Flowers, flowers everywhere……

 IMG_1224

Well just look at that….February already! No blog action during January at all I’m afraid. Spent many a day sniffing the salty air, cooling off in the sea and making sandcastles. Other lazy days were spent trying to keep cool during one of the hottest summers I’ve experienced to date in New Zealand. And, of course, I spent a lot of time wondering through the WildFlower Meadow observing all the new varieties blooming away and snipping happily in the Cut Flower Garden. I was lucky enough to be asked to sell some flower posies at our local Farmer’s Market to help out my Florist Friend. It was such an interesting and  fun morning. Interesting as a flower seller to see which flowers were the ones that sold first and fun because I met some really interesting and lovely people – many of whom just loved talking about flowers!

IMG_1215  IMG_1222

Here’s my little stall complete with a huge bucket of Sunflower ‘Vanilla Ice’.

IMG_1229 IMG_1228 IMG_1227 

I used a huge variety of my flowers and herbs and the scent was just delightful. In the posies above you can see Zinnia, alstromeria, echinecea buttons, apple mint, bergamont Bee balm, scabiosa, feverfew and ageratum. 

IMG_1225 IMG_1219 IMG_1217 

In the posies above I used sedum, dahlia ‘Embrace’, mignonette, orange cosmos and amaranthus. the vase of dahlias are ‘Cafe au Lait’. These were really for show as they only have a few days vase life. It’s best to pick them slightly immature as the bud is half to two thirds open. They are probably one of the showiest flowers I know. A real Fleeting Beauty.

So aside from having fun at the market I have started to make a list of Things That I’ve Learnt from the last two seasons as a Cut Flower Grower.

Successional Sowing : as every good vege gardener knows, successional sowing is essential to avoid the ‘hungry gaps’. I made just two sowings (!) However, theis second sowing really came into it’s own for the flower stall. I had sown salvia tricolour and salvia Turkistan white, clary sage and antirrhinums. Perfect to pad out the posies. I was also glad to have my scented herbs to fall back on. The applemint, scented geraniums and Bergamont Bee Balm in particular.

IMG_0948

AWOL plants ; I had a few mysteriously disappearing plants namely asters, sweet williams, echinops ritro, aquilegia ‘Nora Barlow’ and Geum Mrs Bradshaw. One minute they were there, the next….vanished. I think some may have been swamped by their stronger green leaved neighbours. Must leave more space inbetween plantings.

IMG_0968

Keep the same varieties of a flower separate : Why? Well, I planted 4 types of zinnia and apart from Giant Lime I wasn’t sure which was which. Same with the sunflowers apart from Vanilla Ice. On the plus side I had the best crop of zinnia and sunflowers ever.

IMG_0964

Remove finished varieties and replace with new : This follows on from the successional sowing point but I did tend to leave finished varieties to run amok willy nilly with the weeds which is not something I’d care to repeat!

IMG_0959 IMG_0958

Slow burners : Some of the varieties I chose to sow took AGES to flower including buplerum and ammi majus and ammi visnaga. I will be planting these well away form the Cutting Garden because they take up valuable space.

IMG_0949

Stake and support : An obvious one but my sunflowers and dahlias should have been staked sooner…. I did toy with th eidea of using pea netting horizontally for the taller plants to grow through as many flower farmers do. I think this would have been over kill for my space though. Perhaps just larkspur and corncockle.

Grow More! : When I started my Cutting garden it was purely for me. However, now I’m selling the flowers I need a better more oganised strategy and most of all I need to Grow Heaps More. The varieties that were snipped up the fastest included sweetpeas and sunflowers. Paeonies are the other popular flower here in Hawke’s Bay. The other flowers essential for filling and adding interest include sage clary, nigella, poppy seed heads, scented herbs, hydrangeas (especially white) to name a few.

IMG_0956

Plant bienniels : I was too late last autumn but this year I’m prepared. I’ll be sowing sweet williams, stocks, larkspur…..

