16 July 2021

The Flower Gap

When we first stared to plan the varieties we wanted to grow in Cornwall, our focus was on delicate, textural flowers that make bouquets interesting and detailed but are hard to find on the Dutch auction. Our plan was to use these flowers to supplement the Petalon bouquets and nothing else, but as the farm evolved and we experienced the reality of growing flowers ourselves (we’re still very much novices and have lots to learn still!) we realised that it would make more sense to offer our homegrown flowers as a separate product. Growing for the Petalon bouquets meant we had to grow in large enough quantities to ensure we could use the same variety in our bouquets all week. This becomes a bit of a numbers game more than anything else which is A) a bit stressful and B) takes the joy out of growing a little bit.

This slight change of plan has two implications. Firstly, it means that now we don’t have to focus on growing just textural flowers that supplement our bouquets, we can also add some big focal flowers in to the mix too. Secondly, we don’t have to concentrate on growing lots of one variety in just one colour. Instead of a whole bed of red snapdragons which need to be consistent with the photo of the red bouquet we’re offering that week, we can grow a bed of ‘sunset mix’, for example – peaches, oranges, creams and yellows. If there’s a colour we really like in that mix that’s hard to buy as a colour variety on its own, we can wait for it to go to seed and then use these seeds to grow that colour again next year. This means instead of worrying about numbers and consistent colours, we can grow in a way that’s far more in-keeping with a natural, varied, ephemeral thing. With our Field Flowers, which we launched earlier this year, we can offer seasonal flowers as and when they look their best in whatever quantities and wonderfully varied colours they’re available in on any given week. And the bonus is that when we do have lots of a particular variety, as we did with our cynoglossum and our clarkia this year, we can add these to the Petalon bouquets too.

As anyone who grows flowers will know and as we ourselves learned this year, there is a bit of a flower gap once the early spring flowers have finished but the late spring flowers are yet to bloom. We’ve just planted some biennials – flowers that are seedlings and grow foliage in their first year then flower and set seed in their second year. The ones we’ve just planted will be green this year and we hope will then flower during this flower gap next year. Playing the long game!

Another way to encourage more blooms in this quieter period is to do an autumn sowing of some varieties directly in to the ground. This means they have a chance to grow in to robust plants with good root systems before the first frost hits. Last year we sowed into trays with these varieties before planting into the ground when they were established, but we had such a dry April and such dry beds that we had lots of plants in trays waiting to go in the ground, but were late due to the conditions. Our larkspur has just started flowering in July but if we autumn sow some of these, it means that if we did have another cold/dry spell next year, then there’s already stuff in the ground growing and we could have our larkspur 4 weeks earlier.

They say you only learn by doing and there’s definitely no shortcuts to this. It’s all trial and error, but we’re really enjoying the process.

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