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As the nights draw in and the last of the flowers have dwindled away, our thoughts are firmly fixed on the New Year and Spring. There's little time in Summer to have too many thoughts of next year when you're 110% engaged with the current one. Yet we have to. Tulips need to be ordered not that long after they've finished flowering, we have to get our Anemone and Ranunculus orders in by midsummer to have any chance of getting the most desirable varieties for next year's customers. As you know, there are a bewildering number of colours and forms of Tulips, indeed all Spring bulbs, to choose from and at the wholesale level, even more. Trying to second guess the colours and tastes of next season is not an exact science, so we opt for the more unusual varieties and add to those that really worked well last year. Keeping up with the work of florists and designers on Instagram is a great starting point but nothing beats discussing it with them when they visit, observing the way they put colours and forms together gives us an idea of what to look for when those tempting catalogues arrive.

So these last couple of months have been full of bulb, corm and claw planting. Some in trays of compost in our wonderful new polytunnel, some outside. We stagger these plantings too, so that the flowering season will last as long as possible. The polytunnel will be a game changer for us, it already is my favourite place to be in these winter months. Currently full of Chrysanthemums, which are looking rather fantastic. I wasn't expecting to like them having long nurtured snobbish prejudices based on garage forecourt horrors but I really have fallen for them. There are a lot of subtle and interesting varieties out there, in virtually every colour and form, flowering when everything else has faded. Oh no, another obsession looms…

Dried flower orders have been flying out. We've hung up a whole Summer's worth in our now two grain silos, which looks and smells really special. Much easier to pack and send than fresh flowers, they really help extend our season, let's hope their current popularity continues! With Christmas on it's way, we've been using them ourselves to create the wreaths and decorations that'll be available alongside the wonderful bushy Nordmann Christmas Trees waiting in the big barn here at Blackmarsh Farm. Confident in the quality of our UK grown trees and to make tree shopping as safe and simple as possible, we're offering a click and collect or delivery service for all our trees this Christmas.

Beyond that we have an exciting New Year ahead of us but what do we plan for? Will weddings and events be allowed? Will people be sending flowers to each other as they have done so generously this year? Will mail order be so important, or will it be our amazing local customers? Will it be all of these? Flowers help us express so many feelings and have so many roles in our lives, we're confident that there will be homes for our flowers, so we're going to get on and just grow the best we can. We thank you for all your support in this extraordinary year and if there's anything we can do to fill your lives with flowers, just let us know!

All text and images ©Paul Stickland. First published in The Sherborne Times December 2020


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