I'm so excited about the start of the market season and then Mother's Day right around the corner. The Botetourt Farmer's Market opens Saturday May 6th, I have missed the flowers and the friendship. There was considerable planning and effort to have flowers for the very first market and Mother's day. If you check out the last blog post you can read about our 2nd hoop house that we put up and filled with flowers to be blooming now. We also did our largest planting to date of fall planted flowers outside, like corn cockle, sweet Williams and heirloom carnations. These hardy annual flowers survived all winter outside and have really kicked into gear now that the weather is warming. We also added more Dutch iris bulbs and ornamental onions to the spring line up. All these spring beauties are just begging to be made into bouquets.
Fall planted hardy annuals or "cool flowers"
Bouquet Cards are available for purchase.
The day before Mother's Day we will be selling at the Botetourt Farmer's Market and the Garden Festival in Buchanan. Make sure to stop by and see us and pick up something for your mom. Bouquet cards are available for purchase again this year, they make a great gift and who doesn't want free flowers. We also have some potted up succulents for sale in cute containers like dainty tea cups. I know my mom would like this sitting on her porch.
This fall we put up a second hoop house or high tunnel. It went up pretty easy seeing as we had done it once before. Mark is the mastermind behind it's construction, I'm there to hold and fetch things. I found the instructions on the Kerr Center website - http://kerrcenter.com/organic-farm/hoop-house. It's not too complicated and relatively inexpensive. The 2nd hoop house has been planted with anemones, ranunculus, delphiniums, bells of Ireland, Digitalis, and Icelandic Poppies. Planting in the hoop house in the fall gives us a head start come spring and helps us have flowers earlier. Another investment we made this fall was woven landscape fabric. I felt like all I did over this past growing season was weed. This isn't the kind you buy at Lowe's, it's commercial grade and should last at least 10 years. We burn holes in the fabric with a torch and use metal templates for the desired plant spacing. We will reuse this fabric year after year which I like better then using the plastic that gets thrown away after one season. It makes planting out transplants a breeze.
Putting up the hoophouse
Digging the raised beds and putting down the drip irrigation
Burning holes in landscape fabric
Fall time has always meant new beginnings for me, it's the change in the air. Summertime is so intense around here with all the flower work to be done. It's also very beautiful and full of new life. There is such abundance in summer. When the cooler weather comes everything starts growing slower and then finally dies in a frost. All the dead brown flowers mock me in their beds, the cutting season is over. No more lush flowers all over the house. The transition can be hard for me. Fall is also a blank canvas, full of possibilities. Perhaps that is behind my motivation to get up the 2nd hoop house or plant 600 anemones and ranunculus which I have never grown before. I have never planted so much in the fall time, I cannot wait to see the results.
Above are pictures of the flowers we provided for the Botetourt Farmer's Market appreciation lunch that was held in early November. We had a killing frost the night before so all these flowers came out of the protected hoop house.
Did you know that only 20% of cut flowers sold in the US are actually grown here in America? Tomorrow marks the start of American Flowers week, a campaign to bring awareness to the origin of cut flowers used in the floral industry. American Flowers week was created by Debra Prinzing of Slowflowers.com and author of "The 50 Mile Bouquet". Debra has this to say, "It's important to raise awareness for and celebrate American grown flowers, as well as flower farmers who grow a diverse selection of botanicals for the cut flower trade. At the same time, we salute floral designers whose ethos and intent inspire them to source domestically." As a flower farmer this cause is near and dear to my heart. I don't think the average consumer realizes where their flowers are coming from and the journey they took to get there. The average grocery store bouquet has travelled 2,000 miles and been exposed to up to 127 chemicals during it's lifetime. 40,000 boxes of flowers arrive daily into Miami International Airport, mostly coming from South America. The majority of those flowers are transported out of water and smashed into a box. South American doesn't have the same environmental and labor regulations that govern American farmers. $7-8 billion dollars are spent on flowers a year here in the US, with a measly 7% going to our American flower farmers. Let's support our American farms first, we can provide a fresher product that is more sustainable. This 4th of July, celebrate Independence from Imports and buy local. We are giving out American Flower Week Coloring sheets at our booth this week at the market so stop and get one and pick up a bouquet for your cookout!
Last week the rain finally stopped and the sun was shinning. The week of warm weather made me and the flowers happy. I was finally able to do some serious weeding and get more rows seeded. The sweet Williams are just starting to bloom in lovely colors like black cherry, red, white, and pinks. The statice plants are putting up tall stems and starting to show some color. The black-eyed susans are starting to put on their display, slowly but surely. I can barely contain my excitement as the Lisianthus starts to bud up. But of course as the seasons change we have to say good bye to some flowers as well , like the bell's of Ireland and the Bell Flower that is slowing down in the heat.
