Tag Archives: Common Farm Flowers

Tulip review 2015

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In common with a number of other bloggers (including Peonies and PosiesMy Hesperides Garden, The Blooming Garden and Owl House Flowers) I thought I’d share a post about this year’s tulips.

And this year, my tulips have been a complete revelation.  Always afraid the bulbs would get eaten, or I’d get stuck with dying foliage for EVER, I’ve tiptoed around tulips, planting a few in pots but very few directly in the flower beds.

Well this year I went for it, planting three varieties in the Swing Beds and have enjoyed them enormously for well over a month.  Above and below, the rather large and blowsy T Pink Impression. Sadly these didn’t last that long due to strong wind in the latter part of April, but boy did they make their mark.IMG_6911

Interestingly, the same variety was used at Arundel Castle in their pots:IMG_7089

To follow on from T Pink Impression I’d planted T Mistress and T Menton.  These were much softer and more delicate in colour and have lasted really well.  The rather more peachy one is Menton.IMG_7018

In the Grass Bed I have T Spring Green returning, which was planted in 2013 and does seem to be quite perennial.IMG_7038

As the new MId Century and Bronze beds weren’t created until this spring, neither had any spring bulbs planted.  However, I did buy a few pots of Prinses Irene to pop into the Bronze Bed.  I didn’t separate the bulbs out when I planted (you can see they look rather ‘clumped’) but what I don’t understand is why they’re so short.  According to Peter Nyssen, where I buy my bulbs, they should be 35cm, but these ones were only about half that and looked rather stunted.  Perhaps the Prinses didn’t like being squashed in a pot?

Anyway, I don’t think I’ll be selecting her again, but I’m very much looking forward to chosing tulips for both new beds for 2016.

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As in previous years I also grew a number of tulips in pots.  Last year I grew the lovely pink, peony flowered T Angelique in the greenhouse pots and absolutely loved it, but this year I thought I’d try something different, and planted T Orange Angelique, together with this lovely Narcissus, N Bellsong.

Although most of the tulips had this beautiful soft peach colour, to be honest some were rather more yellow (see the one at the right hand edge of the photo) and so didn’t work as I’d intended.  Also, they didn’t last nearly as long as I remember the T Angelique lasting, so I don’t think I’ll be growing T Orange Angelique again.  Does anyone have any suggestions of another tulip to pair with this Narcissus?

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In the tin bath by the front steps I grew the very jolly T Merry go round.  I loved the size, shape and colour of this tulip, and it looked so cheerful to come home to.  Unfortunately these didn’t last that long but I think that was down to a lack of water – they bloomed early and caught the lovely April weather and I think the whole bath got hot and dry while we were away on holiday.IMG_6973

Tulips I’ve enjoyed away from my garden include T White Triumphator and T Ballerina, IMG_7138

(I think) T  Mistress, and T Paul Scherer, (not sure about the dark red one)IMG_7107

and T White Triumphator, all at Arundel Castle.IMG_7150

And lastly, Tulip Queen of the Night at Common Farm Flowers.  I just love the colour and the ‘bloom’ on the petals of this tulip.  I’d love to grow these next year but am still considering where to plant them so that they can be seen.  One of the disadvantages of my lovely hedges is that dark blooms don’t tend to show up, and it would be a crime to miss these beauties!2015-04-29 12.26.33

I hope you’ve enjoyed my review, and would love to hear any of your thoughts for tulips for my two new beds – think ‘bronze’ or ‘bruised’ or both!

Flower farming at Common Farm Flowers

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It was a funny week – Monday, Tuesday and Thursday at work in the City, with Wednesday, a joyous interlude spent at Common Farm Flowers in Somerset.

I’ve already blogged about a talk I went to at the Garden Museum by Georgie Newbery here, but this was a whole day, and this time on Georgie’s home turf, Common Farm.   The subject was ‘Flower Farming for Beginners’ and although I don’t see myself chucking in the ‘proper’ job any time soon, within the wonderful group on the course with me, were a number clearly determined to do exactly that, and good luck to them!

And we couldn’t have had a better teacher than Georgie, who combines a wonderful warm personality with such generosity sharing her advice and knowledge.  She was also quite fierce about not losing sight of the business side of things!

