As I am sitting here on a snowy February day, things are finally starting to calm down. The madness of the holidays are over, seeds and plugs are ordered, endless paperwork and receipts are filed, proposals are sent out, CSA dates are picked, field planning notes are finished. Ranunculus and anemone corms are tucked into their crates waiting for spring arrival.
Now there's only a few weeks left before the craziness kicks back into gear. Seed incubation will begin at the end of the month and the days will become longer. I've noticed that we are already starting to get more sunshine and I must say, I could use more vitamin D in my life.
My mood is already beginning to perk up. I tend to go in some state of depression during the chilly dull winter months. It isn't until I get my hands in the dirt and some sunshine on my face where I begin to feel myself again. Makes me wonder if every farmer feels this way or if it's just me?
But days like these gives me time to sit back and write to you. Blogging is not my strong suit, but it is a nice way for me to go back and reflect on my past seasons and try to help other farmers in the process.
2016 was a crazy but beautiful year. It was hot and very dry, we had a hard time getting enough water on things. Somehow we always manage to pull through and grow some pretty incredible blooms. We trialed so many new varieties that I thought I would share some of my favorites with you.
If you have an instagram account, I have created the hashtag #favcutflowers . I have posted a lot of the following photos and other photos to instagram so that we can all post and share our favorite cut flowers together under one thread. Using #favcutflowers, please feel free to share some of your favorite blooms that you've grown in the past or maybe would like to grow in the future. Lots of other farmers have already posted to it, filling the page with beauty. It is a nice source to look at when planning for your upcoming season.
Here are some of my favs......
This was a new crop for us this past year that I was hesitant to grow because I heard it needs a long growing season. I am so glad I did, because not only is she beautiful, but her scent is heavenly! She gives off a scent much like jasmine and it is so strong I can smell it from across the field. Between the tuberrose's and the nicotiana's fragrance, taking an evening stroll through the field was enchanting.
Tuberrose makes a superb cut flower with a long vase life. I would definitely add this one to your list, but she can't be found in seed catalogs. Tuberrose grows from bulbs that can be bought from brokers, such as Germania. Plant the bulbs out in the spring after danger of a freeze and reap in their beauty by late summer.
2.) APRICOT ASTER (PEONY DUCHESS)
Another new crop for us grown from seed. This aster was the perfect color for wedding work, it held up well out of water and had a long vase life. I couldn't get enough of it. The problem with these beauties is that you get a few main shoots long enough to work with but once you cut them the side shoots really aren't usable for bouquets. I would consider this a "one and done" plant. Succession plant them for summer-long beauty. I sourced the seed from Eden Brothers.
3.) DALMATION PEACH FOXGLOVE
I couldn't get enough of these peachy salmon spikes. They were the perfect shade that blended so well with most of my wedding work and I was obsessed. The wonderful thing about this variety of digitalis, is that is blooms first year! The seeds can be tricky and slow to start but be patient, it's worth the wait. Check out our friend's new seed collection, at Floret's Seed Shop. But hurry, they tend to sell out quickly.
4.) SAHARA RUDBECKIA
This variety of rudbeckia sends up the most unique coloring blooms. She will be a show stopper in any garden. I had a hard time not incorporating it in all my wedding work this past season, her beauty is so mesmerizing. For the 2017 season, this variety will be hard to find since there is a seed shortage, but I would most certainly put this on your list for 2018. Just be sure to order early and order more than you think you need because seed germination can be poor and very slow. If you are new to seed starting, I would start with plugs. My friend, Bailey Hale of Ardelia Farm is now brokering hard to find varieties like this one. Head over to Farmerbailey.com to check out his catalog.
5.) BLACK KNIGHT SCABIOSA
This black beauty reminds me of chocolate drops. Their wiry stems are perfect for that wild effect of a natural just-picked bouquet. The black knight is my favorite variety of scabiosa, but they come in many colors, including salmon, white, red, lilac and cream. The seeds are big, easy to handle and it is fairly easy to germinate. You can find seeds from Johnnys Selected Seeds.
6.) LISIANTHUS ROSEANNE BROWN
The color of this lisianthus is unreal and she will forever be my favorite of the lissies. Some people may think her color is a little dirty and not showy enough but I tend to love the muddy colors. Lisianthus can be grown from seed but they are extremely slow! So slow that you would have to start them some time in December or January to get them to flower by summer. I buy plug trays of 125, the bigger the plug, the better. Plugs can be ordered through a wholesaler such as Harris, Germania or even our friend Bailey offers these gems in his catalog.
7.) CHABAUD LA FRANCE CARNATION
Another new variety we added last year and our first attempt at growing heirloom carnations. This heirloom has a nice blush coloring with a long vase life. I especially love it for its clove fragrance. It doesn't get very tall, averaging about 18-24'' but was still usable for lower arrangements, bouquets and boutonnieres. You can find seed available through Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds.
8.) CANTALOUPE ECHINACEA
My fiance's favorite flower is the echinacea so of course we have it growing all around the house. He buys new varieties every time we shop together at nurseries and let me tell ya, it's never good when we go plant shopping together, we end up spending our life savings! We are both like kids in a candy shop, but we do end up finding some pretty show stopping varieties such as thing one. Echinacea is a perennial so it will take a few years to get a good production but she will reward you with blooms year after year. Also, the color is amazing, can you tell I have a thing for apricot/salmon colors? Let some go to seed and the birds will love you for it. Check your local nurseries for this plant, it is a newer variety so it may take some time to catch on.
9.) APPLEBLOSSOM DAHLIA
I have a love/hate relationship with dahlias in general. I have a tough time growing them in my area and I just can't seem to figure out the tricks to growing them well. However, I still fall for their beauty every year and I can't help but not grow them. I especially love this variety called Appleblossom, her sweet faces win me over every time. Again, I think I am just drawn to these colors in general. I love soft hues as much as I love the antique muddy hues.
Dahlias are grown from tubers that you plant out in the spring after danger of frost and then dig up in the fall and store for the winter. The tubers multiply and can be divided, so one tuber will keep giving and giving each year. Make sure to store them in a cool place but do not let them freeze. Various farms sell their tubers such as Floret Farm, Summer Dreams Farm and San Juan Dahlias, just to name a few.
10.) RUDBECKIA CHIM CHIMINEE
I realized I have somewhat of a thing for rudbeckia. I never used to really like them, they reminded me of a simple bright yellow flower you could find on the side of the road, but the new varieties that are out now are incredible. Chim Chiminee has quilled petals that vary in color from yellow, orange, gold and mahogany red. I love how the petals never truly open, giving it so much texture when using it in design. I treat all my rudbeckia hirtas like annuals, replanting every year and starting them from seed in the greenhouse. Make sure to harvest rudbeckias in the early morning otherwise their heads tend to flop. Seed can be found through various seed companies. I found mine through Johnnys.
So there you have it, some of my favorite flowers to grow for cuts. I did not number them in any particular order and I must say, I have many favorites that exceed beyond this list, but that's for another day and another blog. I hope this will help you with your planning and please don't hesitate to follow along and share using hashtag #favcutflowers on instagram.