Step Away from the To Do List…..

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Sometimes I need to remind myself of what I’ve achieved rather than think about what is still on the To Do List. I think to some extent we all do. This blog has been an invaluable resource of how we’ve developed our little slice of Hawke’s Bay. I enjoy re-reading posts of projects that we’ve accomplished and how we’ve chipped away at our little bit of land to mould it and shape it to suit us. We’ve had a fair few projects since we moved here notably the Figs and the Cutting Garden. I sometimes wonder if people think we’re a bit mad to lavish such attention on a garden….but then I have a cup of tea and get my spade out and carry on digging! This post is a bit of a Then and Now post. Looking back and looking forwards.

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One of my most favourite Spring Sights is my Plum Tree. It always has a magnificent covering of blossom and this year it was completely drowning in the honey scented stuff. The bees have been going mad over it.  I stood underneath a little while back and took a good sniff and wished that I could bottle it for it’s scent is fleeting. Here’s my plum tree now after just a week.

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Other Spring Goodies include the bulbs in the Nuttery that I almost broke my back planting!

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The trees in the nuttery are in bud and looking a little taller than last year. I’ve been raking up all the leaves that the oaks, chestnuts and gladitzias have been dropping steadily over autumn and transporting them to the Nuttery to get a good “woodland feel” and add some leaf mould goodness too. I was so happy to see that the three Hawthorne trees that I thought were dead as doornails last Autumn….

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….are actually well and truly Alive! I love the shape of their leaves and I’m hoping to see some evidence of their berries this coming Autumn. In fact, out of all the 60 odd trees that we planted this time last year only one has turned up it’s roots and joined the great Woodland in the Sky  and that was the Eucalyptus. I thought these trees were indestructible but not this one. Just to recognise the progress from last year this is what the Nuttery looked like in September 2014

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And this is the Nuttery now.

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It’s difficult to capture everything that’s going on but there are little patches of foxgloves, bluebells, tulips, ornithagalum and narcissi all over the show. The shrubs have been transplanted from the Annoying Bed (it’s never worked in the 6 years years we’ve lived here so it’s going to be grassed over leaving the trees to stand alone in all their glory and to open up the view). The Nut trees are right at the back including a circle of Hazels and some almonds.

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This was the Cutting Garden in September 2014. The Herb Garden didn’t exist until a few months later…..nor did the Wildflower Meadow. The Wildflowers were sown in November 2014.

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This is the Cutting Garden in September 2015. Definitely more action around the edges, a few biennials that survived and everything nicely mulched ready for the seedlings…

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The Sweet Pea Walk is new. Mr Fig had a great time putting these posts in (ahem!). However, they look fabulous and they will work as a great support for the Sweetpeas as well as being a gorgeous place in which to linger with a cup of tea.

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The Herb Garden September 2015. Work in the Herb Garden tailed off as the heat of summer hit us hard in 2014. However, it was full of scented geraniums, mint, fennel and bee balm. You might be able to make out a small square bed in the the top right of the photo….there will be three more of these to create symmetry and provide beds for basil, chives and other culinary herbs. You might also be wondering about the circular mound of something in the middle? That will be a Chamomile Lawn (with a nod to Mary Wesley). Will need to start again as the weeds laughed in the face of my attempts to smother them with Chamomile…. Mwahahahaha they crowed (nasty weeds).

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The Lime bush/tree has had a Severe Pruning and a good mulch and the semi edible beds have been mulched to within an inch of their lives too (I’m so over weeding that this is my attempt to never have to weed again!).

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I’m using mushroom compost which is working well and feeding the soil too.

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The honeysuckle had a massive haircut so that we could actually enter the Vege Garden without being poked in the eye….

I really neglected the veggies last year. I got a few beans and courgettes and toms but the cucumbers were rubbish and the pickles didn’t make it to become pickles. The butternut squash yielded a desultory harvest and the strawberries were all eaten by the feathered folk. Grrrrr….

