Bristol flower farm and florist. Pipley Flowers

Flower farmer and florist between Bristol and Bath. Wholesale flowers for florists, flower arranging workshops, growing workshops, weddings, funerals, events and sundry hire.

Filtering by Category: Gardening

After the Frosts

We had a hard frost on the 28th of October this year and when I checked the flowers the next morning, as suspected they were looking rather black and unhappy. Since then lots of people have asked what I do now - some realise that the work doesn’t stop just because the flowers are gone but others think I’m starting a 5 month holiday.

There are plenty of jobs that can be done over the Winter, many of which I don’t have the time to do during the peak season, but some have a certain urgency about them. At Pipley we have lots and lots of dahlias (far too many to lift!) so I choose to leave mine in place over Winter. One of my most important jobs now is to cut back all the dahlias and give them a good mulch to protect them from the cold - this has to be done before the temperature drops too low and it’s not a quick job.

 Chopping down Dahlias to make compost

Chopping down Dahlias to make compost

One of the other jobs I have is planting any new bulbs and corms so I have lots of lovely flowers in Spring. I planted my anemone yesterday and I still have tulips and ranunculus to finish off. The quicker I get some of these in, the quicker my season will start next year….or that’s the plan unless I am thwarted in some way by the weather.

 Once chopped back I mulch my dahlias to protect them from the cold

Once chopped back I mulch my dahlias to protect them from the cold

So as you read this I may be working out in the rain, chopping back, wheel-barrowing, or on my hands and knees in the mud trying to get these jobs done before I miss my window. Then comes the rest of the list but I can always breathe a sigh of relief when the dahlias and bulbs are all sorted.

If you have thought about flower farming and would like to learn more about what’s involved I run workshops for beginners or those thinking of a career change. The next one is on Sunday 10th of February and you can find the details on my workshops page.

British Weather

No two years are the same when it comes to flower farming but this year as been particularly difficult!

It's been so hot for so long now that it's easy to forget the terrible start to the year we had which was unseasonably cold, wet and snowy. This caused crops to fall behind by about 4 - 5 weeks and affected not just flower growers but many farmers across the UK.

Now we are a few weeks into the longest heatwave since 1976 (so it said on the radio the other day). Around 3 weeks ago I could have told you how long it was since we last had proper rain but it's been so long now I have forgotten. There are cracks in the ground in places at the flower farm that are nearly wide enough to get my foot into and although we had a 20 minute downpour last week and a bit of spitty rain for 15 mins yesterday it's not touching the sides. Light rain evaporates before it soaks into the ground and the downpour was great but when the ground is so dry, heavy rainfall runs off faster than it soaks in.

In most years we rarely have to water - maybe doing 3 or 4 times a year, but recently we are out most days watering. So whilst sunning yourself in your gardens think of all us who work the land for our income - support your farmers and growers as much as you can right now as we all have higher costs and more work to deal with.

In the meantime I will hope that as with most years the summer holidays brings prolonged rain! :)

Scented Flowers for Spring

Following a recent Facebook post which touched on scented flowers I thought it would be nice to share some of my favourite spring scented flowers with you.

Lily of the Valley

These dainty little white bells have a fantastic scent! They are one of my earlier spring flowers and Mine tend to flower in early April. They have a strong scent for their size at only around 15cm in height and they are happiest grown in partial shade. You can also get Lily of the Valley in a light pink colour but these are more uncommon. As a cut flower they are great for little posies, buttonholes and bouquets.

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Narcissi

Narcissi just make me smile. I find them somewhat irresistible with their happy little faces and gorgeous scent. They are easy to grow from bulbs, and work well in the house as a cut flower or planted in a pot. If planted in pots indoor just plant them out somewhere in the garden after they have finished flowering and they will return year on year. Narcissi are great for naturalising in grass too so everyone should be able to find space for some. Although they smell delicious they do need a regular stem cut and water change if used as a cut flower or they can become a bit whiffy!

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Hyacinths

Love, love, love these! I don’t tend to use them much for cutting (hence no images) as the stems are quite short and with the flowers being so large they can be tricky to incorporate into displays, but bring planted bulbs into your house to make the place smell amazing! After they have flowered you can plant them out in pots or beds for them to return year on year.

Tulips

Did you know that tulips have scent? I must confess I didn’t really believe this until last year when I grew some amazing scented ones. I had head of scented tulips but had never smelt any that I actually liked or that had a string perfume. My favourite ones last year smelt of caramel - the variety escapes me for now but keep an eye on my social media because they will get a shout out when they are back this year!

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What are your favourite scented flowers for Spring?

British Flowers Week

This week was British flowers week and it's been a busy one here at Pipley!

