Sunday, 31 January 2010

Modern equipment

We are scarcely mechanised here. It would be good to have a small tractor and trailer at least for moving materials and muck and compost about the place, but otherwise there's not much we need apart from the obligatory grass cutting and clearing kit because we grow like a garden rather than a large field. Patches have to be ploughed up and cultivated once, thereon in it's manual labour as things develop at different stages and half of the ground is permanently planted. I do dream of a very large rotovator sometimes for turning over the annual beds in spring but instead make do for now with my old Titan treasure that my mother passed on to me. 50 years old or so it is stalwart, sturdy and reliable. I used it last autumn to rotovate before planting the tulip bulbs, then it got very very wet and claggy and we were hectic and poor old Titan got left on the field, wrapped in a tarpaulin that got blown away in one of the storms, then the machine got half buried in snow before it was re-wrapped with many apologies.

Then I rather forgot about it as I haven't been down that part of the gardens, and yesterday I finally got round to moving it into the shed. Bless it, it started first pull of the cord. That's the kind of machinery I like. 

Friday, 29 January 2010

Kenyan roses

Interesting to catch a glimpse of Kenyan rose growing on Jimmy's farm goes to Kenya (or some title vaguely like that) last night. Acres and acres of plastic covering millions of roses for a company employing 5000 people and shifting about half a million roses a day. Despite fairly constant sunshine heat is still needed in the tunnels/glasshouses but this company was growing near Hells kitchen where natural thermal heat can be harnessed to make their heating sustainable-ish, it was implied that many of the workers get paid more than the minimum wage, chemicals are kept 'to a minimum' by using largely biological controls. So these are all plus-es compared to some areas of the industry. Despite the airmiles apparently the carbon footprint of Dutch grown roses is 6 times more than that of Kenyan blooms because of the cost of heating the houses and chemical controls. 

But it didn't make me feel much easier about the rose growing industry. Yes this company provide much needed work in a country where struggle is the default position, but does this make it appropriate work?  What about water? There was no mention of the phenomenal water resources that must be needed in a country which suffers terribly from drought.

The chief question that always lingers is why consumers still demand flowers that cannot be grown in our own climate and country, regardless of cost to people and planet. 

Thursday, 28 January 2010

love on line

Apparently I have some national publicity coming up for home grown Valentine's Day, I will have something on the site for next week although we won't have the whole site redone yet as the designers are rebuilding the system for me so that I will be able to update the site myself as and when I need to. I hope all their hard work is worth it and that I will get round to updating things as often as I need to... I am inspired by Tess at Ochre and Ocre who is incredibly efficient at all these things and who is selling my flowers and bits and pieces as they fit well with her lovely well thought out eco wares.

Meanwhile I remembered an occasion a couple of years ago and rather liked this photo.

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Time to rant

I just remembered that I forgot to rant about a current tv programme hitting our screens with Monty Don at the helm at the moment. It's called something like my Dream farm and I was interested to give it a go because he's featuring two young flower girls somewhere down the line. It made me furious. I know that people volunteer to go on his programme thinking it's all going to help and all that and maybe it does but I spent half an hour shouting at the telly. A couple plus two children had moved from a cosy life in Holland to a cosyish life in a lovely farmhouse on Dartmoor to take up farming on 30 acres or so and improve the quality of their life so they weren’t stressily working outside the home all the time.

Obviously they weren’t going to make many readies from farming sheep on that scale, so they wanted to do a bit of diversifying with lots of Country Living malarchey and all very nice too, Mrs is very charming and go-ahead and accommodating, and lots of ideas for finished products, Mr is also very charming and jolly hard working and very positive. But he has arthritis as Monty told us every three minutes.

To cut a long story short Mrs had come up with the idea of making duvets using the sheep fleeces and Monty thought this was the way ahead. So research was done and Monty decided the way to start was to get the buyers from some huge hotel chain and from John Lewis down to take a gander. Gosh, start at the bottom why don’t you, keep control of your lives, do what you want……. that sounded just like a wonderful home industry to add to the quality of their life etc etc etc

To cut another long story short Mr and Mrs bought in hundreds of fleeces (hard to find 500 fleeces from their farm or how many it is for the minimum amount to be processed down the mill) and got stuck in to working out the commercial process. John Lewis et al thought all a bit pricey but a local store thought wonderful.

Now if I was moving to a farm to improve the quality of my life would I want to start a manufacturing process where I was not using my own produce because I couldn’t produce enough and where I was going to be in charge of a business which would mean I had no time to farm anyway. Marvellous.