This is also the time of year when the evening primrose blooms. It's not useful as a cut flower but it's a really cool plant that I always try to have planted up around the house. This variety is called Tina James Magic Evening Primrose, Tina hosted parties with this flower as the star. What is so special about this plant is how the flowers open. They literally unfurl in front of your eyes. It's a fragrant pale yellow flower that opens at dusk. It's pollinated at night by moths that can get as big as hummingbirds.
Check out these arrangements that I made over the weekend. One went to Mark's mom and the other is sitting on my desk, where some much flower planning and dreaming takes place.
To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow.
- Audrey Hepburn-
I believe not just in a tomorrow, but a tomorrow filled with lots of beautiful flowers. There has been a lot of planning around here for the upcoming season. I’m very excited to announce some new things that are happening at Sarah’s Petals.
One new thing this year is our bulk/ DIY bride option of ordering flowers in bulk. This is a great option for the cost conscious or creative bride who wants to arrange their own flowers. What could be more fun than making the arrangements with a group of your friends and family. Flowers are great at helping make memories. This offering isn’t just for brides either. Order several buckets of flowers and make arrangements with your girl friends while sipping wine! Any special gathering like baby showers, graduation parties, or fancy dinner parties are taken to the next level with beautiful flowers. If your looking for more information check out the page on our website- http://sarahspetals.weebly.com/diy-bride--bulk-orders.html
I’m thrilled about adding Heirloom Chrysanthemums to our flower line up this year. These are not your ordinary garden mums but are exhibition quality blooms that are anything but ordinary. Confucius once suggested Chrysanthemums be used as an object of meditation and their history dates back to the 15th century. One reason I'm super excited about these is that they will be blooming September-November. They will help take the place of the dahlias after the first killing frost and they have cool names like Kermit, Kevin Tatto, and Paint Box.
Speaking of dahlias... I am of course adding new varieties to the dahlia line up this year. I’m adding several “ball” dahlias for our market bouquets because they are the longest lasting type of dahlia. I’m also expanding my selection of “dinner plate” and “decorative” types for the florists and designers that I sell to.
I have several more things up my sleeve but you will just have to wait!
Its hard to believe that its almost the end of July. This summer has passed so quickly, it will be over before you know it. You can tell its summer in the garden. The zinnas, sunflowers, celosia, are blooming like crazy. It’s getting hard to walk in between the rows with the flowers spilling out of their beds. The cosmos are getting ready to start their endless airy blooms. Its such a delight to harvest all the cheery happy flowers.
Things have really progressed in the field. We now have a water hook up at every row and have installed drip irrigation. I have to give Mark total credit for the water system. He figured it all out and then did the digging. Its been really nice to have easy water, mother nature hasn’t been helping out much on that front. It has looked cloudy and like rain for the past two days, yet nothing comes. We have tilled up the space where the hoop house will go and planted buckwheat in that area to start working on the soil. There has been so many flowers to cut that Mark has been helping me. Cutting the flowers has always been my responsibility but the sheer volume of flowers makes the help welcome. While I enjoy the relaxing solitude of just me and a bunch of flowers its also a wonderful experience to share, especially with someone that you love. When one of us finds the “perfect flower” we like to show it off to the other. Mark’s favorite has always been the zinnia but this year he might be swayed over to the dahlia after seeing some of the new ones just starting to bloom.
I have battled Japanese beetles, handing picking them off into buckets of soapy water. It’s a slow painful death for them in my bucket. My Dad told me a story about his grandfather picking them off his rose bushes and refering to them as “little mother f**kers”. I total understand, they shouldn’t eat, poop, and fornicate all over the pretty flowers. I have also been monitoring the pumpkins closely for cucumber beetles and squash bugs. I have won some bug battles but I have lost some too. I only got two good cuts from the snaps before they were totally infested with thrips. It was a hard loss for me because none of my fall planted snaps survived so it was the 2nd snap crop to fail this year. I have always thought of snaps as an easy crop, and an beautiful vertical element in arrangements. This year they just haven’t wanted to cooperate.
The garden is always changing, it is never the same for very long. The 2nd week of July I planted another round of sunflowers and zinnias, this batch is featuring more fall time colors. The celosia that is growing under lights inside should be ready to go outside in a couple more weeks, to fill the spot left empty by the failed snapdragons. This final batch of celosia should carry me thru to the last frost. I’m already thinking about next year. I have started some perennials and biennials for bloom next year. I’m trying some new things like, Dame’s Rocket, White Mugwort, Butterfly Weed, Cup and Saucers, and Veronica. I also need to start planting my hardy annuals that will go in the ground this fall to bloom first thing next spring. I’m trying to enjoy every moment of this summer as it whirls by.
We got a lot accomplished Memorial Day weekend, we even got to take a road trip. We have pretty much planted all rows down in the field at my parents. I need to order more seeds because I have no more zinnias or sunflowers. I’m trying China Asters this year despite all the bad things I keep reading about leaf hoppers and yellow aster disease. The ornamental and broom corn is looking good, just today Mark under sowed the corn with buckwheat. The pumpkin seedlings have finally made their much anticipated debut. I’m super excited about growing pink pumpkins (yes pink!) and white pumpkins this year. I think the pink pumpkins will be a big hit at the market. I’ve had mixed success with pumpkins in the past so I’m going baby these guys.
