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It's amazing what a difference a small impulse buy at the supermarket last night has made to my spirits today.

winter flowers
Winter Aconites from the supermarket

In addition to my weekly shop, I bought a small pot of cheery, bright yellow Winter Aconites. In the past, I have shied away from their intense yellow (I find pale yellow a lot easier on the eye nestled among garden plantings) and they just hadn't featured in my winter flower wish-list.

This year however, they are a revelation. They have a gorgeous honey-like scent for starters. Close up, they are a beautiful flower with multiple stamens and a healthy, glossy sheen. Most importantly, they are flowering in January and February when other flowers are scarce.

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Close up

I have a feeling that they will last well as a cut flower and they look lovely displayed as a mini bunch of flowers.

mini flower display
Mini Flower Display

Most importantly for me, I am hoping that they will retain their bright yellow colour when I press them. I have nearly run out of yellow pressed flowers from the stacks of flowers that I pressed over the summer and have been scouting around for yellow flowers to put in my flower presses. I have a primrose which is flowering early but I need more yellow!

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I've decapitated most of the flowers in the pot to sacrifice to the flower press but have left a few flower-heads on and will plant them out near the Hellebores where they should thrive in the partial shade. I have a feeling, that a few more pots of these diminutive flowers will make their way into my shopping trolley next week.

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It's fair to say that life under lock-down had its ups and downs. I didn't have the time or the inclination to write anything new for my website but now that both of my children are back at school, it's time to brush off the to-do list and actually do some of the things on it. Updating the website is first on the list, so that means catching up on what we've been up to over the summer.

Dahlia 'Eveline'
Dahlia 'Eveline'

Homeschooling was definitely a challenge at times (usually when it came to anything maths-related). We felt lucky that our Science topic was, rather fittingly, 'Plants'. The highlight was creating a Japanese-style garden model which our 9 year old took to like a duck to water, following perhaps in her father's garden designer footsteps. Art projects included looking at and imitating Angie Lewin's horticultural prints and making our own picture from pressed flowers. It was almost like the work was being set especially for us!

Japanese Garden Model
Japanese Garden Model

I found that by the time that the summer holidays rolled around, we were already bored and it was a bit of a herculean task to keep both children occupied and happy. We met up with friends outside for socially-distanced activities, were able to resume going swimming at a private pool and had a week away in a secluded cottage in the middle of a Norfolk forest - bliss!

I really appreciated how lucky we are that my husband could continue his work designing and building gardens and I was able to sell my pressed flower art online. Face to face workshops that I would normally host at home have been postponed for the time-being and I've had to cancel some craft shows that I had signed up for. However, maybe it has given me the time to focus on just one aspect of flowers - growing, pressing and creating with them. As soon as things are more settled, I'll be welcoming people back for the flower workshops.

Our allotment as been a real boon, a place to escape for an hour or so in the evening and the garden is looking the best it ever has as we've had so much time at home. I grew some new varieties of Dahlia at home and at the allotment. For sheer elegance, I think my favourite one is Eveline which has a delicate lilac blush a the centre. Other highlights have been the Comos 'Fizzy Rose Picotee' and Zinnia  'Zinderella' Peach.

 

 

 

 

 

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Each January, as a way of mitigating the gloom, I like to look back over the previous year and celebrate the successes, reminding me of all the flowers and joy from the cutting garden to come. At the same time, I can review anything that didn't quite work as planned and make changes for the growing season ahead.

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Crocus in pots make lovely spring displays indoors

As always, some years are better than others as a lot depends on the weather throughout the year. The best way to be prepared for the vagaries of the weather is to grow a wide variety of plants and sow successionally throughout spring and early summer. If your spring-sown annuals are suddenly knocked back by an unexpected spell of cold after a spell of hot weather (as happened to me last spring)  you can sow another batch of seed which should quickly catch up and take over from any seedlings that don't recover.

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A large haul of dahlias from my allotment

2019 was a fabulous year for dahlias and sweetpeas for me. They thrived up at my new allotment plot where enjoyed the clay soil and full sun. At home in my cutting garden, I had great successs with biennial wild carrot which I will in future choose to grow in preference to annual Ammi majus. They both fulfill the same function as a beautiful lacy white umbellifer that acts a filler flower to set off other more showy blooms, providing a natural look. I find that Ammi needs to be sown regularly as individual plants don't produce for long periods where the wild carrot goes from spring into summer with little bother. I had less success with Cosmos which for some reason didn't want to germinate and then were very slow to get going.

Here are a selection of the flowers that I grew and picked last year, all from my relatively small family garden and a small bed on the allotment. I also include some pressed flower items that I make from the flowers that I grow. Speaking of which, I am contemplating running a craft workshop on pressing and drying flowers and ways to use them such as making pictures, cards and wreaths so if anyone is interested, please do get in touch!

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