High Summer on the Flower Farm
June was our busiest month ever but July? Incredible!
Soldiering on through the incessant heat was such a challenge, as much for us poor humans, let alone our trusty flower farm lurcher, Murphy, who doesn’t seem to have brains to take it easy in the shade and insists on following us everywhere, panting and looking miserable. Some of our poor plants looked similarly unhappy in the heat. Everything is going over so quickly, it’s a huge challenge. Luckily we prepared for this drought by making sure that our beds were well watered before we applied yet more tons of best composted household waste. This has kept many plants alive without watering. We had issues with water stress causing mildew on our beloved Delphiniums and a few other species, so we had to clear fell them in early July to let them regrow with the benefit of a feed of seaweed extract, a good water and yet more mulch! Some plants sail through this weather, the Scabious in their various delightful forms have bloomed non-stop but when you look at our native species shining out of our dessicated verges you can see that they’re a tough bunch.
Our flowers have been to some interesting locations in this last month. Locally we have supplied wedding flowers to many of the lovely wedding venues that we have down here. Our barn has been full of countless buckets of astounding colour. It’s been a joy to provide flowers for these happy days and we’ve had tears of joy and emotion on several occasions from both brides, grooms and mothers of both! We were delighted to welcome two florists from San Francisco who came to visit and left with a sheaf of specially prepared poppies, cut in such a way to open the next morning for their photoshoot at St.Giles House, Wimborne.
On an even grander scale, we’ve been delighted to supply one of Britain’s top event florists with flowers that have graced the halls of a castle in Kent, a Chinese billionaire’s private wedding in Castle Howard and then to a top secret middle eastern royal wedding in a Scottish Castle. You couldn’t make it up!
Our DIY wedding buckets have been a great success and we’re finding ourselves falling into a new weekly rhythm. It all hangs around the weekends but our part in that is usually over by Friday morning. Wedding orders are booked in well in advance, so we know what we’ll be picking for each weekend. Florist’s orders are usually in on monday, often via Instagram, where we can easily show them what we have available, quantities and prices etc. Tuesday is sometimes a gentle and a day to regroup and get on with planting, maintenance and coaxing flowers into bloom. Wednesday at dawn we start to pick, placing our carefully prepared and conditioned flowers in deep buckets of cold water in the big barn here at Blackmarsh Farm. The ancient structure is the most wonderful cool room, it’s metre thick stone walls smoothing out the extremes of the day and night temperatures. Thursday at dawn we’re picking again ready for the first wedding pickups from the event florists. Friday sees us up at first light to pick our DIY buckets for the weekend’s weddings. By Saturday, the pressure’s off and we can relax and get on with the daily chores, maybe even socialise a bit! Sunday might be a Pick Your Own day and is often a day when families come to discuss their wedding needs and look at the flowers that we’ll have available in the weeks to come. And then it’s monday morning and the orders start again.
What have been the stars of the last month? The foxgloves in peach, cream, white, pink purple, yellow and brown have been pretty stunning. We do grow a lot…. The dahlias went from nowhere, giving us the worry, to lighting and filling up the field with their extravagant colours and myriad forms. The subtle colour themes of early spring gave way to enormous rainbow Antirrhinums, forests of multi coloured Larkspur, a sea of irritating but spectacular cornflowers ( so gorgeous, such a pain to cut, strip and condition, ask any florist ) Trumpet blasts of mallows blinding passing traffic, tall spires of the Veronicas, outrageous Digitalis ferruginea and my beloved soft greyish white Lysimachia ephemerum…
Highlights? Too many to mention really. One of the things that has given me the most joy is the incredible hum and thrum of insect life, we have thousands of hoverflies, bees and butterflies loving our efforts. However providing an entire bed of 150 complete and perfect 6 ft larkspur plants for that secret wedding in a castle might just take the biscuit.
©Paul Stickland First published in The Sherborne Times, August 2018