Using the field at my parents only really became possible with the slightly unexpected purchase of the tractor and tiller. I don’t feel like I have had a chance to plan as I would’ve liked with this new space. The larger space has brought about some challenges. The first being water. Lugging a 100 foot hose around isn’t the ideal water situation, even if the kids want to help. We have been brainstorming about how to instal drip irrigation and get water to the flowers more effectively. Another work in progress is the soil itself.. The quality of the soil varies within each individual bed. We have clay soil with shale and richer darker dirt closer to where the old outhouse use to be. I grow using organic principals so we are enriching the soil naturally with green manure and cover cropping. While not a quick fix it’s a great way to build up your soil.
On Memorial Day we headed into the mountains of West Virginia to the scenic railroad in Cass. Cass was a logging town and the trains were built specifically for bringing logs down from the top of rugged mountains. I’m a native to West Virginia and I have a sweet spot for those hills. It was like stepping back in time riding the train up the mountain. The view was amazing from the top. The kids all had a blast. They even had the patience to sit thru the short education film about the town’s history. We ate at the country store and all the kids got to pick something out from the gift shop. They are all different and it was interesting to see what each one picked out. It was a fun day and a much needed get away.
Today was very exciting for me! We got to really use the recently purchased tractor and rototiller. Since I have limited garden space we are expanding and adding rows in the field beside my parent's house. I am a firm believer that we create our own reality and that everything that manifests in the physical world starts out as an idea in our mind. I have had a picture in my mind's eye for years now of rows of flowers in my parent's field. Today that vision finally became a reality. Mark and his son Mason did the tractor work while me and my daughter Camden planted 16 varieties of dahlia tubers. I don't think Mason knew what to think at first about all the flowers but once he knew there was a tractor involved I don't think it mattered.
My boy, Gabe worked on math homework with Grandma and played baseball. He doesn't understand why he can't drive the tractor (his feet don't even reach the pedals).
Mark in action. Yes- I think his tractor is sexy
Mason getting it done. I have to say that Mason is the hardest working teenager I have ever seen!
Camden posing for the camera behind the flowering onions.
Where do I start? It has been more of a journey and a process then something that happened in one singular moment. The journey begin when I was living in an apartment in the city recently divorced taking care of two kids. My mom gave me a book on organic gardening and I started day dreaming of living on a farm and growing my own food. I started vegetable seeds inside and planted them in the flower beds up front. I didn’t get to see them grow up because another opportunity had arose. A house for rent in the country, not just a house but a yard and garden space. An old farm house on a beef cattle farm that was right beside my parents house, where I had grown up. I felt it was a wonderful place to raise my children. I moved in at the beginning of summer and started working in the garden. The first summer I felt like I did nothing but pick rocks out of the garden. At the end of summer I visited the Harvest Heritage Festival in Charlottesville and attended a presentation by Lisa Ziegler from The Gardener’s Workshop. She was talking about soil blocks and fall planting. I was fascinated by the idea of planting in the fall with the plants not just surviving the winter but actually coming out stronger. The day after the festival I double dug a bed in the garden and planted seeds. Love in the Mist, Calendula, Corn Cockle, all tucked under a row cover, ready for the winter. I had seen vegetables as necessary and flowers as a luxury but I was starting to rethink that view. Especially when I learned that all most all flowers used in the US are actually from another country. Or how so many chemicals are used in the process of growing cut flowers when massed produced. The small flower grower that was doing it organically was just as necessary. I spent the winter pouring over Lynn Byczynski’s book The Flower Farmer. A lot of that winter was spent learning every bit of information I could about cut flowers. I also got soil blockers and started seeds indoors under florescent lights. When the flowers came up strong the next spring I was hooked. I still have Love in the Mist in my garden from planting them that one time, they have continued on with all their volunteer seedlings. It is one of my favorite flowers with its airy quality, heirloom appeal and because it was around from the beginning.
Last year was the start of the Botetourt Farmer’s Market, what better time for me to start selling my flowers. It was exciting and terrifying all at the same time. No more time for day dreaming about what I wanted, it was time to make it happen. I would fluctuate between feeling good with what was getting accomplished in the garden to freaking out that I wouldn’t get everything done in time. I worried that there wouldn’t be enough flowers or that no one would want them. But all the worry and the work paid off, the flower’s beauty spoke for themselves. I would get repeat customers- they were coming back for more flowers. I had one lady tell me that the flowers were the bright spot of her week. It was awesome! I felt good about things at the end of the season and was already thinking about the next year. Last fall I planted around 500 plants down at my parents - my garden space was overflowing and I was wanting more, more, more flowers. So here we are at the beginning of another growing season and I have a feeling its going to be even better then the last.