The purchase of our land took the best part of 2019. Desperately unsure whether it would come off or not, the prolonged process overshadowed many decisions and when we finally completed the sale in October, we felt a massive relief and huge excitement. This was accompanied by some frustration too as it meant that many of the spring flowering plants weren't in the ground and the autumn frosts and torrential rain meant that we couldn't do much about it.
Nonetheless with land the dream had become a reality. For some of you this is your dream too, for others we are mad. And you may be right. But when time permits I intend to blog about the progress we are making and the things we are doing, the decisions and mistakes we make, alongside the flowers that you see on Instagram, because I know that a lot of people are interested in our journey, and the process of the growing, not just the end result. And actually although I think we're still very much in the process and therefore not able to offer the benefit of hindsight yet, scaling up has brought lots of deliberation and doubt, over things that we were previously confident about and things that we've never had to consider before which I'm very happy to share. In this blog I will update you on the last few months and will endeavour to keep it up when things get busier.
The cold wet autumn and early winter was a help but it didn't feel like that at the time. As I wrote in the previous post, our first job was to secure the boundary of the initial flower growing area, to protect the flowers from deer. This was possible to do in the cold and the wet. The weather - whilst pretty dispiriting - enabled us to make strategic decisions about what had to go where and what needed doing and purchasing first. It was the early frosts that helped us realise that the bottom field was a frost pocket, so that would need to be taken into consideration when deciding what to grow there and the top field became our focus. We also realised that the water flow across the fields would need to be observed and potentially managed. By breaking up the compacted soil (cattle does that) with a broadfolk, the water now flows through the soil rather than sitting on it. We plan a pond and to plant strategically to help this further. And reassuringly our small interventions have made a significant difference. Indeed the lonnin* was so muddy and waterlogged that we were starting to despair. Martyn started to clear the ruts in the lonnin, stopping water from sitting in them and allowing it to naturally drain. After two weeks the difference was noticeable. Now the mud is greatly reduced and the water drains to the road and into the fields. This access issue also made us realise that we needed transportation, so on the 31st December Martyn collected a secondhand Kubota - in my signature orange - to help!
After a very busy Christmas I felt a slow January was necessary (last year I didn't and I burnt out, with an unstoppable chest infection) so we have been pacing ourselves, but once again the weather has determined our activity! It has been hard to not get out and take advantage of the mild weather, so progress has been made; We have purchased and installed our first polytunnel frame, which is now planted up with 90 roses. We trialled 12 roses last year and realised that they needed to be undercover to maximise crop yield and quality. We have opted for a polytunnel but intend to keep the ends very open and have netting for side ventilation to mimic a Spanish tunnel. I have always grown roses - I truly adore them - and I am so excited to have a lovely range from whites to bright for our florist and wedding customers. It has been a joy deliberating over what varieties to grow and extremely difficult to limit the numbers. We have 26 varieties, eight grown solo as a trial and the rest in quantities of between 5 and 10. A reasonable number to start with. Our choices have been determined by looking at our own trial last year, rifling through catalogues and hunting down varieties that are hard to get hold of. Garden roses don't last a very long time in a vase but they're perfect for weddings - such beauty and scent. I can't wait to show you them!
We plan a second larger polytunnel, which has been ordered and will be installed next week! This is to extend our season - mainly for early spring and autumn flowers. Possibly some tomatoes in between! Exciting times!
Deliberation is also underway over:
- a workspace for processing our flowers
- a compostable loo!
- a tree planting scheme improving the hedges and woodland, and establishing an orchard
And sowing hardy annuals and perennials starts this week, although we only sow things that can tolerate the conditions - it is February afterall!!
*Lonnin is a Cumbrian word for short access lane