Archive | Tulips

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.

The Cultivated Palette Series – Tulips

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I have decided to make this post short and sweet because that is how my tulips are this year! Our record breaking mild winter did not give the bulbs the cooling period they need for good stem length. Ideally they require a good 12-14 weeks ‘cold period’ to produce quality cutting stems. I think I will try to order the bulbs as early as possible this year and store them in our chiller to pre-cool them before planting in November, if and only if it is cold enough.

Anyway, looking back at taller years, here are some of the varieties and cultivation methods I use for luscious blooms to grace my March and April floral work.

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I opt to grow the majority of my tulips under cover which normally results in better stem length as they get slightly drawn and unblemished perfect petals. Planting them closely together also helps, no more than 10 cm apart. The only downside to this being if we get a warm spell in April (which any normal person would be very happy about) as it tends to make them all come at once, early, middle and late cultivars.

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I often get gasps of horror when people watch me harvesting tulips as I just pull them out, bulb and all.

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The bulb is then cut off and composted and so it becomes an annual (albeit expensive) crop.

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There are many advantages to growing them this way; even more stem length as you get the extra bit under the ground, bulbs are dibbed in shallowly so no trenches or backbreaking work, the ground is cleared and ready for the next annual crop and it means you get to try new varieties every year!

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Talking of varieties I am a sucker for anything with ‘new’ written next to it but I do have some reliable favourites that I grow year on year. My favourite groups are peony/double and viridiflora types.

I always start the season with lots of ‘Verona’ a pale yellow peony tulip with decent stem length for an early double type and such a long vase life.

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These are closely followed by ‘Blue Diamond’ an unusual antique, puce colour and two classics ‘Angelique’ and ‘Mont Tacoma’.

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The recently introduced ‘La Belle Epoque’ rounds off the season with a mouthwatering colour combination of coffee and peachy pink.

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The viridiflora types are characterized by a green stripe on the the petals. My favourite is ‘Spring Green’ because they go with anything and are effortlessly stylish. This pink variety ‘Greenland’ has been paired with a coral single late variety called ‘Menton’ and pear blossom.

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For stem length, Lily-flowered varieties are worth trying. Their pointed petal tips and hourglass shape bring a contrasting elegance to the fuller peony and parrot types. They tend to flower a bit later as well giving some succession to the tulip harvest.

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Floppy Parrot tulips are definitely happier in my tunnels where they are sheltered from heavy Spring showers. Black Parrot is great for a sophisticated look and Flaming Parrot or Apricot for some Dutch Master decadence.

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To source your tulips and see a whole host of other varieties I would recommend looking at Peter Nyssen or Gee Tee.

They both supply good quality and reasonably priced bulbs, which is important if you are going to use them as an annual in your cutting beds.

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When conditioning tulips I just put a couple of inches of water in the bucket, I find if they are immersed in deep water it ruins the leaves.

Photographs (mostly) by Clare West.

 

Next up will be my favourite Spring flower – Ranunculus.

‘All of the Garden’ Bouquet

Clare West (photographer and lover of flowers – great combo) was with us again last month, you can see her blog post about what we are up to in the garden here.

I thought it would be an ideal opportunity to record the picking and making of our new All of the Gardenbouquets. They are exactly what they describe – everything that is in flower that week gathered into a gorgeous garden bouquet.

We started in the field by picking my favourite Narcissi variety ‘Geranium’ – wonderful scent and a good stem length for hand tied bouquets.

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 Next it was in to the polytunnel to pull a few tulips, this one is a lily-flowered variety called ‘Purple Dream’. People are always alarmed to see me pulling the whole tulip out of the ground and snipping off the bulb. We treat them as annuals so that harvesting and clearing the ground for the next crop is done in one go. The bulbs are composted and I get to choose new varieties for the following year.

 

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Once everything is picked, it is off to the flower studio to assemble my bounty.

 

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All the flowers and foliage are stripped of lower leaves and laid out in piles on the table. The more variety of materials the more textured and natural it will look, ideally I like to use about twelve. Here I am using (from left clockwise) Anthriscus ‘Ravenswing’, Eucalyptus parvifolia, Rosemary, Pussy Willow, Tulips ‘Blue Diamond’ and ‘Apricot Beauty’, Hellebore ‘Harvington Double Yellow’, Pieris, Anemones ‘Galilee Pastel Mix’, Arum italicum and Narcissi ‘Geranium’.

 

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Now I flex my hand muscles and get to work, I will keep going until everything on the table is used.

 

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The bouquet is tied off with raffia and will be aquapacked and placed into one of our specially designed transit boxes. Off for next day delivery to one lucky recipient! You can order one of our mail order bouquets here.

 

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