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December Days

It's raining outside with gales forecast this afternoon so we're just deciding if we need to yet again take the cover off the greenhouses outside.  It's not a massive job but does leave the baby plants over-wintering inside vulnerable.  We'll see - so far it's pretty calm but it may not stay that way.  I'll let Andy make the decision as he's the one who keeps up with the forecast while I'm more of a 'look out of the window and see what going on' kind of person.  To note: Andy's way is recommended, mine just get's us into bother...

Despite the short days and unpleasant weather I do look forward to this time of year - mainly for the rest.  I, like I'm sure so many other growers do - look back at this time of year at the previous season and ask 'how on earth did we manage it all?'.  This year was definitely the busiest with many 18-20 hour days...followed by another one... Endless cycles of planting, harvest, arranging and meetings.  I suppose when I'm in the thick of it it's the momentum and the adrenaline that keep me going, along with the love of what I do and not wanting to let my customers down.  But it does come at a price, mainly family time.  So it's nice to have the quite, less frantic days for us to spend time with the boys, catch up with friends and just rest. 

I've the stove lit and coffee made and getting through the days tasks. So far today I've squeezed in an hour of yoga (keeps my back in good shape so I can physically keep working & doing what I love), several emails, quotations, kids off to school, wreaths made and taken a 'floral inspiration' walk - which is code for skiving off work to walk the dog - this time in the lovely Dunmore Woods in Durrow.  Just before lunch I watered the & checked over the benches in the heated tunnel.  I'm going to squeeze in as much more as I can before the school bus deposits the boys at the end of the lane and they come blasting up, hungry and not in the mood for homework (who ever is?). 

This is the first year I've kept the heated benches in position and turned on - but just in the little greenhouse.  It's been brilliant as the residual heat from the benches keeps the temperature in the greenhouse a little higher than normal which is great for overwintering more delicate plants.  I have loads of Asparagus plants in there which I'm growing for their foliage - it works really well in wedding bouquets and floral arrangements.  I bought the seed from Moles - 2 varieties - Asparagus plumosa and the less well known Asparagus sprengeri.  They were very easy to grow from seed and are currently doing very well in individual 9cm pots. When it comes to transplanting them I won't plant them into the ground as they need to be treated as a greenhouse/indoor plant so I'll transplant them into large pots when they're  ready and I hope to get lots of useful stems from them next year.  But knowing me I will probably pop a few into the ground just to see what happens....I let you know when I do!

                                 Asparagus plumosa                                      Asparagus sperengii     

                               Asparagus plumosa - It will green up again in summer.                              Asparagus sperengii - a vigorous variety! 

The Spectacular Vintage & Bespoke Wedding Fair Kilkenny

KK BANNER

 

We are delighted to be exhibiting at the Spectacular Vintage & Bespoke Wedding Fair in Langton's Hotel KIlkenny this Sunday from 12pm to 4pm.  Please come along to meet with me and discuss all your wedding flower ideas and inspirations...

 

We have a pair of Luxe tickets for the day to give away...For more details & to enter please pop over to our Facebook or Instagram page.  Good luck!!

 

The Luxe Ticket

 

 

 

 

 

Hardy annuals

The sun is shining, flowers are growing dum di di dum dum dum. Weeds are appearing everywhere but I don’t care - they’re feeding the wildlife – or so I keep telling myself so I don’t lose the plot when I’m looking at their scale and the insane amount of new growth they can put on in the blink of an eye. Why can’t my top of the range, fancy pants, high-price commanding Dahlias do the same? Probably because if they could they would no longer be top of the range, fancy pants, high-price commanding Dahlias….‘sigh’.

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After weeks of glorious weather we woke up to...Snow!  So the only thing to do to get over worrying about snoe-damage was to have a snowball fight :-)  Over on the right are a tray of Helichrysum seelings I left out to harden off...and forgot to return to the greenhouse - much to my surprise they survived and are now happily growing in the field!!

I have seeds and seedling EVERYWHERE. The light-box (with super snug bottom heat) is crammed with trays, the greenhouse heated bench is packed with the same and the entire floor of both greenhouses are full of plug trays with my ever-fattening little seedings coming along nicely. I also have crates with planted up dahlia tubers snug in the greenhouse - I’m going to take as many cuttings from them before I plant them out into the field in late May, nothing like making free Dahlia plants to make the heart sing. Dum di di dum…

I’m feeling more organised than ever before. I have rows of cold-hardy annuals planted up on the farm, more coming along in the greenhouse and loads of other annuals starting out. I’m always trying to refine my seed list and at the same time trial newbies that I hope will work (usually I get notions - some good, some not so good after seeing pictures in books or on social media) and there’s always so many that I still haven’t gotten around to trying at all because even though I go over my seed budget every time I go online ‘to get a few bits’ I still have to be realistic about what time and space I have to devout to completely new crops. Someday I WILL walk through my very own rows of Lizianthus blooms – just not yet…

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Planting up rows of hardy annuals on the farm.  I'm snuggling them under some frost cover to keep them from any really cold nights and also the hard winds that blow around up here.

