Monday, 27 September 2010

First frosts

Clear skies, bright days but alas the first frost. Probably not too sad to mean the end of the courgettes as they have been outgrowing themselves for weeks, so much so that we have just about forgotten to use them and their bed has turned into a mass of enormous yellow zeppelins. But very sad to herald the end of the dahlias which have been blooming their heads off for weeks and weeks. And other annuals are not impressed with the change in weather so we are only doing automatic mail order for another week or two. But I'm thrilled to note that Mother's Day is late next year so we should be well up by then!

Waiting for bulbs to arrive so we can start looking at that job, which is massive. Ground not yet cleared. And there are days of weeding everywhere to start putting things to bed for winter. Some days the tasks seem a bit daunting, and the expense of having enough help to make most of them happen.

Saturday, 25 September 2010

an autumnal week

Another week has flown by and we are getting toward the end of the mail order season as the asters all bloom and the dahlias pull out all the stops before the threat of frost. Still a surprising amount of flowers in the gardens - scabious have done terrifically well this year, almost all types, the lovely purple podded nigella are only now finishing, there are still spots of ammi, second time around campanulas, aconitum, solidago, rudbeckias, heleniums, verbena, persicarias, catanaches, nicotianas, cornflowers.... plus many I can't think of this second. I'm experimenting to se how late we can keep things flowering in the tunnel and wondering whether the stocks will come through to flower before day length gets too short, ditto cleome and molucella. If they don't make it I'll let some stay to see if they hold out for early flowering next year, but only a few as tunnel space starts to get precious.

Next job is clearing for bulb planting. I hoped we'd get on to it this week but we got nowhere near.

I start to get desperate for a bit of pavement walking at this time of year, so have decided to do Broadway market b y London Fields from next month - an odd time to start, at the end of the season, but they said they'd love me there for a few goes on the lead up to Christmas so I'm thinking of inventive creations and we are picking masses of material to dry to put in our hoops etc.....I seem to remember I was going to have a quiet time before christmas but as ever seemed to forget to remember when it mattered.

Wonderful WWOOFer Emma has been taking pictures. The husband's sculptures look particularly fetching. And it's interesting to have a completely different eye on the gardens. My photos are usually record shots so I can try and discover what's going on year on year, I hardly ever take the top garden areas as these are not really the productive areas, but I think they look rather lovely in some of her pictures. I'm keeping my fingers crossed Emma may decide to stay around this area as she seems genuinely interested in the flower business and has some very good ideas. She's even done lots of flower arranging courses and has showed me reams of pix of very well thought out arrangements - but I would need to knock the florist out of her a bit.... She is also the best gardener we've ever had here.

Saturday, 18 September 2010

A WWOOF wonder

After some earlier less than thrilling WWOOF experiences, the tables have turned. Emma Gardner is here for I hope a couple of weeks and what a star. Kew trained, she's looking for the next gardening direction so trying lots of avenues. She's also a very good photographer so I'll be posting some of her pix any day soon. She did get rather thrown in the deep end, WWOOFers are supposed to work about 5 hours a day, I'm sorry to say her first day was 12 hours (a full day's work then picking and preparing for market) and her second 10 hours (a day's work then wedding prep) before a normal 8 hours..... I promise I do keep suggesting she can stop but somehow she just doesn't mind mucking in as it's rare to stop here unless physically removing oneself from site.

That said, she has just removed herself from site, in her van, so perhaps she'll never be seen here again..

One of her many jobs so far was picking and helping get the market stuff ready. All very bright and late summery.

september colours

No longer any point pretending there's an Indian summer in waiting, things are definitely feeling very autumnal here, and the field's exposure very apparent. But colours are still very bright and cheery - a few pix of a yellow and pink (and hops) wedding, one with autumnal shades and pinks, and bouquet from seasonal but "vintage" request, plus mixed buttonholes.

I love it when morning views of the field are of mist rising above the river with the sky clear before the mist evaporates.

