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2022 didn't exactly get off to an auspicious start - we got a flat tyre on New Year's Day, then, the very next day, someone backed into our car while they were parking and dented the door.

Cherry blossom
Cherry Blossom in February

By mid January, Covid cases at our daughter's school were soaring and children were dropping like flies. Just when we thought our Rosie was going to be lucky, she tested positive. Just as she was due to go back to school after 8 days, I came down with it and then, nearing the end of my isolation period, my husband succumbed. Luckily we only had cold-like symptoms as we have been triple vaccinated and I'm not sure we would have realised my daughter had the virus if we hadn't been testing every day.

With this latest period of isolation ending tomorrow, I am crossing my fingers that we can make a new start and I've been using this time for planning ahead - not just which annuals I will grow this year but new ways of growing.

June flowers
Home grown  flowers

As I write, my husband is making use of this down time to install some grow lights in the potting shed so that I can start my annuals off earlier. I haven't tried this method before but I've had a lot of bookings for natural flower arranging workshops this spring so I am keen to get sowing as soon as possible so that we can be harvesting flowers as early as possible.

The cutting garden has been freshly dug over and a thick layer of new compost has been incorporated. We didn't have a very thick layer of soil as the beds were sited on top of where some old outbuildings had resided. There was a lot of rubble lurking under the initial depth of soil. In the end, we removed about 30 bags of rubble from just 2 beds measuring about 3m x 1.2 m. I am hoping that this year should be a bumper year for our flowers.

Wedding Bouquet Preservation

Being confined to the house has also spurred me into action - I've been able to use the extra time to plan a new Home Flower Garden service which I have been considering for a while now - pressing wedding bouquets.

Wedding bouquet
Pressed Wedding Flowers

Brides can send their bouquets by post after the big day and I will carefully dismantle it and lovingly prepare each flower for pressing. The flowers will be left for 4-6 weeks to dry naturally. I will then recreate the bouquet.

pressed wedding bouquet
Pressed Wedding Bouquet

So, as the nights draw out and the weather warms up, daffodils and tulips are pushing their noses up through the soil, the snow drops are out in little flurries in the beds, the Iris reticulata are starting to bloom, the hellebores are gearing up for their amazing display. Spring here we come!

 

 

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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.

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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.

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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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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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