IMG_0967

Next time…an update on the Wildflower Meadow.

IMG_0941

 

Goodbye 2014…..what a year!

IMG_0381

I had to get a final post in for 2014 especially as I managed to spectacularly fail to deliver any festive posts! The run up to Christmas was a flurry of planting out seedlings, cutting sweetpeas for the market, making up wreaths and table decorations and dancing up and down with glee at the first sighting of a flower in the Wildflower Meadow! Yes, that’s right, we had flowers in the meadow for Christmas Day.

IMG_0420

I need to go back to my seed supplier to identify them properly but it looks like a type of poppy, phacelia and borage and a couple of unidentified beauties so far (any ideas let me know!). Can’t wait to see the other varieties as they come into bloom.

IMG_0432 IMG_0426 IMG_0425 IMG_0424 IMG_0421  IMG_0419

Th photo at the beginning of my post shows the table runner decoration I created for Christmas Day Lunch. There’s something very satisfying about spending a bit of time spearing oasis with buxus, rosemary and ivy…..

IMG_0382  IMG_0383

…..then gradually building up interest with gum nuts, baby quince….

IMG_0384

…..hypericum berries,

IMG_0385  IMG_0386

….fejoa buds and seed heads and scabiosa starball………

IMG_0380 IMG_0379

….and crowning it all off with three rather sculptural artichokes. A few days after Christmas the artichokes flowered with a purple spiky crew cut! That’s one of the things I love about using freshly cut flowers from my garden; they carry on growing and developing because they haven’t been treated with chemicals. I love the wildness of this.

IMG_0373

I also made a Christmas vase of flowers to go on the drinks table next to the BBQ. It was quite a different vase of flowers compared to last year. The Tiger’s Tail I used last year wasn’t in flower (not even close in fact)…..

IMG_0374

so I went for another tall and spiky favourite – the lupin.

IMG_0375 IMG_0376

Teamed with immature hydrangeas, soft greenery…..

IMG_0378 IMG_0377

…dreamy larkspur and the surprise element of a shocking pinky orange snapdragon I felt that they added a very festive feel to the day.

 

image image

We had some vibrant salads to go with the bbq-ed pork and oven cooked turkey and stuffing……

P1020133

I made some mincemeat although didn’t quite manage to get them into mince pies (!) and some reindeer biscuits for the children (who am I kidding!) and up went the festive bunting. I did lose a saucepan after a huge Chutney Making Disaster. I make Nigella’s Christmas Chutney every year – why it burnt this year? Who knows. To Mr Fig’s credit he didn’t even mention the blackened saucepan smouldering away malevolently in the carport. The dog didn’t go near it either :-)

image

I can’t write my final post for the year without a mention of the sweetpea love that has been blooming away for the past month or so. When I think how sick they looked when I transplanted them after months of over wintering in the greenhouse I can’t quite believe how well they’ve performed. They have been used in a wedding bouquet, a Golden Wedding Anniversary and a birthday and have graced the homes of numerous Farmers Market shoppers. I like to think I’ve spread a little joy through these scented lovelies!

image IMG_0122

My home has resembled that of a florist recently as I’ve picked buckets of flowers from the Cut Flower Garden. I’ve been making up all sorts of flower arrangements.

062  246

I’ve learnt quite a bit along the way about the need to condition flowers well before arranging for maximum vase life and also the importance of foliage and fillers as well as the flowers. Still loads more to learn….

I always make a point of NOT making New Year’s Resoultions but I do like to Make A List of Things I’d Like To Achieve or at least Aim For. In 2015 I’d like to:

  • carry on with the Cut Flower Garden Dream and perhaps turn it into a small but perfectly formed business venture
  • develop the herb garden and make some lovely herbal tea blends
  • develop the underplanting in the Nuttery

I’ll stop there before it turns into a list of Resolutions! I’d just like to say Thank You to everyone who has happened upon my blog and for taking the time to read my posts. To friends and family (for whom I started the blog so they could see what I was getting up to out here in NZ) I hope you like what you’re reading and that you still feel part of my life even though I’m So Far Away! To my friends in NZ who read this blog Thanks for your lovely comments and encouragement. We’ll be seeing New Year in on my friend Mrs Egg’s Farm so Happy New Year Everyone! See you in 2015!

