This month has gone by in a flash. We’ve had many visitors to the flower farm and thanks to the trusty ranunculus they’ve had plenty to see, photograph and pick. The tulips appeared, dazzled and faded so quickly that it’s been great to have the ‘cut-and-come again’ ranunculus to provide us with many buckets of stunning flowers to pick each day.
Of course, there’s an army of other spring flowers that we’ve been tucking into our spring posies. Double daffodils in cream, pink and buttermilk tones started us off. Then as the anemones were lengthening their stems, our tulips had their hero moment. We all cooed over the parrot tulips and those double petaled peony tulips or those with fringed edges. However, the florist in me was truly proud of our long stemmed Early Single and Darwin varieties. Pink Impression and Apricot Impression are definite repeats for next year but Temples Favourite was my pick of the season.
In my book, if a tulip lasts for a week in the vase, you’re happy; however, two weeks in, Temples Favourite was still going strong. Its elegant, pointed flowers on long strong stems poetically opened and closed according to the heat in the room but it remarkably never dropped its petals until the final moment when, one evening, they all noisily fell on the floor and the drama was over.
It’s been a season for sunset tones, and we have been pairing these warm colours with lavender statice, purple stocks and mauve wallflowers in our bunches. The colours work well together and remind me of the importance of considering colour combinations when planning your cutting garden. It’s so easy to choose which focal flowers to grow but spare a thought for your filler flowers and foliage also.
As we move into late spring flowers here on the milder Limestone Coast, the white ornithogalums are getting ready to flower. I seem to have a lot of ‘spike’ shaped flowers coming up and these will be joined by delphiniums in the most divine dusty lilac colour, as well as larkspur, snapdragons and foxgloves.
These were all sown from seed last autumn and have been patiently overwintering as small plants in the ground, waiting for the weather to warm and the days to lengthen before putting on sudden growth and dazzling us with their beauty.
On the subject of seed sowing, this has been a herculean task. Many an evening has been spent in the barn sowing trays of seeds for summer and autumn colour. I’m focusing on cut-and-come again varieties as these provide buckets of flowers per plant. Cosmos, zinnia, celosia and sunflowers are some of my easy to grow favourites. While I potter away in the barn, I love listening to podcasts, particularly The Flower Podcast and also Botanical Brouhaha.
As Christine mentioned, her husband did a stellar job of rototilling the next part of the flower farm, transforming it from sheep paddock to flower bed. While I think he thoroughly enjoyed a spot of tractor driving, it only seemed fair that we were all rewarded for his labours with an old-fashioned Sunday lunch. In the following weeks, we laid a thick layer of compost over the ground and then covered it with weedmat. This will solarise any weeds that appear, will keep the moisture in the ground and also stop any of the precious loosened top soil from blowing away. During these school holidays, we will plant dahlia tubers through holes in the weedmat. As we will be planting close to 3000 tubers this year, I need the help of my trusty band of teenagers to break the back of this important job.
If you are growing dahlias this year, I hope you have had time to peek in the boxes a few times over the winter to check on the tubers. Now is the time to start waking them up. We bring the tubers to a warmer, brighter (frost free) place open the boxes and lightly spray them with water. Once any risk of frost has passed, and there is a visible eye (a fleshy raised bump like an eye on a potato tuber), we plant them on their side with the eye close to a stake that has been banged into the ground. We dig a hole 10cm deep and place the tail slightly lower than the head as this helps any water to run off the tuber. The ground should be damp but not wet when you plant and I generally don’t water until there are leaves above ground level. The exception to this is if there is a spell of very warm weather or if you live in a very warm place. Look at your soil, if it is very dry then water.
On the flower farm, we only plant tubers that have ‘eyed up’. This way we can be absolutely sure that all the tubers we plant are viable. That means we plant over a four to six week period which wouldn’t be realistic if this wasn’t our full time occupation. It’s fine to plant the tubers before they have eyed up if this works better for your situation. Due to the numbers of plants we grow, it is great to spread the work over a number of weeks but also ensures that we have a batch of later flowering plants that start in early autumn, thereby giving us a boost of fresh blooms for this latter part of the season up to Mother’s Day. Typically, the larger tubers and dinner plate varieties take longer to eye up.
As spring progresses, the boxes of plant goodies continue to appear. This week a very large box of amaryllis (hippeastrum) arrived. I like to plant these in pots for Christmas but they are also a brilliant cut flower. I’ve ordered extras and have posted these on my website in case you would like to grow some also. Click here to view our range.
Enjoy this beautiful Spring weather and we hope to see you soon.