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This Year will be Different. What’s the difference? Well, I’ve added heaps of goodies to the soil….chicken poo…..compost……coffee grounds…..yum! I’ve also added netting to most of the beds to protect the veggies from prying beaks. I’ve also tweaked the layout a tiny bit (Mr Fig just groaned then….he’s changed the layout of the vege garden numerous times!).

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All I’ve done is extend the Squash bed because I want to grow these gorgeous little spaceship squash that are essentially courgettes but packaged in a fancier shape. I also want more pumpkins too especially one called Turks Turban that I saw growing at Kew Gardens three years ago and Pumpkin ‘Kent’ which will just remind me of where I used to live.

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Just need to add some compost and other goodies and it’ll be good to go. Must prune those feijoas too and let more light in…..

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I’ve also added a path behind the Shadowy Bed (good for lettuces and coriander that need shade in the heat of summer) for easier harvesting. I often have to wrestle with the honeysuckle to harvest this bed. The semi edible bed has been reduced because the back of the bed is just a Weed Party in the summer. Yep take your Glastonbury Weed Party somewhere else this year thank you very much.

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The old Florence Fennel bed has been weeded and a little path has been started by the green house. Hopefully this will stop weeds growing through the green house and means that I can walk all the way round to harvest this little bed underneath the Greengage tree. Quite shady so, again, a good lettuce/herb bed.

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I’d like to store my pots here in a more organised fashion…..work in progress…..I have faith….I can just see garden tools hung up on nails in an orderly fashion on the side of the compost bins (it’s good to have imagination!).

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I have some peas busily making themselves at home against these home made circular towers. I started the pea seeds in proper pea root trainer pots. Not sure if it’s made much difference but I love the look of the pearly white roots….

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I have also planted out kale and rocket. Inside the house tucked up warm and cosy are some baby tomato seedlings and some rather healthy and rather butch looking beans. The squash and pumpkins are also germinating very, very quietly shhhhh….

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And what about flowers? I’ve been sowing seeds. Quite a lot of them. I felt optimistic enough to sow Zinnia yesterday. They love the warmth so I bring them inside overnight. I planted out my March sown seeds into beds last week. Things like scabious, Clary sage and Nigella. I have a few biennials like Foxgloves, sweet william, larkspur, achillea and Clarkia/Godetia. I totally failed on the biennial front because I left the sowing Too Late. It just felt so hot last February I thought I could leave it till March – No You Can’t. Grrrrr…. However, there’s no point beating myself up about this. You live and learn and next year I will know.

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As well as seeing to the green part of my business I’ve also been busily working away at the admin side too. I have a very talented friend who is not only a Graphic Designer but who also paints the most beautiful portraits of children and animals. Have a look at her website (and in particular at her latest work of Mud the gorgeous Labrador) on her FB page Zoe Reid Portraits. Zoe has been creating my flower cart business cards and generally being a Very Useful and Wise Sounding Board for my little flower business. In return I have been helping her with her Social Media and hopefully also being a Good Sounding Board for her Portrait business! I am so thrilled with the business cards. We (read me) spent ages humming and ah-ing over which type of card to use and I just love the textured card that we plumped for. It has that vintage, timeless quality to it that I love.

Enjoy your garden this Spring/Autumn (wherever you are in the world). If you have a Plum Tree in bloom stand beneath and sniff deeply – it will feed your soul. Happy Gardening!

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Exciting Times

It’s Winter here in New Zealand; a time to hunker down, stoke up the fire and make plans. I’ve been doing a bit of all three but I have to say I’ve never had a busier winter. I’ve been mulching like crazy to keep those pesky weeds under control, and to feed the soil and protect the biennials that are bravely soldiering on in the cut flower garden. My mulch of choice? Mushroom compost at the  moment. Brilliant stuff!

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I’ve been planting up sweet peas, making supports, planting bulbs in the Nuttery and transplanting hundreds (and I mean hundreds) of self sown cerinthe major seedlings to other parts of the garden ready to bloom their magnificent purply bracts in Spring.