 

Bloomin’ marvellous

IMG_0223

Lots of busy goings on happening at the moment at the Fig Tree. The blooms are abundant in the Cutting Garden right now and I need to start recording what flowers and when to help me out next year. It’s been interesting to watch the tiny seedlings start to bulk up and in some cases produce colour and scent. The absolute star of the show has to be the humble sweet pea. I started growing these last autumn and over wintered them in the greenhouse. Once planted outside in the Spring they sulked like a moody teenager but I forgave them because look at the transformation!

image  image

I’ve been cutting sweet peas since November (sixty odd bunches of twenty stems so far). Their scent is exquisite and I’m thrilled with the array of colours and the two mottled varieties; one pink and one purple. Just gorgeous. These have been selling out at my friend’s market stall. It seems that they are irresistible.

image

Other scented loveliness can be found amongst my stocks. These old fashioned flowers have a spicy note which I adore. I grew these in the spring so I’m quite pleased that they’ve got this far. I’ll be sowing them as a biennial next Autumn and will be looking to see if they are taller and stronger than their Spring sown cousins.

image  image

While not scented the larkspur are coming along nicely. I couldn’t find any pea netting for them to grow through so they’re a bit on the kinky side :-) Perfect for mixed posies though.

IMG_0238  IMG_0240  IMG_0237

I have a huge soft spot for this little family of scabious. They romp away all summer and into Autumn. The architectural scabious starball is the first to grace us with it’s presence in early Spring.

image

The white flowers are fleeting and replaced with this papery sphere.

IMG_0241

This chocolate scabious is great at all stages of development;bud, flower and seed head. A real trouper!

IMG_0225 IMG_0224

Another favourite of mine is the wispy, ethereal Love-in-a-mist. I have the white one and I adore it in every stage from bud to alien like seed pod.

image

And from the delicate to the more robust Dahlia. This one is called Embrace and has a lovely peachy tone and a fairly small flowerhead so not too droopy when cut.

image

This is Dahlia cafe au lait in the early stages of blooming. It’s the first time I’ve grown this variety and I’ll be interested to see if the colour fades to a milky coffee hue.

image

More peachy brown here with Calendular bronze beauty. It’s another great flower that looks good in the bud stage as well as in bloom. It’s sticky just like it’s cousin calendula officinalis too.

image

Ah the perky, opulant Snap Dragon. A flower sure to bring a smile to your face.

image

This is honesty Sissinghurst White and it really doesn’t look much at all does it? This is a plant that requires a bit of patience being a bienniel. When it does bloom the flowers aren’t too much to look at but the seed pods are spectacular.

image

Aren’t they amazing? When fully ripe the seed casing will turn brown and fall off leaving behind a silvery, translucent disc; perfect for using in dried arrangements.

image  IMG_0230

What about greenery? A bouquet or a posy needs backbone foliage and I’ve been concentrating on growing this as much as flowers. I have several Alchemilla Mollis plants maturing nicely along with bupleurum, euphorbia, eucalyptus, hostas and the tactile, silvery Lamb’s Ear.

IMG_0213  IMG_0220

Eventually the Herb Garden will produce lots of scented foliage too; scented geraniums, feverfew, mints and rosemary.

image  image

There will soon be a blast of yellow colour from the sunflowers. I specifically chose vanilla ice for it’s smaller flower heads and I think the other one is Terracotta (will need to check my dirt smeared and very dog eared notebook!)

