen picking start in earnest.  Buckets of Anemone,Prunus blossom, tissue paper like petals of the Ranunculus and the parchment like bud cases of the Narcissus before the flowers break though.easter2015 048

The welcome addition of the lime green umbels that are beginning to appear from the Alexanders together with the cymes of the beautiful Euphorbia that have lent themselves brilliantly to providing that all important contrast to the other early Spring blooms.  Just looking forward to these now spanning the gap between the early Spring bulbs and the wonderous Tulips and Bluebells that follow.

From now on it will be full steam ahead, the flowers will keep on coming.  More planting, seed sowing and cultivating will prevail but it has been fantastic this week to grasp what has come into its own and combine them together into bunches and more, for our customers to enjoy……

 

 

 

 

31st March 2015

Spring is slow to arrive, but using the time to reflect …..

With all the buds waiting to burst but everything held in limbo with the onslaught of this cold weather and beating winds, we wonder if Spring in earnest will ever arrive.  No doubt it will as it always does, then it will be rapid, erupting everywhere, beautiful blossom and blooms seeming like a massive carcophony of noise but taking a visual form.  Our senses overwhelmed with all the fantastic shapes and scents that only Spring flowers can bring after a cold bleak winter that seems to have gone on forever.

We have been planting like machines, Roses and perennials, propagating tender plants and sowing seeds for masses more.  Continuing to meet with lots of prospective brides, and planning for all their schemes.  Late Winter and Early Spring to us is all about preparation, then waiting to jump at the first chance of combining those amazing blooms that nature provides us. 

On grim days, like today, it is also a chance to look back, take note and reflect on what went before.  The beautiful flowers of last year, the Brides we met and the anticipation and excitement of doing it all again.IMG_3076

Katie and James had a beautiful August wedding, the Church and venue about as romantically English as you can imagine but with a contemporary twist of Tipis for their reception.  Coupled with a perfect day of hazy sunshine it looked like bliss compared to what we see  outside today……

Flowers; The Country Garden Flower Company

Photography where applicable; Insymmetry Photography

March 10th 2015

A  Boho Winter……

The romantic essence of a wedding day, for most, is floaty, whimsical and dreamy.

We wanted to capture this with an abundance of textures- Foliage, flowers, silks, lace and our own home made ribbons dyed with everything from Elderberry and Beetroot, through to Spices and Cabbage, yes Cabbage, you read it right, the red type to be precise!!!

We’d had the overall flowing style in our minds eye from the previous Autumn when we were dabbling with alchemy, with a stove full of amazing concoctions brewing, giving us earthy rainbow tones to silks, linens, lace and other fabrics we dipped.  Each one would come out different each with it’s own unique shade, the uses to us were endless.Wedding_Flower_Photography-103-XL

The warm tones of the vintage lace in Kristina’s dress combined with the cooler shades of lilac, from some of the ribbons we had produced, influenced the combination of flowers chosen to accentuate the colours and textures.  This time we allowed ourselves the luxury of just two types of flowers that we hadn’t been able to grow in our own plot at that time of year.  A stunning lilac Rose  called ‘Dolcetto’ and the very graceful Clematis Pirouette.   Everything else was at its own natural growing stage from our garden, the amazing Ivy heads and the very unusual buds of the Euphorbia combined with the dusky mauve of the freckled Hellebores, the dried seedheads of the wild willowherb and hydrangeas from the summer before.

Assembling all the feature flowers on the work bench emanated in us combining them into a beautiful floral crown, the hydrangeas in this were stunning and set off by Kristina’s English Rose looks to perfection……

Flowers and Styling; The Country Garden Flower Company

Photography; Jess Soper Photography

Hair; Chloe Nicole’s Freelance Hairdressing

Make up; Millie Johns

Model; Kristina Evans