Thursday, 29 September 2011

Late Sept wedding

The first photo from C and E's wedding on Saturday. A good sprinkling of cornflowers in predominantly green and white was the brief, fairly traditional but on the wilder side,  and I had sown loads of late cornflowers that I had hoped would be out for that weekend, but they are just budding nicely this week so one week too late. Happily we still have hundreds of others, they just take a bit of picking through at this time of year.
When I thought about it earlier in the year I would never have expected to have roses or clematis flowering away now, it definitely has been a fantastic year for flowers, we still have a field full, it's terribly exciting to see how different everything is year on year. But then I'm already wondering if next year might be disastrous as this year has been so floriferous, the joys of working for yourself never wane!

This weekend we are on multicoloured seasonal flowers for an intimate wedding near here, and greens and pinks and whites plus loads of berries and grasses for one rather farther away......

Monday, 26 September 2011


So much going on, so little time to get to write anything here.

Bill Tingey is an interesting and excellent photographer and I feel v lucky to have him working with me, we're getting images together for a joint project, this weekend he came round and took some lovely autumn arrangement shots but I'm afraid I haven't got them yet, but he also took some of some v simple church decs a couple of weeks ago (sills were small hanging decorations to be removed and put in the marquee) and in the field. My favourite was the random one in the flower house above of a message I'd left for Di as I had to be at my mum's!

I'm still totally in love with ammi because I love using things just as they are, the church urn was actually huge but hard to show as the bride just wanted simple structural arrangements with no fuss, but this weekend was very different, a flock of candelabras (no doubt pics later) and a trailing bouquet which is the one type of bouquet that takes a lot of thought. As I only use our flowers in the gardens I have to find things that have the right shape and form as well as colour so it can be less easy than hand ties where I have just so much choice. This weekend the bride wanted creams and greens with touches of cornflower blue, so the trails were arching stems of the lovely clematis viticella alba complete with many hanging green and white flowers, and some jasmine, coming out of a collection of creamy roses, cleomes, white larkspur and greenery and some wired cornflowers in the trail. I know that florists conventionally often use ivies for these types of bouquets but I'm not a great fan of ivy, somehow it just seems too ordinary when there are so many other possibilities.

I have been totally useless at marketing this year, in fact I have done none and do feel a bit stupid about it but there has been so much going on  on the personal front that it has been impossible to find time for extras, but I do have lots of plans for next year! I was slightly amused, slightly less than amused to open the computer to find a regular weekly marketing email from a company near here that sells all manner of country stuff and does very well, they are sizeable and successful and they have a large online store. They also sell mail order flowers, and have fantastic marketing and advertising campaigns selling english bouquets. All fine, and very different from those that we produce here. Ours are home grown, I guess they are in many ways bouquets for gardeners and garden aficionados as well as for anyone who loves flowers, the other company sells english flowers mainly bought in from wholesalers for their florists to work with. They are proudly stating how their bouquets are now in the Jigsaw clothing stores who are now using english flowers. Two years ago (or maybe three) we were the first flower growers in this country to work with Jigsaw and provided all their stores with our flowers for some while, and have for three years provided them with all their christmas arrangements (though presumably no longer) but I just couldn't find a way to make our organically grown home grown seasonal flowers stand up to the lights and heat in the stores so we decided not to continue with the contract. I'm sure their new providers will make it work but it was interesting for me to see marketing at work when I don't think I ever publicised the fact we were working with Jigsaw! I obviously miss many tricks..... Next year I may tell you who we're working with as we are currently exploring an exciting new possibility, but I guess for me the most important thing is making sure something works, properly. The Jigsaw contract was exciting for me, but actually it was a bit too early for the business and a bit too much trial and error at that stage. I believe that growth needs to be organic in every sense and I am now excited to say that I think I know what we're doing now, and how to provide the best service.

It is often said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but actually sometimes it's a bit annoying! This same company copied my way of packaging flowers with moss, then started selling the exact same jugs that I was selling at Hampton Court and shows... for heavens sake, they are big and successful, they do not need to look over their shoulder at my little enterprise. But they gave a list of the flowers they are sending out this week which made me smile and also made me think of providing a list:
Today I sent out bouquets including snapdragons, stocks, phlox, asters, verbena, larkspur, molucella, asparagus, viburnum, scabious, nigella, cleome, statice, ammi, dahlias, roses, zinnias.......The field has really come up trumps this year.