The morning was spent with a general introduction and then a tour of the farm, roughly in the order in which the different areas have been brought into cultivation.  The farm covers 20 acres and the beds used for growing flowers have grown in size in line with the business.  The most recent ones above are massive – only about a metre wide but they must have been at least 30 metres long.  Georgie grows over 250 crops, which of course makes her life much more difficult, but in my view makes her arrangements so much more interesting.

At the moment, out in the beds, there are plenty of bulbs (I have to get some Tulip Queen of the Night next year!)2015-04-29 11.14.18

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together with blossom and other tree and shrub branches.

In the polytunnel, her first of four crops of sweet peas, together with many other annuals, were just starting to come in to bud.

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Back inside for a delicious lunch, with wine 2015-04-29 16.47.10

and then in the afternoon, a slightly more formal run through of a number of prepared sheets we were able to take away with us.

The information (and our questions) came thick and fast, and it was fascinating to hear both Georgie’s experiences and everyone else’s plans.  Some people wanted just to grow, to provide flowers for florists wholesale, others wanted to do the floristry too.  With a £2.2Bn cut flower market in this country, Georgie is convinced there is room for all of us – the ones that we all want to squeeze out are the imported flowers, which never smell and only have a long vase life because of the chemicals they’re been treated with.

We didn’t cover floristry in any detail, but there are plenty of other workshops scheduled during the year such as ‘Posy tying’ and ‘DIY Wedding Flowers’ which are tempting to sign up for.  Perhaps we would get to play with her vase collection:2015-04-29 16.47.36

Finally, after tea, we headed back to our budding flower farms around the country, replete with both knowledge and delicious home made flapjacks.

With enormous thanks to Georgie, and everyone at Common Farm for a delightful day, and also to Rosie, a fellow attendee, who very kindly gave me a lift back to the station.

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In a vase on Monday – Common Farm Flowers

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I’m linking this post to Cathy’s ‘In a vase on Monday’ meme because so much of what Georgie Newbury, from Common Farm Flowers,  said during her talk reminded me of this meme and the joy we’ve all had from it.

Georgie is a flower farmer and now also author of the wonderful ‘The Flower Farmer’s Year’, a book I was so excited about I pre-ordered it.  Neither the book, nor Georgie in person, disappoint.  Her tone is that of a knowledgeable friend, bursting to share her knowledge and love of plants, growing and floristry, and I found her talk captivating.

Rather than flogging either her book or her beautiful bouquets, her talk was all about inspiring people to grow and arrange their own.  And at this time of year, going in the garden and searching out whatever might be available to cut, just as we all do for our Monday vases.2015-03-17 18.28.39

During her talk Georgie created a beautiful, informal hand tied bunch (which sadly I failed to photo as she gave it to her aunt who was in the audience!)

Her foliage was all from her farm, Poplar, Pussy Willow, Black Elder and Hawthorn.2015-03-17 19.49.25

However, the blooms were largely from her suppliers in Cornwall as she lives in a frost pocket and struggles to produce flowers before April.  Flowers included Narcissus (Soleil D’Or and Paperwhite) and lots of gorgeous Ranunculus.2015-03-17 19.55.30

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She shared numerous tips (don’t pick flowers when you can feel the sun on the back of your head, so early morning or after 7 at night, pull bulbs when picking to get a longer stem, always pick directly into water – no romantic wandering with a trug, keep everything scrupulously clean and change the container water regularly to prolong vase life…) as well as numerous supplier tips.   Interestingly many I already use – Chiltern and Higgledy Garden for seeds, David Austin for roses, Peter Nyssen and Avon for bulbs – but also others like Withypitts for dahlias and Hillhouse Nursery for shrubs.

Like Mark Diacono for vegetable growing, she encourages people to grow things that are unusual and unavailable in the shops.  She had a few suggestions of less well known plants including the bulb, Ornithogalum, the slatey purple flowered Delphinium D. requienii and she also loves the Iris below, Iris tuberosa.  It has a relatively short season but is so different to anything else.2015-03-17 19.54.44

I’m already booked on a course at Common Farm later in the year and hearing Georgie talk has just made me even more excited.

With thanks as ever to Cathy at Rambling in the Garden for hosting the lovely ‘In a vase on Monday’ meme.  I’m sure Georgie would approve!