Sunday, 21 February 2010

Hurrah, bulbs are appearing after all!

Amazing how despondency lifts instantly at the sight of hundreds of little tulip greens piercing the ground, and the realisation that the narcissi in the sheltered area are daring to bud up, that camassia are roaring up in the top garden, alliums showing their silvery green foliage, hundreds of bulbs appearing everywhere, the winter flowering honeysuckle is covered in delicious scented blossoms, dark red witchazel a good complement, hellebores happy as can be. Heavens, it actually looks as though there will be flowers after all!

I think I must have been looking through blinkers the last few days as all this growth can't possibly have happened over night, or perhaps it is because I am actually taking a few days off at the end of this week so the weather is bound to be perfect for getting onto the ground then.... I'm heading for a spot of seriously cold weather for a few days, -20 or so and almost 2 metres of snow apparently in northern Sweden but a chance to catch up with an old friend, a spot of cross country skiing and visiting an agricultural research facility (presumably snow-covered glasshouses, not sure how that one works but apparently work goes on all year trialling new seeds and crops). So my prediction is perfect weather for gardening from Thursday for five days, and probably back to mud thereafter!

Friday, 19 February 2010

snowing slowing growing

It is, as everyone knows, a late start to the growing season this year. Growers using heated houses or tunnels are little affected but most of the traditional UK flower market is still, happily, weather dependent. You can help things along in an unheated tunnel, but if it keeps freezing there's little you can do but wait and hope that the buds will eventually move from slumber to open up. I have decided to work directly with a couple of small Cornish growers to help things along here to bulk up the few winter offerings we do produce, but even these southwesterly growers are having difficulty getting their usually early crops to deliver early this year. But it's great having the conversations with other growers, and realising we're all in the same boat. Particularly as I have been feeling a little despondent about the futility of my enterprise when confronted with yet another day of snow showers.

Look out for some beautiful anemones when my mail order season starts in a couple of weeks, particularly some spectacular albino white forms and deepest velvety red. They will make their first appearance here in Mother's Day bouquets, which will be available to order from March 1st. I will send out bouquets including Cornish flowers on Thursdays and Fridays to ensure they are as fresh as my own.

My aim this year is to supply bouquets that even the most attentive gardener will find interesting. One of the great and good gardeners (but to my shame I can't recall which one) once said that a salad should always have at least ten different varieties of leaf and flower in it. I'm aiming to do the same with our flowers, trying to ensure that there are at least ten different types of flower in each bunch. I believe it is this personal touch that encourages people to choose our flowers rather than more mainstream options, and the advantage of growing our own is that we can ensure that wide variety, and can ensure that everything is freshly picked to condition for a day before moving out. The flowers we are bringing in from Cornwall arrive here within a day of being picked so they are also as fresh as can be.

And the website should finally be largely updated next week ready for the season's start, there will be a load more gallery pictures so people can really see what's going on here.

Thursday, 11 February 2010

frozen seeds

I spoke too soon about getting back into the gardens. Last night it snowed again. Today the ground is frozen again. Even the tunnel feels uninviting.... So it is sorting seeds in the house - as the Rayburn is on the blink again it's not much warmer indoors than out but that probably suits the seeds fine. I'm sorting out masses of Ammi - green, white and large white - florists dill, scabious, cornflowers, very scented creamy sweet peas, catanache, eryngium and nigella hispanica to start with, all things that grow well here whatever the weather.  There will be plenty more as I get to them. Searching for a supplier or manufacturer of seed packets I had some rather surreal conversations with one supplier - I asked if they could do me plain seed packets, rather than those they were offering as promotional seed packets prepackaged with various types of flower seed. They said Yes. I asked for a price. They came back with one, having made sure I really did want plain seed packets and doublechecked that I wanted them empty. "We can do you plain empty packets but you do realise they will be sealed so they will be rather difficult to get seeds into." 

In the end I have gone back to a company I used years ago when they produced packets from my own woodblock printed kraft paper. 

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

how late is late

Finally a spell back in the gardens. This week a new hedge or two got planted - one mixed dogwoods and guelder rose, one rather surprising choice a short hedge of amelanchier, it just might work and I couldn't resist it when I discovered the trees available bareroot. And as I was digging ground to plant the little specimens I threw in the rest of the bridal crown narcissi that I didn't get round to planting in the autumn. I know they were supposed to be flowering in huge pots in the tunnel weeks ago rather than languishing in their net sacks in the shed but life really is like that sometimes, things get forgotten about because there just isn't the opportunity to remember. I will note if and when they appear and flower, whatever happens I reckon they are better in the ground than out.

Today the crew were back and we made a row of new compost bins and got stuck into pruning the roses, a job that always seems to take ages. Last year's compost bins were tucked up for a year - closed  over with old corrugated sheets to front and top and they will now be left until we open them to use the compost next winter, pots were sorted ready for the rush of propagation that should start any day soon, shredded landscape fabric was tidied up - never again will I use it on very exposed areas, even the edges that were trenched in with soil over them had managed to tear out of the ground, leading to fraying ends trying to wrap their horrible fingers round anything they could touch, I'm surprised the sheep in the adjoining part of the field got away without bondage. In future I use either bonded fray free stuff overlaid with a generous amount of old concrete slabs to keep it down, or I get tons and tons and tons more of municipal compost in before the ground gets too wet when a lorry can't get access.

One small area of the gardens is briefly looking contented, neatly pruned and covered with muck or compost, but I know it is a brief illusion and chaos will soon re-appear as elsewhere.

Thursday, 4 February 2010

a cooking digression

Not the weather here for gardening, torrential rain and cold. Time to hit the kitchen cupboards instead. I'm a bit of a fan of liquorice, not the sweet stuff but the gorgeous black rich dark warm natural kind. And also a fan of using up whatever's around. So for a supper party with precious little in the cupboards apart from a surfeit of eggs and milk I thought a bit of experimentation was a good plan. I heartily totally recommend liquorice flavoured creme caramel (or baked custard really I suppose). Just steep a liquorice length in the milk mixture for a while. Even a liquorice hater was converted.

Monday, 1 February 2010


It is always hard to decide exactly what to produce for out of season celebrations and I've eventually decided to go with just one style of dogwood heart. About 40cm /16 in wide, homegrown, home-made and last for ages - the eucalyptus gradually dries on the heart, or recipients can strip everything off the frame and re-use it for something else. The ribbon is paper. They should be available to order on the website now, and if they don't go up today I'm sure they will be up soon... £30.00 including delivery and a hand made message card. They'll be sent to arrive on Saturday 13th with an Open on 14th label.