24 February 2021

How does your garden grow?

One of the most exciting things about growing your own flowers is that you’re in control of what you grow, so if there’s a flower you’ve seen somewhere that you love, but you can never find it on the Dutch auction, well, you can grow it! The whole point of growing, for us, is so we can offer unusual and beautiful varieties that are hard to get.

But as we mentioned in one of our previous posts, Beauty vs Vase Life, there are other important things we need to take in to consideration when choosing what to grow and what to include in our bouquets. We want our flowers to be beautiful, yes, but they also need to travel well and have a good vase life – it’s a balance. Some of the more beautiful flowers don’t last as long as the bombproof, highly cultivated, treated crops we can import. On our farm, we don’t use pesticides and although we are not organic, we do use organic practices (it’s no easy thing to be organic certified and limits what varieties you can grow, so it’s a path we have chosen not to take). We don’t use pesticides or chemicals, we feed our flowers with seaweed solution and use good quality green waste. So we want to grow unusual, interesting flowers that are harder to come by with our wholesalers, but they also have to stand up to being cut and lasting well afterwards, without the use of pesticides.

From previous experience, we know there are some varieties of flowers that we’d love to use, but we know they don’t travel well when imported – by the time they arrive with us, it’s already been 2-3 days since they’ve been cut so they’re not going to last as long in the vase as our customers would like. However, when we’re cutting them right outside our doorstep and they don’t have to be wrapped and boxed up to get to us, we gain another 2-3 days of vase life. For example, we would never normally import certain types of rudbekia, whose delicate petals bruise when wrapped all together and we absolutely love the bright and cheerful colours of zinnias but they don’t travel so well wholesale either and can turn up a little floppy. But if they’re coming straight off the field to be added to a bouquet, where they can be protected and supported by surrounding flowers, we think these two varieties will fare far better when we grow them, than they do when imported.

We also want to get as much bang for our buck as possible. For example, there isn’t much point in us growing tulips – we know we can get fantastic tulips in absolutely any shade and shape imaginable from Holland. It’s cheaper for us to get these delivered to Cornwall as a cut flower than it is to buy the bulb. And if we did grow them, each bulb only offers one flower per season – once they’re cut they’re done and you’d need to dig up all the bulbs, clean them and store them until next year. A lot of work for something we can get at great value and quality from Holland. On the flip side of that, flowers that are usually too expensive for us to buy as cut flowers, are relatively cheap to grow yourself. We love sweet peas and they smell gorgeous, but they are often expensive to buy and don’t travel well when imported. But with the trial sweet peas we’re growing this year, if they last well, we can grow more colours and varieties next year. This is why we also have a test patch in our raised beds, so we can try growing a small amount of certain varieties, such as Thai silk poppies which are on our list, to see if they work, before planting them on a larger scale.

On the subject of smelling good, imported flowers can sometimes lack in smell, so if we can get a beautiful floral scent in our deliveries it would make such a difference. That’s why we’ve chosen to grow some great smelling herbs, such long stem mint, oregano and hopefully geranium leaf (one of our absolute favourite smells). Growing also gives us the opportunity to choose varieties in our favourite colours. We’ve gone for some more unusual shades and shapes of ranunculus and anemones, from silvery purple to burnt brown hues. We’re trying to grow different varieties of snapdragon in peach and salmon colours. We are hoping to have our very own delphinium patch – over 100m of delphinium beds! – in colours we struggle to get imported, from creamy yellow to deepest purple.

Not only can we pick and choose our favourite colours and things that smell beautiful, we can experiment with varieties of things that don’t normally work in a Petalon bouquet. For example, we love forget-me-nots but their stems are too short for us to use, so we’re growing some chinese forget me nots which have a longer stem length and are harder to find. We can also grow more unusual varieties of sunflowers with smaller heads so they work better on the scale of our bouquets. From salvias, to clary sage, bee balm to celosia spicata, all these interesting flowers that create space, depth and texture in a bouquet that are so tricky to import, we can grow ourselves. Honestly, we’re like kids in a candy shop.

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