One thing about flower farming is that you are always having to think ahead about what you need to do now in order to grow fabulous seasonal flowers for the future. Of course, I’d like to say ‘plan’ rather than ‘think’, and yes, I do plan to a certain extent……but if there’s one thing that 2018 has taught me is the absolute truth of Burns’ phrase, “The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men…..”.
This year has been a challenging year for all British farmers because of the freaky weather. From a flower grower’s perspective, the Beast from the East meant that lots of the spring flowers were about 3 weeks late, and then they all arrived at once! No sooner had we got over that, then the hottest summer certainly in my memory arrived and frazzled the Bloom Carousel cut flower garden. It was only when we got to September that things started to normalise, and I felt the flower plot breath a well-deserved sigh of relief. Despite all of this, I was still able to provide seasonal flowers for all of the floral commitments we had over the summer, but I did have less available for sale at markets.
In this short blog, I look at the effect of this years’ whacky weather had on my flowers. In future blogs, I’ll be talking about some of the ways I plan to make the plot more resilient to unexpected weather, mainly through the choice and diversity of plants that I will grow.
Annuals – hardy and half-hardy
In early Spring, I’d planted a super selection of Annuals…. cornflowers, ammi, cosmos, nigella, orlaya, snapdragons, scabious, amaranthus, sweet peas, lavatera and plenty of others. Those flowering in early to mid-June were great, (infact, the self-sown overwintered nigella were spectacular) and I had some wonderful white and blush pink blooms for a mid-June wedding. But by late June, and an already extended period of drought, everything was looking very ‘stressed’ indeed!
I’d gone on holiday in the last week of June feeling rather worried at what I would find at the plot when I returned. In particular, some flowers were due to go on the Flowers From the Farm stand at Hampton Court Flower Show in early July and I was keen to have enough! Well, I was relieved to find that none of the flowers had actually died in the heat…. but the problem I found was that many just weren’t thriving and were clearly stressed. The effect of the extreme heat was that they bolted and went very quickly to seed. Furthermore, many of the spring sown annuals did not reach full height before again, rapidly flowering and setting seed. Great for jam jars but no good for the cheery cornflower bunches loved by my loyal customers at Bourne End Community Market.
Interestingly, when the temperatures cooled down in early September, the annuals had a real resurgence. The snapdragons in particular have had a late summer flurry and formed a staple in my flowers for September weddings.
Dahlias…..what can I say? I love them! They’re so beautiful, diverse, reliable and fun…the list goes on. But again, 2018 proved challenging for them and I found particularly during July and August, the plants were much less floriferous than in previous years. I was able to take solace in the fact that even Monty Don said that his dahlias had also performed badly this year. But like the Annuals, the dahlias came into bloom with a burst of oranges, pinks, reds, whites and purples when we came into the cooler weather of September. I had lots of glorious bunches of dahlias for sale at the September market at Bourne End.
Up until 2018, I haven’t grown a lot of perennial flowers, having chosen mainly to focus on annuals, bulbs and tubers. However, at the beginning of this season, I planted up a new perennial bed with plugs and plants I’d grown from seed, which included rudbeckia, eryngium, echinops, scabious, astrantia, veronica, phlox and gaura. These were small plants when I planted them out and would inevitably take time to establish. I’m delighted to say that all have: 1. survived 2. done reasonably well, although in their first year, weren’t hugely productive for cutting.
The Annuals and Dahlias have struggled this year in the heat and have given me less flowers than I expected to have. If the hot summer we experienced in 2018 is a sign of summers to come, then I’m keen to have a much broader range of seasonal flowers which will be able to cope in all weather scenarios! With that in mind, I have spent a lot of effort in recent weeks in propagating my stocks of perennial plants, through seeds, stem and leaf cuttings and splitting existing plants. Look out for future blogs! I’m excited about this because it will mean a whole new range of lovely flowers for Bloom Carousel customers next year. Bring on 2019!
About Bloom Carousel
Bloom Carousel is a florist and grower of British Flowers, based in Amersham, South Buckinghamshire. We provide locally grown seasonal blooms for weddings and events, farewell flowers, DIY brides and arrangers and run flowery workshops. We are passionate about looking after our environment and our flowers are grown without the use of pesticides and incur minimal ‘flower miles’. Contact Sarah for further information or follow us on Instagram @bloomcarousel.