IMG_0275  image

Hydrangas aplenty! I like to pick when they’re at the tiny bud stage as well as in bloom. I inherited all of my hydrangas so I’m not sure of their varieties. I’m particularly fond of a variety that has a black stem – very striking.

IMG_0252  IMG_0251   IMG_0248

The roses have just been divine this year and my Cecil Brunner just keeps on flowering….

image

This is Clary Sage and has been growing in my garden for two years. This year it decided to bloom! Again, a very interesting and unusual flower. As it matures it becomes very upright and has pinky bells like an overgrown delphinium.

image

And finally the berries that make me think of Christmas. I used this in my Christmas bouquet last year and I’m sure I’ll be using these glossy jewels again – perhaps in a christmas wreath this year. They last forever and just add an extra texture to a posy.

IMG_0232

A pretty good start to the Cutting Garden in it’s first year all in all! I still have quite a few seedlings to plant out (getting a bit behind as usual). The likes of gypsophila, eucalyptus silverdrops, asters, more zinnea, candytuft to name a few will soon be joining their fellow flowery friends. So far I’ve filled up 2 of the main beds and have started on a third. The fourth will be used for bienniels. One thing I’ve learnt is that you can plant out cutting flowers far more densly than you normally would plant. You live and learn!

image

Here’s todays pick all ready for the lovely Kerin to collect and turn into gorgeous posies at the Farmer’s Market!

image  image  image

Right someone stop me! I’ve posted more than enough flowery gorgeous-ness for one post! I need to go and have a lie down :-)

Scented Geranium Tea

image

I’ve got herbs on my mind at the moment as it’s all go in the new Herb Garden. The last few months have been mainly all about Project Cut Flower but last weekend Mr Fig surprised me by striding out through the Cut Flowers into the “Herb Garden To Be” wielding weed matting, pins and muttering about string and straight lines. Looks like my hints at cultivating another bit of the paddock had worked. I was Chief Tape Measure Holder…….and look at what we achieved!

image

Not very pretty yet but at least it’s now a properly marked out area so I can hone my design a bit. I find that plans that look good in my head look totally different when I actually stand in the space I’m working on.  I have re-jigged my design again and again; each time making it more simple. The centre will be a small circular Chamomile Lawn and the hard landscaping will be pavers and gravel with little herbs tucked here and there in between. The L shaped beds round the sides will be packed with a mix of herbs – not many culinary ones though as I keep these nearer the house. There will also be 4 small square beds in symetrical pattern around the lawn. Not much to do then……!

image image

One of my more exciting new leafy additions will be scented geraniums (pelargoniums). I’ve been accumulating quite a collection. I have to admit that the flower isn’t anything special but the leaves are quite extra ordinary. Gently rub the leaf and sniff…..

image

……..chocolate? Really? Try another and you might smell mint. I’ve also got orange, rose and anise.

image

I find geraniums really easy to grow.  You don’t need to fuss too much about watering but apparently they do need a bit of shade and, being a tender annual, they are frost tender. It’s a good idea to take little cuttings and pot them up in the greenhouse or sunny windowsill over winter just in case the frost gets to your prized plants outside in the cold. Geraniums are very obliging plants and are obviously geneticlly engineered to multiply so taking cuttings is a cinch. Just snip off a stem and pop it into a pot of compost. It’ll happily put down roots and, with a bit of warmth in Spring, it will grow surprisingly quickly into an established plant.

image

So why the new obsession with scented geraniums? Well, I’m quite partial to  scented geranium tea. It’s so easy to make and you can choose from a huge array of flavours or even go mad and combine a few for the ultimate Scented Geranium Tea Experience! I like mixing Perky Peppermint with Chocolate. This is what I do…..

image

Pick a handful of your chosen geranium leaves. I pick the whole stalk to keep the plant looking tidy. Harvesting leaves for tea is a great way of controlling growth and pruning into shape. Wash the leaves and remove stalk. If the leaves are large tear them up a bit and you can chop up the stalks and add them in too if you like.

image

 

