Archive | Cut flowers

Making the Cut….in House and Garden

 

It was this time last year whilst pruning the roses that I got a call from Clare Foster, garden editor for House and Garden. She asked if I was interested in working with her on a 6 month series about growing flowers for cutting – each issue would be filled with information about what to grow for a continual supply of flowers for the house from April through to September, which are the best varieties for cutting, when and how to complete tasks and ideas for how to arrange what you have produced .

The garden photographer Eva Nemeth had been commissioned to work on the images and over the next few months she paid regular visits to the farm to capture the rapid succession of horticultural tasks, flowers, floral designs and created some gorgeous flat lays to illustrate my favourite seasonal pickings. Eva took so many beautiful images that I thought it was a shame not to show more of them in a blog to run alongside each monthly installment. It also seemed like a good opportunity to talk a bit more about what we get up to throughout the season.

April is often considered the start of the cut flower growing season but I find March a more realistic month to get started. There is plenty of cutting back and pruning to do if you are growing perennials, shrubs and roses for cutting. These will all need a good mulch afterwards with well rotted manure or compost. It is important to get this job done earlier before buds start to break into leaf and new growth starts to sprout from the ground.

I tend to do most of my perennial and shrub planting in March. There is plenty of moisture around for the roots to get established before the warmer months.

I always earmark my older more congested perennials for lifting and dividing at this time, this year the focus is on my large collection of phlox, I am saving this job for the attendees on the Propagation Masterclass who will be taking some healthy clumps home with them.

March is also when things start to get busy in the greenhouse. If you are lucky enough to have one it is a good time to sow a whole host of annuals (both hardy and half hardy) plus perennials which you would like to see flowering in their first year. I grow many of my favourite perennials from seed including scabious, Eryngium, delphiniums and Achillea, it saves a lot of money and is many germinate varieties germinate very easily. Sowing will continue into April with some of the hardy annuals that dislike root disturbance being sown directly outside.

Just as things start to get busy with growing tasks it is time to start picking all the flowering bulbs that were planted between September and November.

The Anemones are in flower first and once they start they come thick and fast, producing stem after stem from each corm. To find out more about how to grow them have a look at my post here.

The tulips follow close behind, I pull them  and lift bulbs and all, clearing the bed as I go for the next crop – more about growing tulips in my cultivated palette series here.

Narcissus are flowering in our field and in my pots, I love showing off the more delicate varieties this way and I find they last longer in a pot than tulips.

To accompany all these spring beauties April is an ideal time to go foraging, I cut from our surrounding native hedge and orchard, carefully selecting the branches that will create the shape I want in my arrangements. The emerging leaves of hazel and hawthorn accompanied by blossoming branches are my favourites.

No April arrangement would be complete without a hellebore or two, by now they are setting seed and this ripening gives them a much longer vase life.

It’s All in the Vase – homegrown & handmade

Here I am back in the blogging saddle, with my usual January good intentions. I thought I would focus on a recurring theme that shaped 2016 – the vase– and how it has motivated me to introduce a series of new floristry workshops for the season ahead.

This preoccupation with what to put my flowers in has been bubbling away for a few years now with my attempts to master the potter’s wheel and fulfil my dream of setting up a ceramic studio here at Green and Gorgeous, where I would throw tailor-made vessels to perfectly complement my garden-grown beauties.

This longing was reinforced this year whilst working on a floristry book with Dorling and Kindersley in which I was commissioned to create a series of seasonal vase arrangements (more about that next month when the book comes out maybe…). As we progressed through the flowering months I struggled to find the right shape and finish of vessel to echo my seasonal selections. Instead of feeling compromised by what you can find, wouldn’t it be great if you could design and make that ‘enhancing’ vase, perfect in shape, colour and texture for your arrangement..?

I have always felt that the vessel, vase, container (whatever you choose to call it) is equally as important as the flowers. I guess I have become a little bored of vintage (apart from fan vases of course!), very very bored of jam jars and find the throwaway imports offered at the wholesalers rather depressing. Being a bit of a purist I wanted to explore the idea of everything about the floral design being not only homegrown but handmade….

My quest to throw that vase is ongoing – just before Christmas I spent three days on a residential pottery course at the wonderful West Dean College. For anyone who yearns for a bit of quiet, creative downtime in a gorgeous setting with great food I can highly recommend it. I was so excited by my progress that on my return I went and bought myself a pottery wheel. Now all I need to do is keep practising!

Anyway I am fortunate to also know a very talented potter nearby, Harriet Coleridge, so at the beginning of the year I asked her to make me some footed bowls to use as centrepieces for my wedding work. I recorded the process so you can see the skill and time it takes to make beautifully hand crafted pots. I have collaborated with Harriet for some years now for Artweeks and always enjoy the unique blend of my flowers and her pots.

We decided to go for a stoneware clay which can take a bit of wedding wear with a tin glaze, which is white, shiny and opaque, a good neutral for the florals.

The first step was to throw a bowl the correct shape and size ten times.

Some tools of the trade.

Once these were dried to the leather-hard stage they were ready to be trimmed to get a smooth curved shape ready for the foot to be attached. A bit of cross hatching marks the spot.

The foot is made separately by throwing a short cylinder of clay.

Once attached it is shaped on the bowl. Harriet makes this look easy but I can assure you it takes years of throwing to be so adept at it.

After a bisque firing the bowls are ready to be glazed. This requires a large bucket of well stirred glaze and a pair of tongs.

The finished bowls after their glaze firing, already booked for a number of weddings next year.

The next project for me and Harriet to work on will be to create a vessel for my first ‘All in the Vase’ workshop in the spring. I am imagining a wide, shallow shape to accommodate the fleshy stems of tulips, anemones and Ranunculus perhaps curving in slightly at the top to make arranging a little easier.

I have just put up dates for Summer and Autumn ‘All in the Vase’ classes, each will be quite distinct in the selection of florals and the vessels I source and create for them, if you would like to add to your vase collection and learn how to get the best out of them come and join us.

A Year in Pictures

January

Cutting back perennials and making pots (by Harriet Coleridge).

 

February

Hellebore appreciation and plant dyeing silk to make into ribbon.

 

March

 

Seed sowing, picking the first Anemones and the first wedding of the year.

 

April

Ranunculus time and a collaboration with Jo Flowers for a Spring Florals workshop.

 

May

May in a bouquet and the latest addition, Jesse the Whippet.

 

June

Our second Wedding Flowers Intensive workshop with The Garden Gate Flower Company and the Roses are abundant.

 

July

Sweet Peas picked on the vine now, Snapdragons start to flower in the tunnels and Ammi begins to set seed.

 

August

Zinnias and Dahlia ‘Cafe au lait’,  enjoy the heat and the berries begin!

 

September

 

Dahlia time and so much to go with them.

 

October

Chrysanthemums for the first time and I am converted.

 

November

The first frosts and it is time to lift the dahlias.

 

December

Keeping warm saving and storing seeds for 2017.

 

With thanks to photographic contributors Eva Nemeth, Clare West and Imogen Xiana.

Love Rachel and Ashley – Wishing you all the best for a happy and peaceful New Year.