Archive | conditioning

The Flower Book


It was about this time last year that I was invited by the publishers Dorling and Kindersley to work with them on a book all about flowers and natural-style floristry.

Their plan was to feature sixty cut flowers through the seasons using their signature portrait-style macrophotography. My brief was to provide all the flowers for these and choose thirty of my favourites to showcase in a series of floral designs.

The schedule was tight with just five months to photograph and write the book. I have always dreamed of writing my own book so I thought this experience would be a useful way of learning about the process. It certainly turned out to be a steep learning curve!

We began work on the book in April, just in time to catch the first wave of spring flowers in the tunnels. Each fortnight the Flower Book team would reconvene here at the farm to shoot what was in flower that week, slowly working our way through the seasons. In my naivety I had not realised there are so many people involved in producing a book – at each shoot there was at the bare minimum the editor, artistic director and two photographers, one of whom was Clare West.  She has been photographing our flowers for the past three years, and is responsible for many of the images on our website, she also teaches a Flower Photography workshop here.

Clare was responsible for the arrangement shots and Gary Ombler for the macrophotography which exposed every hair and grain of pollen in incredible detail. It was quite a job finding the perfect flower for these meticulous images and to see them in this new light was revelatory even after years of spending so much time with my flowers.

The writing was squeezed in during spare moments of a busy growing and wedding season – quite a challenge! It certainly takes discipline although I was writing about a subject I love and know well. The premise of the book is to encourage people to have a go themselves so each arrangement comes with a list of what you will need, my inspiration behind each design and a description of how it was achieved.

Each of the sixty flowers featured also come with advice on what to look for when buying from a florist or flower market, or for those who are able and willing, a few growing tips. There is also information on conditioning, the best way to display them and how to prolong vase life.

I have learnt so much from working on this book namely how to arrange for the camera and how to work with a publisher. It certainly stretched my abilities and patience at times but I am already keen to do another one, this time about growing cut flowers.

I think as a floristry book it is unique in one significant way, every flower bar the Leucospermum and Orchid were grown here on our flower farm, this makes me very proud and just goes to show what is possible.

The Flower Book is now available to buy on Amazon and I will be selling copies here on our courses and in our Saturday shop once the season starts.

The Cultivated Palette Series – Anemones


I have been picking Anemones in our tunnels today, they have started flowering a month earlier than expected this year, which to be honest is a bit of a pain as I am not in the full swing of weddings, farm gate sales or deliveries. So that means I get to have them in the house – great, generous vasefuls…what decadence.


Looking back at my blogs I discover that I have written about them before in ‘Anemone Crush‘, I class them as one of my best sellers and a welcome bit of colour and cash flow after a long winter.


Green & Gorgeous - March -29

They are good little moneymakers with each corm producing up to twenty stems over a prolonged period of at least two months.

I am always intrigued at what makes a flower popular and I think in the case of the Anemone it has a multitude of assets to persuade people to buy, including it’s jewel-bright colours to jolt us out of our winter hibernation, a surprisingly long vase life and an irresistible sense of nostalgia.

CW__7463 (1)

I source my corms from France and as they are cut flower grade they are expensive, more than Ranunculus claws so this is important to bear in mind when/if you are selling the cut flowers. They are bred in Israel (hence the biblical names), I have tried all the varieties and prefer Galilee, particularly the pastel range, which has stonking stems and good resistance to Botrytis which is an issue when growing in tunnels over winter.

Green & Gorgeous - March - 041

If you are not blessed with a tunnel or greenhouse I would recommend the Jerusalem strain for outdoors with a generous mulch, or opt for a Spring planting instead.

Green & Gorgeous - March -52

I try to get the corms tucked up in the polytunnel by late September/early October, as I find later plantings are never as productive. The growing area must be well prepared, we till in plenty of organic matter and give the bed a good soaking a few days before planting. Good, even moisture is essential particularly in the first couple of weeks, so we irrigate regularly during this period with 3-4 lines of t -tape across metre wide beds.


I soak the corms for about 24 hours before planting which helps to get them shooting quickly, but also makes it easier to see which way is up! They are dibbed in at about 20cm apart.

You may find voles are an issue, they love feasting on Anemone corms and can devastate a crop if not deterred. We use a combination of cats, garlic, chilli, traps, mole repellents and physical barriers. I know it sounds a bit over the top but this arsenal does seem to work.

Depending on temperature they normally start to flower in late February and then all you should have to do is keep picking.

Green & Gorgeous - March -42

Anemones are one of the flowers I tend to pick myself as I have found people struggle to see when they are at the right stage. Too tight (or as I call it unripe) and they never reach their full potential.

Green & Gorgeous - March -46

When they first emerge their heads are bowed down, wait until till they are pointing upwards and slightly open with the eye peeking at you.

Green & Gorgeous - March -35

I condition mine for 24 hours in bunches of ten with a band at the top and bottom of the stems, this helps to set them straight.

Green & Gorgeous - March -60

Once the crop has finished we clear and compost the corms. Anemones are prone to virus spread by aphids and I find they are never as good the following year, plus I need the precious covered space for the next indoor crop.

Next month I will be looking at tulips, my favourite varieties for cutting and the tricks to getting a quality cut stem which would make the Dutch blush!


All pictures by Clare West Photography

Handy Harvester

Harvesting flowers is one of the most
important parts of the whole growing process. Cutting for quality,
colour scheme, an eye to continuity and the customer’s needs are all
constantly being juggled in the picker’s brain, alongside the
quantity of stems required. That’s why I try my hardest not to get
too involved myself…

IMG_20130718_060656 copy 2


 As we have grown, the flowers have got further and further away! It is certainly not always practical to pick into water and so armfuls of flowers are often carried back, especially tall stems. Dreams of expensive quad bikes, utility vehicles and Piaggio ‘cafe’ style scooter trucks have remained just extravagant whimsy. We do manage with a ride-on and trailer but it’s often doing other duties.


IMG_1428 webIn your dreams…..


And so, Arjen came to the rescue with
his plans for a harvesting trolley in his flower handbook. In the end
I didn’t fancy his two small-wheeled version, although the narrow
profile is necessary to squeeze along picking paths (that never seem
big enough!). And so I cannibalized an old wheelbarrow that was
falling apart in the winter, to save me some time and to make the
trolley more manoeuvrable. 


IMG_1647 copy 2

Add a few old bits of greenhouse, some windbreak netting and we have a very light trolley, ready for piles and piles of stems.  Still a work in progress though I




Ashley Pearson