November 2022

Roses and honeysuckle over the gate from the garden into the paddock

There is an awful lot to do this month. We have secured an extra acre of land and are currently in the process of designing and planting a new flower field which is very much aimed at public engagement. The new plot will include a large PYO plot, a gorgeous plot of our best selling scented roses (with rose arches and arbours), a blossom orchard and a foliage maze. We will include large grass pathways, suitable for providing picnic and seating areas and hopefully a perennial flower meadow under the trees in the blossom orchard. I’m also very excited to be using the OH’s range of garden metalwork and floristry mechanics around the plot, which we will be able to use to showcase the best of sustainable floristry techniques.

When will the field and PYO plot be open to the public? We are aiming for June. We’ve hundreds of ideas of ways to use the new area, from bring your own picnics to outdoor plays to family treasure hunts. The past couple of years of covid and lockdown periods has meant that people are now really keen to get out and enjoy doing things outside in the fresh air with their families and the wider community. Our aim is to provide a varied range of activities throughout the year with a focus on family events and we will be trying to run lots of events that won’t be too expensive and even some events like picnics, which will be free. We are acutely aware that cost of living increases mean families have much less money to spend on days out so perhaps we will be able to give families a fun thing to do at the weekend, without needing to spend a fortune.

Of course, because there is a lot to do, Jack and I are starting the month with a flu bug, which has, for the first time we can remember meant we’ve had to take time off for health reasons. There has also been more rain than I’d like – but the rain is needed to top up groundwater levels after the Summer drought, so I won’t moan too much about that. Yet. On top of getting the new field ready, we are also working on the usual November tasks of lifting dahlias, dividing and moving perennials and planting bulbs.

October 2022

Apologies for the lack of a September blog post. If you are a Bedfordian, you’ll know why we were so busy! The 2022 Great Big Green Week was a huge success and we were lucky enough to be asked to represent the local cut flower growers and indie florists by creating a Flower Flash to kick the week off!

Local Florists and growers working on the Flower Flash on Silver Street in Bedford

I applied for partial funding and put forward our proposal way back in February. I dare not even mention it to the others in our little British cut flowers collective until it was all approved. Needless to say the team were over the moon to be working on such a worthwhile project. I was exhausted, but by the end of the day the younger members of the team were asking me ‘what’s next?’ Keen as mustard this lot! The best bit was seeing the faces of the people of Bedford when they came in to town and saw what we were doing. The worst bit was being interviewed by Look East, although reporter Andy Holmes was the loveliest person to work with, trying to put me at ease throughout. People say I came across well. I watched it once and never again!

Next steps – We’ve been asked by the council to create something similar as part of the town’s Christmas celebrations and then the GBGW returns in June next year – we are already planning bigger and better for that one! In between we will all be doing our usual day jobs making sure flowers get grown, harvested, arranged and delivered to customers across the county. Many of us are also attending shows and competitions (either collectively or representing our own businesses) to publicise the sustainability, quality and range of British grown cut flowers.

But for now, back to reality and back in my comfort zone, working on the land to get this seasons crops lifted or tucked up for winter and next years crops in the ground.

August 2022

August has carried on where July left off, with heat, strong sun and drought. We have given up on some of the cool loving annuals, such as the antirrhinum and cornflower as we just couldn’t keep them watered and shaded enough. Instead we have focused on keeping our late summer stars alive- dahlia, amaranthus, statice, zinnia and cosmos. Every year is challenging. This has not been our most challenging year – two years of winter floods (2019/20 and 2020/21) were pretty disastrous for us. However I would like it noted that after those floods, in the spring of 2021 we spent a huge amount of money having drainage channels put in under the flower field, and it has hardly rained since.

The UK is also in recession, which will only get worse as time goes on as the cost of living, in particular the cost of fuel and energy have just kept on rising. How does this affect our business? Well of course our own costs are significantly higher, everything is more expensive – seeds, bulbs, compost, packaging. And as our product is a luxury item, general retail sales have dropped. However we are providing flowers for a lot more weddings this year. Some weddings postponed from the last couple of years due to covid are only just now taking place. Next year I think the number of weddings and events will go back to how they were pre-covid. So what should we do? Quietly bide our time and see what the future brings? Cut back our expenses, batten down the hatches and wait out the recession? Or do we take a risk, carry on with expanding the business and grow even more blooms? Watch this space to find out what we have decided to do, although if you follow us on instagram I think you’ll already have seen a few hints about our plans.