Saturday, 11 September 2010

Wild water Wye swimming

I wish I'd looked up from tunnel vision weeding today as another local activity has appeared: Son plus 14 friends came down for their annual canoeing and camping weekend but there was just too much rushing water for even vaguely safe canoeing as the Wye is in flood, so instead they hired wetsuits and lifejackets from the Hollybush Inn a few miles outside Hay and swam to Hay. The river was so swift it took them all faster than they had ever swam in their lives. I was sorely jealous and wished I had looked up from weeding to do something fun! By all accounts better than canoeing, I'm off next weekend, I think a new hobby looms!

Planning a cutting garden day

Thank you so much to everyone who came on a damp day to the course yesterday. I felt that it was a very successful day, with a collection of very well motivated and delightful people. I think it won't be long before some more successful cut flower businesses are hitting the market places of Britain. Look out for the Garrod family who came over from Tunbridge Wells and have already started their new gardens by clearing polytunnels and beginning to cultivate 2 acres of what sounds very suitable land, and Marie and Martin are also on the brink of starting their new gardens in Warwickshire. Julie is already starting to sell to local restaurants and businesses in her Bristol area, and Claire from the Bath area has recently got the on line shop Mabel and Rose up and running - check it out for vintage garden items and clever ideas, and perhaps flowers coming soon, though how she has the energy to do it all with a young family as well heaven knows. And Claire will try to send some photos from the day when she has the chance, as I have currently given up with my camera - a card reader also failed to manage to download stored photos, and I think I shall have to bite the bullet and purchase a new model.

Jane, already a well established and talented garden designer, came from Nottinghamshire to see what we are up to and share her experiences of working in another area of the industry, and to get some idea how the business side works - I hope she wasn't too disappointed to find I can shed little light on the best way to run the business as I am on the verge of getting admin help and getting better organised but am definitely not there yet. As an experienced professional designer she was also a little alarmed at the level of weeds here, and I'm not sure it was very reassuring when Meg, who was a fabulous help yesterday, told her that I simply don't see them! Samantha on the other hand works for the BBC Wildlife team, so wasn't phased by the level of wildness, and the other participant was another Charlie, who lives locally and plans to set up a new flower growing venture involving the children at a new school site, a very interesting idea.

The course reminded me how much fun it is spending time discussing possibilities with other interested growers and potential growers, I had intended to do many more courses this year but somehow time just filled up with other commitments, but I will do more next year as I am trying to get the business side more balanced and plan the diary rather better! I have been approached several times recently by London markets to ask if I might be interested in selling there, and I have tended to think it was rather a mad idea, but am considering a monthly slot next year, changing my mind to think it could actually be rather fun - plus I would get to gatecrash my children's social life one weekend a month as both are living in the city, and catch up with some London friends.

Talking of children, yesterday finished with my son plus thirteen friends appearing for their annual weekend partying and canoeing down the Wye. As it was so wet in the evening they decided that putting tents up in the dark was not ideal, so instead every mattress and sofa in the cottage was occupied... Sometimes I think we lead a very slow quiet life here but I think I possibly suffer from the social equivalent of body dysmorphia.....

Sunday, 5 September 2010

3 weddings and camera problems

Satisfying but exhausting few days. Camera loaded with photos but now the damn thing won't import anything, so many apologies for no current pics of weekend's business, I'm sure brides will send when possible .....

So this is how the end of last week went. If you want to grow flowers watch out, you might get into this sort of schedule too!

Wednesday: full day with only two Wednesday helpers as everyone else is (sensibly) holidaying. We weeded, mulched, mowed, and picked for Thursday market. Day started at normal 8.30, finished about 9pm after picking for the market.

