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The Cultivated Palette Series – Hellebores


I have been cutting back the old leaves on my Hellebores this week followed by a quick weed and mulch. My favorite tool of all time the Japanese Razor Hoe does a great job at getting all those pesky weeds out that like to colonize around the crown of the plant.


I don’t think they have enjoyed this mild winter, there is a lot of black spot around so I think a good mulch will help keep the spores from being splashed up on to the emerging flowers.


Hopefully in a months time they will be looking something like these which were photographed in March last year by photographer Clare West. We got together a few times last year and focused on just one flower on each occasion, so I thought it would be fun to share these beautiful images with you over the coming months in a series of blog posts called The Cultivated Palette. I will include lots of growing tips and recommendations for sourcing stock plants and seeds and I will share some thoughts on why I choose to include them in my ‘palette’ of plants for cutting.


I am going to have another go at hand pollination next month. I will have to select a mother and father plant from each variety, based on stem length, good flower shape and general vigor. This Harvington double pink is a good example, the plant has formed a big clump relatively quickly with long stems and well you can see heart-breakingly beautiful flowers.


So on a sunny day I will set aside ten minutes and go to my Hellebore bed armed with a pencil and some odds and ends of yarn. Firstly I rub the end of the pencil over the anthers of a fully open flower on the father plant, then I will select an almost open flower bud from the mother plant and tie a little bow of yarn around its neck.


It is important that no others pollinators have been there first. I then transfer the pollen from the pencil to the stigma.



That is all you have to do until the seed ripens around the end of May, the shiny black seeds should be collected and sown on a loam based, gritty compost whilst nice and fresh. They do take a few months to germinate, so keep the seed tray in a cold frame and hopefully by September you will start to see some signs of life.


All my hellebores were bred by Hugh Harvington whose nursery Twelve Nunns, now run by his daughter Penny Dawson in Lincolnshire, has recently been featured in the January edition of RHS magazine The Garden. They do supply wholesale plug plants, as long as you order ten or more of a variety, they can be potted up and grown on for a season before planting out. Harvington hellebores have a purity of colour which I find very useful for my wedding work. This one below is Harvington single smokey.


Hellebores are an investment but I cannot resist them, I think they add a subtlety to the more flamboyant and bold spring bulbs and have a good long harvesting period from February to April. Once you grow your own from seed you realize why they are expensive, it takes two years from pollination to the first flower.


I have found the double forms hold better so I have just placed an order for some more including blush, apricot and double speckled cream…yum! I am establishing a new bed under a line of mature beech trees which should give them a bit of shade in the summer months.

Vase life can be rather fleeting especially before they start to set seeds. I don’t think searing the stems does make much difference, but scoring a line down either side of the stem and then plunging the stems in a deep bucket of water up to their necks overnight seems more successful. I have to confess most of mine are picked in April when my season is in full swing, they are very ripe by then and happily hold for up to two weeks.

The next instalment will be on Anemones which I have just started picking, the earliest harvest recorded here at G&G.


Six Weeks in Flowers

Before May is over I just wanted to have a little look back at the season so far which has kicked off with a flurry of weddings, a new Flower Photography course, the return of Flower Club, three photo shoots, the reopening of our farm gate sales, preparing for Hampton Court, planting and picking hundreds of flowers and the most exciting thing – appearing on Floret’s blog this week. I am just a little bit too done in to write much right now but I thought a few pictures would do the job instead. I have got rather obsessed with Instagram and photographed flowers every day for the last six weeks so here are a few of my favourites.







Photograph by Clare West










Photograph by Clare West




I think that will do!

A Vintage Season

I know it has been an age since my last post, I guess I have been busy with the doing rather than the thinking or writing about it. Anyway, now things have slowed to a respectable part time (!?) pace I have some reflecting and planning to do.

Delphiniums at Dusk

2014 will go down in my memory as a vintage year for growing cut flowers, the weather was almost perfect – come on no farmer ever says perfect! We got off to the earliest start in our 7 years in business with an abundance of spring flowers for Mothers Day.

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Our April and May weddings had plenty to choose from, with June varieties flowering early to close any tricky gaps.

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Rain and wind held off and there was very little damage overall, the flowers just soaked up the sun and bloomed their socks off. At the other end of the season the mild autumn meant further extension of flowering, with no signs of frost for a good month longer than normal.

Fortunately I had plenty of demand to keep the G&G team busy with the cycle of sowing, planting, picking and arranging.

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And there was plenty of subject matter for Clare West whose seasonal photographic diary enabled me to view the garden and flowers with fresh eyes.


There will be more from Clare in the coming months, we are presently planning a flower photography course for next year, so watch this space!  It will be aimed at growers and florists who want to ‘up their game’ with breathtakingly beautiful images for their websites and learn more about how their cameras work.

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Our weddings this year included lots of our popular ‘buckets and bouquets’ option which has urged me to run a new course next year for DIY brides who want to brush up on their arranging skills (DIY Wedding Flowers).

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Speaking of courses I was amazed at the popularity of my two new ones this year – Flower farming for Beginners and Flower Club – it certainly demonstrates a rising trend for local, seasonal flowers whether as a business venture or just for fun.

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I am also toying with the idea of running a monthly practical workshop called a ‘Grow Along’. Attendees will join our team for a half day of hands on seasonal tasks in the cutting garden. There will be tips on everything from propagating techniques, favorite varieties, timings for continual flower, effective watering and feeding, support, best tools and equipment and much more.

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It will be a great opportunity to learn as you grow, whether for profit or pleasure.

Thank you to Clare West for the images in this post.