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I’ve also moved many narcissi bulbs, bluebells, snow drops and Belladonnas into the Nuttery because we are turning a very unsuccessful island bed back to grass. I can’t bear to waste a single bulb so I’ve been loading up the wheel barrow and moving each and every one to a new home.

All this activity has had a purpose. Not only to create a beautiful environment for my family and an enriching one for insects and birds but also to provide a firm foundation for my new, embryonic business. I’ve always known that growing things made sense. That assisting seeds to full their potential had meaning. That creating beauty meant creating a legacy. What I hadn’t realised was that, perhaps, I may be able to make a living from it…… So, I’m going to unveil my new business called myflowercart…da daaaaaaah!

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Back in the summer I talked to my friend’s hubbie (an amazing builder with a very good eye for up-cycling – something close to my heart). I told him about my idea of a flower cart. I described it as rustic, vintage, tongue and groove wooden sides, a tin roof and all made from up cycled materials. Wow did he deliver!

Firstly we started with an old trailer base that my friend’s brother used to drag her around the paddock in when they were kids! Then the base was built and a cladding applied (old boards from an old house).

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There are windows at the side to let light in and three shelves for optimal display. There was much discussion about the shelves and the windows and I’m so glad there was. I’m not very good at expressing the contents of my mind so it really helped to have practical advice from my friend and Mr Fig and Mr Builder.

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The lower shelf just begs to be full of seedlings and Sunflowers will go in huge buckets down here.

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I’ll fill these galvanised buckets full of blooms….

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…..and use these blackboard tags for clear pricing.

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I love the knot in the wood here.

My wooden cart won’t stop here either. Everyone who knows me will expect there to be bunting (and there will!).

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It will also have vintage blackboards

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I made them myself from an old mirror with a lovely frame

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and an old photo frame from the op shop.

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I’m also thinking rose hip heart decorations and willow wreaths. I’ll be operating an Honesty Box system so will have to trust people to be honest. I’ll also operate a Pay By The Bank App on your Mobile Phone system.

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By the way, Eldest Figlet was responsible for this pricing! Note that the flowers are worth thousands and her baby Figlet brother 10 cents!

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In full growing season there will be galvanised buckets full to bursting with Sweet peas, Larkspur, Foxgloves, anemone, ranunculus, icelandic poppies and mixed posies and bouquets…and that’s just early Spring! Summer will bring peonies, sunflowers, snapdragons, zinnia, clary sage, bells of Ireland, cosmos double click, kiss me over the garden gate, lemon balm, malope and nigella…. It will be a feast for the senses! I just love it and am eternally grateful to know someone who was able to make my dreams a reality (thanks Johnny aka Mr Builder and thanks Soph aka Mrs Builder for sowing the seed in my mind for actually selling my flowers).

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I’ve been busy drawing on my IT skills from a previous life and creating spreadsheets for planting timetables, successional sowing, forecasts, actuals and budgets with the help of Mr Fig and his Financial Mind. We’ve had a happy time trying to outdo each other in the Nerd Stakes!  I’ve been researching pricing, irrigation techniques, marketing and sales. It’s pretty thrilling and daunting but the underlying emotion is complete fulfilment and satisfaction. I’m pretty realistic; from my research it’s obvious that flower farming is best learnt from experience. I’m also not likely to be a millionaire next year (or the one after that).  I’m starting small; just a cart, roadside sales and a couple of florists who liked my flowers last year. But I have plans to expand into the local community and social media and with inspiration from Common Farm Flowers in the UK and Floret Flowers in the US I’m hoping to be a fully fledged Flower Farmer before very long (and a Fig Farmer of course – I’ve been busy propagating and pruning those little trees too).

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So it’s a busy and exciting time here at The Fig Tree. I’ll soon have a new website and blog focussing on the flowers which I’ll blog about as soon as it’s up and running. For now, if you’re interested in the Life of a Flower Farmer then pop over to my new Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/myflowercart. Until then…follow your dreams if you can 🙂