With snow falling outside and the ground frozen and white it’s fun to look back at last year and see how the gardening year of 2020 began and then flourished. It’s amazing to think that this time last year I just had my garden flower patch and that was it. I had spent all the autumn and winter waiting for it to stop raining so I could work on setting up a new flower growing area in a small section of our field (I had chosen a small, slightly more sheltered area, of our 10 acres that is also separate from our alpacas who roam everywhere else!). I’m sure everyone remembers that the 2019 Autumn and Winter was just non-stop rain. In the end, by March 2020, I gave up on my plan to plough up sections of the field to make beds and moved to the ‘no dig’ method. Lots of cardboard, alpaca manure and compost later I had 6 flower beds, each 10m long and 1m wide. I am now hooked on ‘no dig’ for all future beds!
I have grown flowers for the last four years in my small back garden flower patch where the flowers share space with our vegetables to provide happy, tasty and colourful chaos through the summer months. When we started our B&B my interest in cutting flowers grew, as it was much more satisfying to grow my own flowers for the guest bedrooms, hallways and breakfast room than to buy them. Plus, our guests all said they loved them!
So, 2020 was to be the year of expanding my cut flower patch with the idea to start selling home-grown flowers locally. Interestingly, lockdown started about the same time seeds began to sprout and with the instant end to a normal B&B season I had more time to work on my flower growing, along with all the other smallholding chores such as looking after alpacas and hens and growing our own vegetables. Talking of alpacas, they have played a very important role in my flower growing, as along with our other compostable vegetable matter, their manure is useful as part of our sustainable approach to growing and gardening here at Bewl Rookery.
Nurturing seeds and seedlings through Spring is so exciting (with of course the occasional disappointment when some seed don’t germinate). I started in late February and as soon as the weather was warming up I was planting seedlings out in the new flower field. I expanded on my main favourites for my first year which included Cosmos, Nigella, Cornflowers, Calendula, Zinnias, Antirrhinum, Sweet Peas, Calendulas, Scabious, Statice, Ammi Majus and Dahlias. I also discovered the wonders of a green manure called Phacelia which not only fills space to prevent weeds it makes an excellent addition to posies. My big challenge was foliage, as this tends to best come from shrubs and perennials all of which take time to grow. But it’s amazing what you can find foraging the edge of our field and in my garden!
The magic of all the hard work of preparation, sowing and planting came from June onwards when an abundance of colour and flowers filled my cutting field and garden with happy bees buzzing around enjoying the nectar too. Then later, in July my first Dahlias blossomed and buckets of more blooms filled jam jars and hand-tied posies sold to Afternoon Tea guests, at our gate and in Wadhurst, and they filled our tea marquee to greet guests coming to meet our alpacas and enjoy home-made tea treats.
I hope to expand on my small flower growing start in 2021 which means I now have a busy month ahead sowing seeds and preparing flower beds.
The photos below show the before and after in my flower field.