The hardy annuals that I’m growing are (in very organised alphabetical order ?)

Agrostemma githago (corncockle), Ammi majus (Graceland, Snowflake, Queen of Africa), Ammi visnaga ‘Green Mist’, Daucus carota ‘Dara’, Antirrhinum (snapdragons) sp. Including ‘

Rocket’ series, ‘Madame Butterfly’ series, ‘Liberty’ series and I’m trialling the ‘Potomac’ series, which I’ve never grown before. Dill, Bpurleum, Calendula, Campanula, Consolida (larkspur), Delphinium, Digitalis ‘Camelot’ (annual foxglove), Godetia ‘Grace’ series, Helichrysum (including a new-to-me variety ‘Rose Beauty’), Molucella laevis (Bells of Ireland), Nigella, Orlaya grandiflora, Rudbeckia ‘Marmalade’ and a newbie I’m trying ‘Prairie Sun’, Scabiosa autropurpurea (plus the ‘Fama’ series that I’m trialling, but seed was very expensive so unless flowers are out of this world they won’t be invited back next year!), Senecio cineraria (Dusty Miller) – can’t get enough of this - stunning grey foliage, fantastic for wedding work – it’s prone to mildew so I like to sow as many successions as I can, Tanacetum - feverfew (double and single).

There’s something exciting about growing hardy annuals, I feel a bit like I’m ‘cheating’ nature and getting to sow flowers when instinct would be to wait until the ground warms up and all threat of frost has passed. It really feels so rewarding to get plugs in the ground in March (If there is a hard frost due I will put up the frost cover) knowing that I will have armfuls of early summer blooms well ahead of schedule – well that’s ‘le plan’ anyways, now let’s see if I can actually pull it off (successfully)….!

rsz 1rsz 1rsz jute netting 1     

I'm trying out a new crop suppot netting here on the farm that I bought from Quickcrop.  It is made completely from jute and will be fully compostable at the end of it's life.  I'm hoping to get a couple of uses from each piece...I'll let you know how I'm getting on with it.

And through all the sowing, planting, weeding and wondering what on earth I’m doing our family life continues. Senan turned four. I had to say it to myself so many times before it actually sunk in. I know every parent says it – but I can’t believe how quickly my baby boys are growing up. It is a real joy to see their little personalities come out and watching their love of flowers and the outdoors growing is utterly heart-warming, but they are still growing up into independent little men, who don’t need mum quite as much as they used too…

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My boy...We took Senan to the aquarium in Bray for his birthday - he especially loved the little starfish and clown fish.

Next post I’ll let you know how my tough little baby plants are doing and go through the inspiring list of summer flowers I’m planning on growing and harvesting.

Have a wonderful, flowery day and thank you for taking a peep inside my weird and wonderful flower farmer’s life x

Sowing seeds and very cool flowers.

My babies are growing and my babies are growing.

Harry has shot up (which means forking out for new school pants) and is now taking the bus to school. You would think I’d be thrilled with the reduction in school run time – I know did. But as the bus drove off with him happily tucked inside the tears flowed. My baby boy is growing up and needs me for one less thing :-(  Little Senan has been stretching also and is growing into a wonderful little helper (well, sometimes anyway).  Will the lighter winter workload I'm able to spend a lot more time with them both, taking them on a Sunday walk every weekend.  Went to Heywood Gardens in Laois recently, was so lovely - can't wait to return and see it in full bloom.

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Harry, on a recent trip to Heywood Gardens.

I have begun my 2017 seed sowing and for the first time used seeds I collected myself from my own flowers. So am thrilled to say these babies are growing! There is always immense satisfaction when seeds strike, but it is definitely more intense when the seeds are your own. Here’s to saving money and perhaps down the line creating a brand-new variety that will earn me millions!! (yeah..)

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Senan (who refused to go to pre school on this day) helping me organising my seeds for the start of sowing.

Saving my own seed can be tremendously time consuming. Gathering them is the easy bit – but cleaning them can be long, painfully slow work (sunflowers a cinch, cornflowers mind-numbing). I’d love to watch them being mechanically cleaned in a seed factory as I can’t imagine how a machine can separate seeds the size of a speck of dust from its disintegrated outer shell…. But when it comes to buying seed for the upcoming year (spending money in January is rather painful) and watching your own baby seeds sprout and peep their little heads into the world for the first time, the hours spent cleaning them is all worth it :-)

rsz dsc 0095rsz dsc 0096

Germinated seed - happy days! These are grown using overhead lights and bottom heat.  When they are big enough to go ito plug trays they will be moved to heated bench in the greenhouse - I'm hoping there'll be enough light in there to keep them growing and ready for planting out under frost cover in March.