Thursday: 5 am start to bunch and sort for market, and to pick for mail out wedding, 6 boxes blue and white wanted - blue larkspur, white phlox, small glads, blue asters, scabious, white asters, snapdragons, cornflowers, white cosmos, a few delphiniums. Picking for mail out orders, fortunately only 7 more boxes to go today. 8am to the market. 12pm back from market to pick and prepare for two weddings: one wants pink and yellow, one wants oranges and purples and creams, plus foliages and hops. Luckily friends staying stripped the leaves off the hops while Meg and I picked and picked and picked - cosmos, lomas, rudbeckias, achilleas, phlox, delphs, scabious, nigella, asters, artemisia, calendula, larkspur, solidago, dahlias..... Then orders to arrange and send... Finally started preparing for Friday's wedding about 5.30pm. 10 table centres plus 12 foot long top table garland of hops and pink and yellow flowers plus bridal bouquet (lots of dahlias, seedpods. solidage, stocks, artemisia, ammi, dill....) with 5 bridesmaid's bouquets and 2 flower girl wands -  decided on poppy seed heads and stems with dahlias all beribonned in yellow and pink. Then 15 buttonholes, yellows and whites so used mainly lomas, dahlias, love in the mist and scabious. Thank you Meg for staying so late and being so brilliant. Finished about 10.30pm for something to eat.

Friday: Leave at 5.00 to drop dogs off at their holiday home, luckily en route, and even more luckily I know them well and they don't mind me turning up at 5.30! Get to Henley for 9.00am. Bind bouquets in the van before delivery at 9.30. Discover there has been a misunderstanding on buttonholes and 10 more needed when I get there. heigh ho, lucky I have a van load of flowers rather than a lot of properly pre-arranged decorations! Finish decorating marquee and sorting table centres in pewter pots at 2.30pm. Phew! Lunch and find somewhere to stay. 4.30pm: start sorting flowers for Saturday's wedding. Sort into 6 table centres, flowers for top table arrangement, flowers for registrar's table, flowers for bar, flowers for small pots on windowsills, flowers for bouquets and flowers for buttonholes. 8pm brief supper. 8.30 pm start making bouquets and buttonholes and corsages - go for love in the mist pods, white love in the mist flowers, more yellow lomas, scabious, cornflowers, purple dahlias, all tied with raffia for this very informal wedding. Bouquets needed to be purples and oranges with reds, yellows and foliage so I included marigolds and larkspur and cornflowers with persicaria, dill heads........  Weary so went to bed at 10pm.up by 6am to finish bouquets and corsages, then breakfast and off to the venue for 9. Slight disorganisation that end so the pewter pots I was supposed to be using all had to be found, cleaned etc before I could start arranging... had forgotten about cake and hair flowers but luckily was reminded at 10.30 in plenty of time before wedding at 12.00 but somehow everything became rather a dash to get decorations in place before the ceremony. As the wedding breakfast was taking place in the same room as the ceremony there was a wait as I like to put all the table centres out myself and titivate in position rather than running away and leaving them for the caterers to do. So I was finally done by 2.15, everyone was happy, I got home at 5.45pm having picked up the dogs en route.....

Took loads of photos and now the computer won't recognise the camera. Aargh.

best things: with apologies to those of you who do, but I'm so glad I don't live near Henley, well out of my comfort zone as I am the queen of hopeless personal grooming (5 minutes to get out of bed, washed and dressed average and there are days that I get up in such a rush that I don't even quite remember to put all the appropriate garments on or wash properly!) and could not cope with all that need to look tidy and tanned and made up and drive a clean vehicle and have manicured hands....
staying at Henley Business School was surprisingly fab - beautiful old buildings on the bank of the Thames but with no razzmatazz, just comfort, landscape, peace and the most fantastic breakfast and wonderful staff
Brides: so lovely when I get to meet you and you're happy with what I've done

worst things: I always forget how many hours it takes to prepare flowers for weddings.
The fact that there are only 24 hours in a day.
Timing - the husband has been directing a huge festival for the last week and it's all gone extremely well with dozens of brilliant events and music and it would have been lovely to have been there. But we have promised each other a holiday next month which is very exciting.

Inclined to curl up on the sofa and do nothing, but instead went to the most brilliant open air Shakespeare I have ever seen, the Living Willow Theatre production of Twelfth Night at beautiful Llowes Court (my favourite garden in Britain in fact, very very grown up and beautifully thought out but utterly unpretentious and completely suiting the 12th century house and landscape). It was raining a bit but it didn't matter a jot. So glad I went, great production, lovely crowd, perfect setting. Then returned and sort of by mistake made chutney and went mushroom picking as there are just so many around. Must try to stop doing and practice just being sometimes!