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Harvesting Drieds

The flower farm's been in full flow for months now, tens of thousands of blooms have left the site, waves of colour, in innumerable buckets, florist's vans brim full, beautiful bridal bouquets and buttonholes, a teacher's posie, a single stem tightly held in the hand of a toddler. With all the emotion tied up in the flowers, the weddings, christenings, funerals, it's quite overwhelming at times. And it's been tough work too. The need to pick early in the morning and late into the evening have meant some very long days. Lovely long days though, the garden at first light is a misty joy and in the evening, before the sun sets behind the hill, the low light glances off the layered spires and spikes of flowers in such a delicious way that it's hard to drag yourself back to your task, or indeed home.

I seem to have spent most of the summer praying for rain. It's even worked occasionally, especially, as all gardeners know, when you've just been watering. Our resident vole population have discovered that our 2 kilometres of drip irrigation tape contains a convenient source of water and in a matter of weeks have ruined our wonderfully frugal irrigation system. Which has made keeping the plants in good shape rather tricky. Must put up some barn owl boxes. Luckily our thick mulch of composted garden and household waste helps keep what little rain we had in the soil, stopping the surface soil from drying out, compacting and cracking. Soon be time to put more on, there's 24 tons sitting out in the field waiting to be spread if anyone wants to get fit?

We should have sown all our biennials by the time you read this. We should have sown them weeks ago really but we've been way too busy. With the arrival of our two wonderful volunteers, Pavla from the Czech Republic and Arno from the Pyrenees, we've at last found time to do some of these neglected tasks. We've been gathering and collecting seeds for our exciting new range of Black Shed Seeds. All the while cutting and bunching huge amounts of Statice, Helichrysum, Acroclinum, Xeranthemum, Nigella, Grasses and Amaranthus ready to hang up in our grain silo for drying. Cutting these at the right stage is critical to a first class final product, so we have to keep a close eye on all these species. A close eye on everything frankly. There's so much to watch over, tweak, nurture and coax. We've met several fellow flower farmers recently and we all seem to have one thing in common, apart from almost all of them having whippets or lurchers like us, and that is, by this time in the season, we're pretty exhausted! So we're hoping for a break at the end of the season in November and we'd better have one. December is Christmas trees…

All images and text © Paul Stickland First published in the Sherborne Times September 2019


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