Peonies are stunning. But I have never grown a peony before and when my bare root peonies arrived I was a bit unsure as to what to do with them! (And which way up the go into the ground!)
I bought six bare root plants from Kelways in Langport, Somerset. They arrived looking fantastic but during a particularly wet weather week! I took a quick break from the rain on a Sunday afternoon to pop them in the ground. Although I was a bit apprehensive as the ground can become waterlogged at times.
I dug a hole and filled the bottom with a mix of stone and horse manure compost before planting the in the roots with more compost up to the first pink bud. I gave a little feed and water (but not too much as the rain was due on the following Monday!) These peonies may not come into their full breadth of flowering for a year or so but I see them as a good investment for the flower farm.
The first, seasonal flowers sprouting in Spring will be tulips. I ordered some bulbs from a British supplier and tried to pick some unusual varieties that would stand out from the supermarket budget tulips flown in.
Being the first year, I didn’t want to over do it so calculating that each bunch would contain 15 or so tulips plus some foliage, and anticipating that not all of the bulbs would produce a tulip of good enough quality for cutting, I settled on 500 (100 each of five varieties).
The colours I have chosen are deep purples mixed with bright pinks and brilliants whites. I’ve chosen varieties that act more like roses or that have a romantic, whimsical shape to be the statement flowers of the bouquets.
Having not deer proofed the main area, I decided to plant them in a fairly shaded/wooded part of a garden. Quite close together in clusters and alongside anemones, Lily of the valley and some daffodils for good measure. I am confident that they will do well here and should be safe from squirrels and mice!
I will update the blog with some pictures once they’ve grown!
In August 2020, the flower farm was very much still an idea in my head! Then my parents offered an area of land to use to start to put my ideas into reality.
I was very pleased! The area of land was great… even though the Bracken was as tall as I am in places!
I set to work spending a couple of hours here and there trying to clear it with a scythe. After not much success, my uncle came to the rescue with a very tough strimmer. He cleared a nice area for me to prepare for the spring.
There was something I quite liked about the Bracken and how, in the space of a year, it grew so wildly and housed so much wildlife. We only cleared about a third of the area so there is still a good area for wildlife to continue to thrive in. The Bracken was a source of life. And as we cut it down, watched it wilt, it became our compost heap. And our inspiration our name. That Bracken is going to feed the blooms and nurture the wildlife. Bracken and Bloom.
I love sweet peas! The colours, the delicate petals and, of course, the scent! I wanted to incorporate them in to the garden and the idea was to grow them around a teepee structure for the children to play in.
I thought growing sweet peas for the first time would be a doddle. I have seen them growing all over the place… But… It has been hard, the plants have not been as healthy and happy as I had hoped.
I have made a lot of mistakes with the sweet peas this year. I have some how managed to kill two lots of seedlings that took a very long time to sprout, and the surviving, third batch of seedlings took a long time to establish themselves in the ground.
Our rented garden was practically untouched for years and the competition with well established weeds was rife. The seeds were sown in egg boxes but these dried out quite a lot in the warm French sunshine.
We transferred them to the ground and watered well… which the weeds loved! A couple of seedlings struggled to establish themselves but eventually the plants began to grow, climb and produce flowers.
The stems of the flowers were quite short – not what I was hoping for. I underestimated how often the flowers would need pruning in order to keep producing flowers.
Unfortunately, the plants never grew enough to cover the teepee!
By July, I think I finally understood the sweet peas and how to get more flowers from them and keep the plants healthy and thriving. Unfortunately, this is the end of the sweet pea season… there is always next year!
As part of the flower farm, I’m hoping to learn from this; start the seeds nice and early, keep them warm and watered, give the seedlings more room, stagger the sowing, sow more!, prune regularly once in flower and keep my fingers crossed!
Hopefully, I will have plenty of blooms of sweet scented flowers to pop into bouquets of beautiful British flowers.
Courgettes are one of the easiest and most giving plants to grow. We started the seeds off inside, transferred to bigger pots and into a mini-greenhouse, and once the last frost had gone, we planted them straight into the ground. Since the middle of June (we are currently in northern France), we have had a courgette or two to pick every couple of days!
They haven’t needed very much care and attention. We have watered every few days early in the morning and they have flourished!
Our problem has been getting the children to eat them… They really dislike the squishy texture when cooked but we have found a winning combination! Courgette and lemon. Either grated courgette cooked in a little bit of butter with garlic, lemon juice and a few basil leaves tossed over pasta, or a courgette and lemon drizzle cake.
The drizzle cake is very moist and has a sharp sweet lemon taste. Here is my recipe, it is a basic sponge recipe which I have tweaked. The measurements are a bit rough!
Courgette and Lemon drizzle cake
Ingredients: 4 eggs 8oz self raising flour + extra 8oz caster sugar 8oz butter one medium courgette grated zest of 2 lemons juice of 1 lemon
For the drizzle: The juice of a lemon plus 2/3 tbsp caster sugar and a dash of water if needed.
Method: 1. Cream together the sugar and the butter. 2. Whisk in the eggs one at a time. 3. Stir in the flour. 4. Add the courgette and lemon zest and juice. the mixture will start to look a little bit loose and this is when you need to add a little bit of extra flour to take it back to the consistency of a normal plain sponge mix. 5. Transfer to a tin and bake at 160 fan until you can prick it with a skewer and it comes out clean (usually around 40 mins but depends on the size and shape of your tin). 6. For the drizzle, add the sugar and lemon juice to a pan and boil until it is a syrup consistency. Add a little water if necessary but we like the syrup to be sharp and sherbet-y. 7. Once the cake is cooked, remove from the oven and leave in the tin while you prick wholes with a skewer and spoon over the syrup. 8. Once cooled, remove from tin and enjoy! We like it slightly warm with a nice cup of tea!