It would be like me deciding my dream was to grow flowers for home grown cut flower production then actually buying everything in to satisfy a different business idea rather than following what I want to do. I am well aware of companies who do just that, buy in flowers and imply they are home grown to make them seem special, and they have made a very successful business from that. But actually following your dream should mean just that. And for the record Mr Don it can mean a perfectly workable business on a small scale too.

OK Rant over.

For now!

Flower orders

I don't know whether to be delighted or concerned that people are daily phoning to see if I can send flowers even though it does say (somewhere) on the website that my main season is from March. It would be lovely to be able to send at least some jolly nosegays but all I have is hellebores and foliages right now, and only enough for an occasional bouquet.

I confess I was putting in the last of the tulips today! Not quite on time, but it is the first opportunity I have had since rain and mud stopped play in December. It will be interesting to see what difference it makes. Also interesting to see what has survived the big freeze - I started clearing one of my more sheltered small beds today and pulled up dahlia corms (I didn't lift them because I didn't like the form so decided they could go) that are completely healthy, firm and undamaged. Sadly, many of the ones I've stored have been got by the frost even though I thought we had carefully de-soiled and dried them. I'm sure lots of other things will have turned to mush, it will be astonishing if agapanthus have survived here, and I'm sad to see that my bridal wreath Francoa looks as though it's hit the dirt. I suspect it won't be alone as we haven't had a really cold winter since I started in the field.

Last weekend's wedding was a winter wonderland - the marquee was all silver birch tree trunks, glittered leaves, hundreds of candles and crystals. The bride was adamant that she didn't want flowers but I persuaded her that the church really did need some. We put hundreds of candles in the church as well as it was an evening wedding, so it looked magical and smelt wonderful from all the little narcissi.

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

under snow again

Yesterday the rain stopped, the snow went, and all seemed plausible. Today we're under snow again. I had put myself down for picking all the foliages and a few winter flowers - hellebores and winter flowering honeysuckle mainly - for a wedding this weekend. I can't collect anything. So instead I think we're going to go for plan B, lots of painted stems and seedheads among whatever greeneries I can find and some white narcissi from a Cornish friend if I can get them here in time. Ironically it will probably be OK tomorrow, perhaps the snow will have gone again and flowers will be pickable but I don't feel I can quite risk it.

When the snow disappeared yesterday I could see all the mess and weeds again and remind myself that I am by now looking forward to some proper physical muddy graft!Which is just as well because although things look pretty dusted in white powder, when it melts the gardens are beginning to look a bit derelict. But for another day things still look winter-pretty.

It is a little hard to think about romance when fingers and toes are solidifying with cold and the air has become damp and full of chill after such beautiful crisp blue-sky days. But Valentine's day cometh apace, so I must get out next week and chop down dogwood and start weaving the hearts. This year we'll be doing twiggy freestyle forms and some with eucalpytus.

Saturday, 9 January 2010


Another request for poppies in a bridal bouquet, they can be so beautiful, subtly coloured and with texture like the most delicate tissue paper but the blossoms are so fragile the bouquets really have to be made just before the wedding, the last job.

Friday, 8 January 2010

Website update soon

Yes it's one of those things I've been meaning to do for ages but now it is actually happening, I am finally getting sorted so that patient and wonderful web designers (totally ethical company who usually work for rather larger clients than us but thankfully are continuing to sort me out) can rehash the site and make it even more beautiful and easier to use. I hope to have a wonderful gaggle of wedding photos up so brides can get a better idea what they are getting, as well as better bouquet shots and of course some lovely ones of the gardens. At the moment they are completely white but peppered with rabbit tracks which is not encouraging, as well as more than one fox, lots of wee creatures but at least no deer in sight!

While I was sorting things out it was good to remind myself that things are sometimes rather more colourful. And while sorting out wedding photos it was fun to remind myself how very different weddings can be and how wonderfully accommodating flowers are.

An enquiring bride-to-be yesterday directed me to the website of the small country house hotel where she is thinking of having their reception. I was amused to read

'Dear Bride to be

Firstly, let me take this opportunity to congratulate you both on your fourth coming wedding. Secondly thank you for your visit to the xxxx House Country Hotel website and considering it as a possible venue for yourreception (and the ceremoney if required.) '

Happy New Year

Snowed in here but not snowed under. Lovely piece in Wedding flowers magazine to greet the year - thanks to photographer Andy for lovely pix but most of all of course to Kate and Robbie!