Happy New Year! Although we’ve been busy preparing for this new season for much of 2019, this feels like the time when we step up a gear and put those plans into action.
Despite having three seasons under our belts, we’re still at the very beginning of our flower farming journey. There is so much to learn! This is one of the great joys of horticulture and botany offering a lifetime’s study and learning. There’s always something new to learn from other gardeners and then there are new ways to adapt this knowledge and adapt it to our needs here at Blackmarsh Farm in Dorset.
As all gardeners know, getting to know your site and it’s specific micro-climate and soils really helps if you’re to garden with nature, rather than fight it. You often see gardens where the orientation of the plot is ignored, plants in the wrong place, the wrong species for the nature of the local soil, inappropriate alluring plants, impulse buys. It’s not surprising that some gardeners get disillusioned by their gardens. A simple understanding of and respect for your local climate and soils, being aware of the local flora and fauna will bring a far better chance of success and rewarding gardening.
That said, it’s never stopped me from pushing the boundaries. Experimenting with tender plants being a case in point. Returning from milder parts of the country, peering through a wall of exotic foliage in the car, gleanings from those tempting nurseries in Cornwall, cuttings from a botanist friend’s fragrant conservatory... Peruvian purple running potatoes, new world Salvias, Alocasias and Colocasias, species Dahlias collected by plant hunting gurus, towering Echiums from Tresco, ridiculously frost shy Bananas and Cannas, where are they now? Short lived but what joy in pushing those parameters. Sometimes it works, I have fresh Myrtle cuttings in the tunnel from a large bush in my Mother’s garden in Devon, which, via rather tortuous routes, originated from the tiny island of Anti Paxos in Greece.
Sadly the innocent joy of bringing cuttings back in one’s washbag has had to stop, there are so many dangerous pathogens threatening our flora just a few miles across the Channel and we must do what we can to keep them in check. This is one of the very best reasons to support our native horticultural industries and our new raft of small independent flower farms. As a country, we still import vast quantities of cut flowers and foliage from all over the world and this brings obvious risks. To counter this, all imports have to fumigated and in theory inspected. In reality and in these rather challenging times, this is impractical, so buying local makes huge sense. Especially as we are lucky to enjoy a climate, although itself uncertain, in which we can grow wonderful fresh seasonal flowers and foliage.
So across the country, our wonderful British flower farmers are getting their growing season into gear, seed packets will be excitedly opened, seed trays filled, labels written, all that magical promise that starts in January, the exciting prospect of new varieties and colours. Gardening is a wonderful discipline, so good for your health, both physical and mental. For whilst so much of our practice is in the moment; the simple mindful meditative joys of working the soil, being intimately involved with nurturing and observing our plants and the extraordinary joy of being outside in all weathers, being close to and learning the ways of nature and the wildlife and environment that we can do so much to help. Not only that but we also have the hope of the future, for that stunning spring display, those spires of summer, the planting of a tree whose glorious prime we may never see. We have one foot in the now and the other deeply invested in the future, ours, our childrens and that of the planet as a whole.