My first blog for many months… I did have very good intentions but they got swept away by the demand for our flowers which seemed to take up every waking hour. Not that I'm complaining….
Anyway, the season has drawn to a close so I am now able to waffle on all winter about….well, flowers. If I'm not working with them I have time to talk about them and all the lessons learnt this season, and maybe squeeze in some ideas for 2012.
I found lots of inspiration in Holland last week when we visited the Hortifair, an annual get together of amongst other things, cut flower breeders and growers from all round the world. I made some useful contacts with a few Dutch nurseries, who specialise in growing plants for cutting. It was sad to see the UK only represented by one grower (David Austin's roses); the fair was dominated by the Ecuadorian and Kenyan growers with Ethiopia being the new kid on the block. I presume these countries are favoured because the climate allows flowers to be grown year round and natural resources and labour are cheap. A conversation with an Israeli plant breeder was eye-opening, he was genuinely shocked when I asked him about the flowering period for Solidago (Golden Rod) – "don't you want to grow it year round under lights?". When I told him that my selling point was seasonal he looked bemused, obviously something he had never heard a grower say before!
There was not a great deal of variety at the fair, with roses being the main flower of the show. These were the kind of rose that has sacrificed all trace of scent for stem length, head size, vase life and productivity. Inevitably it is profit that comes first, which has taken flower breeding away from fundamental characteristics that we value like scent and seasonality. I suppose I knew all of this but the show just helped to reinforce my belief in what we are doing.
I have returned with a very long wish list and to 1000 new perennial plants which arrived whilst I was away. We are expanding into a new 3 acre field which is already planted up with a few thousand scented narcissi, tulips and dutch iris bulbs. Once all the planting is done (which is slow going in this dank, gloomy weather) I will get on with lifting the dahlias from the spanish tunnel (like a polytunnel but with a just a top cover in the summer months). I have learnt that they do much better outside with good air circulation and plenty of moisture to keep the dreaded red spider mite at bay. They will be replaced by another bed of roses, this time lots of soft pinks, apricots and blush/nude tones for weddings.