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Black Shed July

The arrival of summer has brought a very welcome blast of colour in our flower beds here at Black Shed. It's an exciting time and each day brings fresh surprises. We've had amazing Alliums, fantastic Anemones and Cornflowers in every shade. The lovely Foxgloves have come in all manner of colours and forms, whites, creams, pinks and purples, with diminutive yellow species foxgloves from Italy and tall 6ft giant Digitalis ferruginea. Cosmos arrived in pink, purple and white, frilled and fluted or even, bizarrely, shaped like a cupcake.

Weird Lysimachia purpurea has been wriggling away in the undergrowth and providing some distinctly sinister stems for some of our event florists. A kaleidoscope of tall Antirrhinums, or Snapdragons, specially developed in America for the cut flower market, have really performed well for us. The Scabious have burst into bloom in violets, blues, burgundy and whites, in sizes ranging from our tiniest wild field Scabious to 7ft giants. The early arrival of the crazy colourful zinnias have created their own Mexican fiesta in Dorset, perfect for all those festival style weddings.

There's no doubt that the star of the early summer has been Delphinium family. In the winter of our first year Helen pulled off an incredible feat, she managed to germinate a wide range of delphinium seeds, which are notoriously difficult to germinate. Amazingly they flowered in their first year but this year we have been rewarded with some incredible stems in a phenomenal range of colours.

Anyone who's driven past our flower farm at The Toy Barn on the A30 will have seen the towering spires of brightest blue rising above the hedge. They all went to form the focal points of big floral installations at weddings and events. We supply some really talented floral designers and it's particularly exciting to see our flowers in use on their Instagram feeds.

The huge and elegant white delphiniums have been very popular too but I have to admit a big love for the ravishing sky blues. There is nothing like the clear cerulean blue of varieties such as Cliveden Beauty. Vying for attention are the deep violet forms with their rich black stems rising out of striking dark foliage.

Bees just adore Delphiniums and it's curious to note that the white, brown or black structure in the centre of a delphinium flower is referred to as a bee. They do look remarkably similar.

Larkspurs are the more modest wing of the Delphinium family but supply the most wonderful selection of cut flowers. In many ways they are easier to use in floral arrangements than Delphiniums, which demand centre stage. They come in a range of colours from whites to deepest blues via lilacs and the most subtle misty lavender grey. I must admit to a real soft spot for the wild blue or white form of larkspur, Delphinium consolida, or Consolida regalis, which is an airy, delicate and gracious plant, a world away from it's spectacular cousins.

July brings big changes in the cut flower farming year. The arrival of the first buds on the dahlias herald yet another chapter in the constantly changing seasons here at Blackmarsh Farm, bringing a new rich palette of colours that will take us through into the high months of Summer.

©Paul Stickland This article was first published in The Sherborne Times July 2018


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