Pop them into a teapot and pour on not-quite-boiled water. Leave to infuse for about 10 minutes.

image

There you go it really is as simple as that.  My other favourite is rose scented geranium tea – just like my fav chocolate bar Turkish Delight but healthier :-) Of course these teas are great chilled with some ice – especially the lemon flavoured one. Or you can even pick a small posy, tie it together and hang over the bath tap. As the water runs through the leaves it will infuse the water with yummy geranium scented loveliness. What a plant!

image

Gone Wild

image

Something very exciting happened on Tuesday! The stretch of dead looking land that flows like a ribbon around the new paddock gardens was finally rotavated and sown with hundreds and thousands of tiny little wildflower seeds!!

image  image

Here’s the tractor ploughing up the soil so it’s nice and soft for the seed to take root.

We hummed and harred a bit about the small-ness of the seed. What would be the best way to distribute them evenly? Finally decided on the smallest bit of equipment they had….

image

and even so….1.5kg of seed look pretty pathetic!!

image

We were advised to sow 2-3 grams per 10m square so that’s what we did.  Not sure if my fingers will uncross this week before I see evidence of the tiny wild shoots peeping through. We were lucky enough to get a big shower of rain overnight which can only help. I chose quite a tall mix of wildflowers including marigold, lupin, cosmos, nigella, coreopsis, cornflower and poppy and the idea is to mow  a path through the field with little stopping points along the way. I’m thinking of adding a couple of fruit trees for shade too…..

image

Talking of trees…..the Nuttery has been planted up with a mixture of almonds and hazelnuts and also some hawthorne, crabapples, kowhai, elderflower, Magnolia, Pomegranite, Taxodium, Eucalyptus and willow. Quite a mix! We planted in small groups of the same variety to avoid a “spotted” look and our choices were led by a desire for blossom, fruit, Autumn colour, appeal to birds and produce to eat or display in a vase. I hope we’ve got it right. The winding path takes you through the wood into a hazelnut circle and out onto the wildflower meadow where another path will begin. I was given some beautiful foxgloves from my Farmer Friend which I planted the very same day along the Nuttery path. They seem to like their new spot and are flowering happily.

The Cutting Garden is beginning to take shape slowly but surely. I’ve planted out almost two beds full of annual and perenniel seedlings. I can’t wait to see them in a few weeks as they bulk up and begin to flower. Some other flowery highlights from around the garden include this Cecil Brunner rose.

IMG_0136  IMG_0138

It’s best to pick it when the buds are just open. If you pick a closed bud it will just droop in a vase. The scent is very delicate rather like the flower but it looks fabulous on it’s own or in a little posy. The climbing rose Casino that I planted in the vege garden last year is rampaging away and producing beautiful delicate yellow flowers on very strong stems. This will looks gorgeous with white scented stocks and purple cerinthe.

IMG_0156 IMG_0141

The purpe cerinthe was transplanted from a shady spot to a sunnier position and it’s thriving. It’s foliage is as gorgeous as it’s flowers.

IMG_0151

I’m wondering how well chamomile will do in a vase. I know that Feverfew is very happy to mingle with others in a posy as are many other herbs so I’m going to experiment with Chamomile seeing as I have so much of it that self seeded from last year’s Spice bed.

IMG_0154

I’m really hoping that I’ll get the tall spiky pink flowers from my clary sage this year. I’ve lined the chicken walk with this very robust plant with it’s large hairy leaves and I’m hoping for a bit of colour from it this year.

246

I’ve been experimenting with many of the spring flowers from the cutting garden although I left my tulips alone to hopefully build strength for next year because I was a little late planting them. I think ranunculus and anemones are amongst my faourite flowers ever. Picked regularly they go on and on and on – such a generous flower.

image

Here is a red ranunculus with purple cerinth, frothy bronze fennel (smells delish!) and  what I think is a type of hypericum. There’s nothing like picking flowers from the garden!