July – mid season challenges

24th July 2022

Sorry, it’s a ranty one!

It’s been an exceptionally dry year here so far. We are having to irrigate in the perennial field, which is something we never normally do, as we have a clay soil under weed control fabric, which tends to keep the moisture in. On top of that last week saw the highest ever temperatures, just above 40 oC, on record in our region, accompanied by some strong winds. Some crops have been badly damaged by the drought and temperatures – antirrhinum, cornflowers and sweet peas in particular hate such heat. So we have picked our battles and concentrated on keeping our late summer flowers alive and healthy – the dahlia, zinnia, cosmos, amaranthus, statice and helichrysum. The chrysanths also look good and I’ll cut the first china asters later today.

On a positive Jack has grown the best crop of chillis and peppers, in part due to the extra sunshine we’ve been getting.

There can be no doubt that climate change is having a significant impact on our planet. I get very frustrated with those who either bury their heads in the sand and ignore, or even worse, dispute the evidence. During the heatwave I saw many articles about how we need to adapt to new hotter summers in the UK, by perhaps installing air conditioning as standard in new homes. Awesome. Like bandaging up a gangrenous wound. Running air conditioning requires a lot of energy and if this energy is coming from non-renewables then we are just adding to the problem and creating more pollution and pumping extra CO2 into the atmosphere. Why not make it standard to fit solar panels to new homes? Or electric car charging points? (I could go on and on, the endless creation of unsustainable, thoughtless new build housing estates drives me nuts.)

To those people (with the exception of those who are medically vulnerable) who jumped in their petrol cars, drove to the retail park, and bought an electric fan to run night and day during the heatwave, shame on you! Putting your own comfort for a couple of days before the environmental and financial cost of your actions it just an example of the unthinking, self centred actions that contributed to the mess we are in. I bet many who did this would happily jump on a plane and head off to somewhere like Lanzarote for two weeks in the summer and lay happily toasting themselves on the beach for days on end.

Here is a scary thing, as a grower and arable farmer I see how difficult it is in our ever changing climate to keep plants alive and yielding well. The past few years we’ve seen crop yields compromised by flood, drought, pesticide resistant insects, herbicide resistant weeds and disease. Farmers are actively changing their practice to become more sustainable with their use of chemicals, fertilizers and cultivation techniques. Climate change is and will continue to affect what and how much food we can grow. I don’t know about you, but I’m rather fond of eating. Adapt we must, but while we are adapting please can we also take steps to limit (maybe even reverse) the climate change that is the underlying cause?

Rose Season

05th June 2022

May was a manically busy month – sowing, planting and harvesting all happening on a daily basis. We added more wholesale customers to our books, mainly due to the pleasing trend for using more sustainably grown cut flowers. There is still a shortage of British grown cut flowers – especially when it comes to the range available.

June sees the end in sight of the planting for this year. We are still sowing, but it is the biennials and perennials for autumn planting that fill the greenhouse shelves now. We have had very poor germination this year with many things – and it can only be one thing, the compost quality. I am hearing the same from growers throughout the country – compost prices have shot up but the quality has gone down (just like the cost and quality of everything else it seems).

Tasks for this week will include planting out the zinnia, echinops and potting on the fancy chrysanths. I’ll also feed the dahlias and hopefully finishing planting the pumpkins, squash and ornamental gourds. And of course there is plenty of weeding.

This week we are also cutting daily and sending flowers down to the garden museum in London for an exhibition to celebrate British Flowers Week. Our friend Kate Kashiri of Kate Wren Flowers has been selected to exhibit there. She has given us carte blanche to cut and send whatever looks at it’s best in the field right now. We are so proud of her and know she will create something amazing. I expect roses to feature quite heavily, as the first June flush is just about to start in the polytunnel, so Kate’s display should smell amazing too!