We are moving towards the end of wedding season as I decided not to do any from November through February because last year's snow made me realise the impossibility of transport when you live far from main roads (or snowploughs). We still have a mass of blooms, and lots of berries and foliage to come, but the thought of being unable to deliver is just too stressful.

And the most wonderful news is that my gorgeous daughter Rowan is marrying her wonderful partner Dan next April. The florist has been booked!

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Monday, 12 September 2011

weddings, wind and worry

I arrived at Llanstephan church about 9.30 on Saturday to put in a large urn on a pedestal for Hannah and Adrian's wedding and hang a garland plus some bits and pieces. Flower choice was wildish, pastel and silvery foliage. A group of black suited people turned up, and didn't seem entirely friendly which was odd as people round there are usually only too happy to chat and chat and chat. I thought maybe they were a choir coming to practice... then the organist appeared while I was busy making a bit of a mess with the urn up by the altar. She started playing. I said how lovely it always is to be in the church when the organist comes to practice. She said nothing. So, slightly surprised at the choice of music she was practising (Abide with me didn't seem terrifically jolly for a wedding though I could see the sentiment would work) I said "What other hymns are they having?". Oh only the one, she said. And said no more.  Bemused, I look up to see the priest hurrying up the aisle. "I think it would be respectful for you to get out now please?".....No-one had told me there was a memorial service at 10.00!

Meanwhile Ben and Lotte were getting married in my local church (but they booked after Hannah so we did their flowers the day before), with wild and seedy things in the church and structural mustards and blues and lime greens in the marquee. Alice was having an incredibly laid back and extremely bright diy affair up the road (an excuse for whole bouquets of zinnias for the bridesmaids) , and Kate was having a very subtly coloured bluey green, dull pinks and purples post wedding party in Stroud. I think all went off well. 

Last night the wind blew so hard (again) that I lay awake worrying whether the tunnel would still be there this morning. I sneaked out at first light, braving the rain and gales to find the tunnel was fine BUT an unexpected menace was appearing. A tree had blown down in the hedge and the sheep in the next field had obviously just woken up, found the gap and decided breakfast looked pretty damn tasty in the flower field. Thank heavens I rose early.... two mad hours then followed trying to haul wire and poles from the other end of the field against the gale (typically, everything was in totally the wrong place and it took me twenty minutes each time to push a barrow from one end of the field to the other as I was pushing straight into the wind) and make good for the time being. 

And now some happy snaps of flowers from the wedding three weeks ago, the one for which we planted wildflowers outside the tent. The bouquet shown here was one of the bridesmaids', I'm asking for some of the bride and the whole bridal party as it was all very cheery.......

Saturday, 3 September 2011

Rabbits and vegetables

Home this evening after another busy wedding day, when there's a rap on the door. It's my wonderful legal poachers, lads from the Valleys who come up from time to time to help control the rabbits, sometimes they bring guns, sometimes ferrets, sometimes lamps, sometimes dogs, probably sometimes the whole shebang. The older man has a fruit and veg business and tonight he also brings me a sack of new spuds,  a huge bag of plums, onions, carrots, turnips, spring onions, two cabbages, damsons, pears, bananas....... Looks like rabbit stew and a massive fruit pud will be on the menu any day now!

Though I'm not sure about the plums, especially as my preserving pan has been on every evening this week making all manner of plum preserves to try to use up my own plum glut. I already have pots and pots of damson cheese, plum cheese, spiced plum and herb jelly, pickled plums (i.e. nothing where the fruit need stoning!) and my massive old pear tree is also dripping with fruit though I'm not doing so well with apples.

Oh and I've already pigged out today on scrumptious yellow autumn raspberries. Gluts are wonderful for gluttons like me!

Friday, 2 September 2011

Field snapshots

A few snaps of what's growing in some parts of the field today - and yes, it would have been better if I'd got the camera out on one of the many days when the sky has been cobalt blue and there's been not a whisper of wind, but I'm afraid I didn't. But you can probably get an idea both of the profusion and the confusion. I haven't shown the dahlia bed, the scruffy shrubs, the far too large patch of supremely beautiful but undersold solidago, the michaelmas daisies or the areas in waiting - half an acre roughly cultivated waiting for compost next month and then to be put down to yet more tulips and dozens of new roses, another large patch currently resting under landscape fabric waiting for hydrangeas, and lots of patches just, well, waiting.

So many ideas at the moment but not time to put any of them into action yet. I've got a serious case of my typical gardener's disease at the moment, a huge dose of enthusiasm about what I can do next and better rather than sorting out lots of what I probably should be doing now! I can hardly wait to see what the field will be looking like this time next year.......