When I was little, daffodils were by far my favorite flower. They shined their sunny faces everywhere in our yard, signaling the end of the long grey winter with their bright color in the still brown landscape. They continue to be one of my favorites today and I have a hard time resisting adding more varieties to my collection!
Daffodils are perennial and can last for years before needing to be dug and divided. Pushing up through layers of leaves or sod in the spring, they are a pretty low maintenance cut flower when it comes to weeding and care.
The last of the tulips were sold this week, the beds turned over and planted into sunflowers and snapdragons, and just yesterday I placed my order for next year's tulip crop. Tulip season is definitely a fast and furious one, and just when you think you've had enough then it's time to dive in and plan for next year! Even though it is a good 10 months before next year's tulips will begin to pop out of the ground, I am super excited for the varieties I've chosen for 2018. LOTS of color and a great variety of forms and shapes!
This year we grew several different forms of tulips: singles, doubles (two layers of petals), and parrots. The singles included 'Sanne', 'Apricot Pride', and 'Big Chief'. 'Sanne' may have been my favorite of the season, since it was the very first to bloom and had an incredible fragrance. 'Apricot Pride' was a lovely coral, peach, and pink. 'Big Chief' lived up to it's name, that's for sure....most stems were easily 3 feet long, with huge blushing red blooms.
Early May always finds a way of sending us down memory lane, as it marks the anniversary of our calling this property our home, now thirteen years ago. Besides a few stray apple trees, one lonely lilac shrub, and acres of grass, there sure wasn't much to draw us here. But what we saw wasn't at all visible; it was the blank slate of hope and dreams that brought us here.
After tossing our boxes in the house, we immediately set to work digging a garden and planting hundreds of trees. Many of the trees died in the years of drought that followed, but there are plenty left to remind us of those early years. A goofy makeshift greenhouse on the side of a rickety shed became a stepping stone to one, two, then three high tunnels.
Oh, the rain. It poured, sprinkled, dripped and dropped all week long, just as April Showers tend to do. Soggy and cold, the plants droop down, doing their best to patiently wait for the warm sun to return and bring the much awaited May Flowers. Buds, poised and fat, ready to burst. We wait too, droopy and soggy, knowing that it surely won't be long until everything springs forth after all this rain.
Tulips mark the official start to our flower season here on the farm. From the first leaves that push up out of the ground in March, to the long awaited buds and finally blooms, our eyes feast upon the color after a winter of brown and grey. They are truly soul food!
Tulips are grown as an annual crop in the cut flower world. Each fall they are planted, like eggs in an egg carton, usually in unheated high tunnels to get an extra jump on the spring season. Watered well, and covered with 6" of soil, they settle in for their long winter's nap and await the warm sun of late winter to start growing.
Gardening and farming can be a pretty good deal, when it comes to return on your input. One tomato seed can yield pounds of tomatoes, one flower seed dozens of stems, and one leaf can yield an entirely new plant. It can be a pretty good deal, if everything goes right! Recently we've been reveling in this miracle of division, as we brace for another growing season and try to take advantage of this feat of nature.
Last fall we dug up our dahlia bed, which yielded some incredibly massive clumps of tubers. It is pretty amazing how one little tuber can yield such a mass in a few short months! I tried a bunch of storage techniques over the winter, divided them in late winter, and had good success with some of them. Little pink and white shoots started popping out last week on some of the varieties, which will get potted up and held in the greenhouse until the weather warms up.
I know it's out there somewhere, under that fine layer of snow that fell last night, beneath the still frozen ground, and just beyond that icy puddle that just won't melt. Spring, the ever elusive guest that we await with such anticipation to free our souls from winter hibernation! Obviously there is a fair amount of spring fever going on here...and we pounce on any sign to convince ourselves that indeed, it is coming...
In the hoop house, the tulips continue to stretch up. No buds yet, but just looking at the sea of green brings such healing and hope! Anemone and ranunculus have popped up out of the soil, looking like tiny gnome-sized bunches of parsley. Like tulips, they are big fans of the cool spring weather and go about their business despite our impatience.
The more you grow and work with flowers, the more apparent it is that each species has their own little personality. Some are easy-breezy, go-with-the-flow types, like cosmos or zinnias - they germinate quickly, transplant well, grow like a rockstar in the field, and are gorgeous in bloom. Then there are the types, like Bells of Ireland, that put up a fight to germinate, but eventually cooperate and churn out blooms all season long. And then there is the category that stands alone, with one sole member - the lisianthus.
Miss Lizzy, as we lovingly call her, is a royal pain from the get-go. She is like the fussy toddler that crumples into a heap if you look at her the wrong way, the stubborn teenager who only does what she wants, when she wants, and how she wants, or the overly-picky customer that demands everything is done exactly according to their wishes before they will even think about paying you. This is one plant that I dare not start from seed, and order in plugs from experienced growers who lovingly nurse her along for 3 months before sending me trays of tiny plants. This week, Miss Lizzy arrived.
Our 2017 Flower Workshop Series schedule has been set! We look forward to this new opportunity for on-farm education and connection with our community. Our goal with these classes is to provide you with some basic floral design skills, encourage you to share the love of flowers with others through your newly acquired skill set, and perhaps inspire you to go home and plant your own cutting garden! All classes are geared towards the beginner, no experience necessary - just bring your creative spirit!
For the summer classes, we will spend some time touring our flower fields and talk about basic growing methods and harvesting techniques. Then we'll let you loose in the flower patch to harvest your own blooms to bring in the workshop and start creating. We will provide all the materials, support, and instruction for you to make your own masterpiece to take home.
Our fall wreath making classes will take place in our workshop where we will demonstrate how to construct a basic wreath, as well as some creative additions. We will provide all the tools and plant material for you to make your own wreath to bring home. All the dried flowers for these classes are grown and dried here on the farm, especially for these classes.
Snow lingers outside, and I'm sure it will continue for weeks....yet inside, we are well on our way in the great seeding marathon which began in mid-January and will roll right on through August. Succession planting for cut flowers is crucial, as you want a continuous and revolving supply of flowers and greens throughout the entire growing season. With over one hundred annual cut flowers on our list this year, each of which gets planted anywhere from 2-9 times, that means a lot of time spent in seeding mode.
As each seeding season begins, I find myself falling into the same trap and hover over my seed trays like an anxious and overbearing new parent. I am constantly checking on them - too wet, too dry, enough light, not enough humidity, temperature ok, WHY AREN'T THEY UP YET?! Don't even get me going on those seemingly microscopic seeds that need light to germinate and are sown on the soil's surface. They feel so exposed and unprotected, like sending a wobbling toddler out into the middle of a busy street....how on earth can they survive?!?