Happy New Year! It promises to be a very exciting one too!
Writing this in December, I’m hoping that Helen, Tabitha and I will have had a bit of a break over the Christmas period. We certainly need it!
So what will 2019 hold for Black Shed? First of all we need to expand, to take on another acre to allow us to increase production to meet the ever increasing demand for fresh, local, seasonal flowers. It's been wonderful to witness the excitement building amongst florists and the public alike at the availability of flowers that reflect the changing seasons, from plants that grow well in our slightly unpredictable and uncertain climate. After last Spring’s chill and this Summer’s extraordinary heatwave and with the promise of more in a similar vein, we’ve had to do a lot of research into plants that can withstand such extremes. As members of Flowers From The Farm, we’ve been able to benefit from the experiences of other flower farmers. We share what works well and, as is invariably the case with gardeners and farmers, that knowledge is shared with great generosity.
We’re increasing our tulip offering, they’re safely all tucked up in their beds waiting for the first warmth of Spring. The Ranunculus are leafing up beautifully and we even have the odd Anemone in flower. There isn’t really a pause in the flower farming year, there’s always the promise of Spring in the wings to encourage and keep us on task.
In 2019 we’ll be growing even more perennials, we now have a good idea of which ones performed well in the last two seasons and our stocks of these increased beautifully last summer. Perennials are clearly a lot less work than sowing and planting annuals each year, there will be visits to our favourite wholesale nurseries soon!
One of the biggest demands we've had this year has been for foliage, such as Eucalyptus. We grew ours from seed and in only 9 months we have plants over 6ft tall! We’ll coppice those hard down to the base and will definitely be growing more. Another excuse to revisit those wonderful, tempting seed catalogs…
It's not just the exotics that are in demand. The wild, green style of wedding, with copious amounts of foliage, are still all the rage, so there is a big demand for simple native foliage, such as beech, holly, oak and birch. Florists have foraged for this in the past but even in our leafy rural area, this is not so easy and you must have the permission of the landowner too. Imported foliage runs the risk of importing pathogens such as Xyella, which we must avoid at all costs. Luckily, young trees, whips, are cheap as chips, so we’ll be planting 100 metre long rows of these, coppiced to provide one, two and three year old stems. This should have the added benefit of providing habitat, shelter and food for the hundred of species of insects and wildlife that depend on them. Plus it should look amazing!
Last winter we purchased a selection of willow species. We have a boggy corner in our field, just right for these moisture lovers. The foot long unrooted cuttings arrived, beautifully wrapped and labelled in a simple paper package. Willows root very easily indeed. We did little more than poke them through our landscape fabric and we now have one year old trees over 9 feet tall. We’ve even taken cuttings from these and now have a second generation of trees which will give us plenty of colourful stems for next year’s Christmas wreaths. We’re always looking ahead!
©Paul Stickland First published in the Sherborne Times, January 2019