I’ve started my sowing extravaganza off this year with all ‘cool’ flowers. I purchased a copy of Cool Flowers (I highly recommend getting yourself a copy) by Lisa Mason Ziegler last autumn and devoured it several times - it was a real eye-opener. The techniques are so simple yet I had never contemplated them before – sowing seeds that will germinate in cool temperatures and when planted at the correct time will put down roots and go on to give me flowers much earlier in the season than ever before – magic!

cool flowers book

Cool flowers can be planted 6-8 weeks before the first or last frost is due. Ideally before the first is best (in Autumn) but as I wasn’t organised enough to do it then (surprise, surprise!), I’m doing it now. I’m going to be overly optimistic about the number of flowers I’ll produce but know that whatever knowledge I pick up along the way will be brought forward to increase production next time round. But it is still nice though to imagine having armfuls of annual flowers in June…….

Last Autumn I packed the mini tunnels with Ranunculus, Anemones and in Spring Icelandic poppies, all of which have settled in really well. The year before when I sowed Anemones I pre-soaked the tubers and put them into individual plugs before taking them to the farm when they had rooted. Unfortunately, a large number of them ended up rotting in their plug trays and never made it to the farm so this time around I did not do any pre-soaking. On the farm I planted hundreds straight into the ground and watered them once and here at the house where I do my propagating I put them straight into plug trays – again with no pre-soaking and just one watering of the soil. I’m delighted with the results. I have hundreds of seedlings emerging both from the ground and the plug trays – looks like I’ll have loads of lovely anemone flowers this year – yay! The trick is to avoid the temptation to pre-soak and after the initial watering to avoid further watering until you can see shoots emerging.

rsz dsc 0098

Hundreds of Anemone De Caen seedlings - the ones on the right 'The Bride' are slowest andd last to arrive.

With the Ranunculus I had to lots to work with – the new corms I bought in and the ones I had dug and saved from the previous season. The ones I bought in I soaked for a couple of hours and put into plug trays. After months, there’s only a few of handfuls of seedlings – very disappointing as the corms appeared healthy. With the ones I saved I divided them, soaked them for a couple of hours and put them into plug trays. A couple of months later I had tonnes of Ranunculus plugs bursting out of their trays! So, if you’re wondering whether or not to save your corms – go for it!

With so much hope and expectation for the coming season - Let the flowery year begin again!!!

Orla x

Favourite summer blooms

The hard frost has come, much later than last year meaning I had my lovely blooms for much longer than expected. Crazy to think I was still taking orders and delivering flowers in mid-November!

I will miss each and every one of my flowers (except for the few that will not be invited back next year ;-)).

My harvest this year were more abundant, more consistent and best of all I had so many more varieties. This is largely due to trialling so many the first year and figuring out what works best as a cut flower on my little flower farm on top of a hill in Co. Kilkenny.

Some of my top favourites (and now staples) from this summer are:

Icelandic poppies (Papaver nudicaule) -  Stunners, all of them. I haven’t met someone yet who hasn’t gone all soft and gooey-eyed over these beauties.

Ranunculus asiaticus - Such a versatile flower. Sold pretty much every stem of these that I grew. (Growing double next year!)

Feverfew - Tanacetum parthenium (single and double) - Fantastic filler, both in bouquets and wedding arrangements.

Nigella – Every variety of nigella is a unique bundle of joy J

Lupins (Russell hybrids)- Have to include these because I love everything about them. Their quirky shapes, stunning colours and the memories and smiles they bring to my customer’s faces.

Snapdragons (Antirrhinum) - I grew more varieties of this flower than any other, so glad I did! Excellent focal flowers, huge range of colours and very easy to grow.

Dahlias, esp. Café au Laits. Complete showstoppers.

Ammi majus/visnaga, Daucus carota Dara. All excellent fillers, so airy and cottage style, wouldn’t be without them.

Amaranthus caudatus (green and red) - their training stems were fantastic in both wedding work and bouquets.

Ammobium alatum - little tiny star like flowers that are fantastic fresh and dried.

Nicotiana ‘Lime Green’ – Annoying sticky stems (no one likes when it’s their turn to harvest these!) but their wonderful bright green flowers are a fantastic addition to bouquets.

Sunflowers (single and branching) - Because they make me smile. Everytime.

Helichrysum (king size formula) I grew mixed, white and salmon ones and they made a great addition to bouquets and I have hundreds of flowers dried for winter work.

Statice – Easy to grow, easy to harvest, great choice of colours, excellent vase life and dry beautifully. Enough said!

Mallow – Lavatera trimestris – beautiful flowers which everybody loves :)

I’m already looking forward to next year when I can grow bigger and better blooms, see a return of my old favourites, trial new varieties and most of all be surrounded by thousands of beautiful, happy, smiley flowers x