There has been lots of support from local florists on our three regular delivery days. On Tuesday I delivered 3 van loads of flowers which is an awful lot for us and something I would love to do more often. There are so many beautiful flowers to choose from at the moment and as you can see I'm not the only fan of British flowers in my household!

The first dahlias started flowering this week and I'm excited to see the new varieties I have chosen this year in the flesh.

On Wednesday it was a real scorcher and I had a group of career change students from the Tallulah Rose Flower School come to the flower farm. I gave them a tour round and we discussed all things British flowers, and afterwards went foraging for foliage for them to use back at school.

At Pipley there is roughly one and a half acres of flower beds but in total our land stretches to 19.5 acres and this is made up of a mixture of pastureland, wild hedgerows and woodland - perfect to forage for all sorts of beautiful, wild flowers, foliage, and other interesting bits and pieces on top of the flowers we are already growing.

The week rounded off with wedding flowers for a couple in a nearby village - more to come on this in a future blog!

 

Guest Blog: 5 things I learnt volunteering at Pipley Flower Farm

'Amy volunteered for me last year and has been kind enough to write a blog post about her experience. I hope you enjoy the read and if you're interested in volunteering yourself I would love to hear from you!'

Volunteering on a farm isn’t always about animals, vegetables or even fruit. I wanted to
get some experience in land-based organic agriculture so spent the last 10 months doing
something a bit different. Volunteering on a Flower Farm was one of the best things I’ve
ever done and here’s the top five things I learnt while volunteering at Pipley Flowers:
1. Nothing is more satisfying than uprooting a particularly stubborn nettle patch
Weeding the patch is an integral part of organic farming, and the size and nature of Pipley
Flowers means that the majority of weeding needs to be done by hand. Whilst a daunting
task at first - weeding soon becomes a small obsession, with Liz and myself breaking off
mid-sentence to pull up a … is that a thistle…?
2. How varied and beautiful British-grown flowers really are
The floristry industry is huge and the majority of bunches and bouquets you see in
supermarkets and florists are imported, sprayed and not grown organically. Have you
noticed that supermarket flowers don’t really have a scent? Why use pesticides and
aeroplanes when there’s so many beautiful seasonal flowers to choose from on our
doorsteps?
3. How to make a wildlife pond and introduce a frog population
It’s not all about flowers - Liz wanted to encourage frogs and toads to the farm as they are
the perfect organic pest control solution! So we dug and lined a pond and Liz brought some
pondweed and baby frogs from home - it was an interesting wildlife project. Liz and her
husband Simon are doing a lot more than farming on their land - they have planted trees,
conserved hedgerows and woodland, planted wildflower and native grass meadows, and are
using some areas as grazing for their herd of sheep. Spending time here taught me a lot
about land use and how to encourage a healthy balance of wildlife.
4. How much better a cup of tea tastes when you’ve boiled up the water on a
camping stove by the shed, overlooking Pipley’s stunning view
A day on the flower farm is incomplete without a few well-timed tea breaks and the ritual of
boiling the camping kettle on the Tranja stove became one of my favourite things to do.
Sitting on the bench or the step of the shed and looking out at the valley view with a hot cup
of tea while the resident robins hopped about was a real highlight for me!
5. How to rotovate beds, prune to encourage flowering, make a nettle-tea plant
fertiliser - and a myriad of other useful tips and tricks
There was plenty of opportunity to learn new skills and I found I was able to get a good
practical grounding in general horticultural techniques in addition to the specifics of
day-to-day organic flower farming.
And if those perks weren’t enough I was lucky enough to take home cut flowers every
time I volunteered!
I would highly recommend volunteering for Liz - she is an accommodating, friendly and
knowledgeable mentor with an infectious passion for what she does. If you are looking to
get more of an insight into the British-grown floristry industry, learn about growing
organic, or simply improve your wellbeing by getting your hands in the soil; Pipley
Flowers is a haven for flower enthusiasts everywhere!
Although I am moving to pastures new, there could never be a greener field than Pipley
Flower Farm. Thank you to Liz & Simon who have encouraged me over the last year,
helping me to realise my potential and to chase my dreams of working in nature.
Here’s to years of friendship and flowers!

Dahlia Love

Another Winter is upon us and although my growing season for the year is over the dahlias are still going strong. Whilst at the flower farm the other day this reminded me that last year I meant to write a blog post abut these fabulous flowers and I forgot....so I'm now going to make up for it.

Dahlias are one of my favourite flowers; I love them for their wide range of colour and beautiful, showy forms. There are single, open varieties such as the infamous Bishop of Llandaff to tiny delicate pompoms which may only be 3 or 4cm in size, to the huge Café au Lait and other decorative dinner plate varieties which can easily be 25cm in diameter. Of course you can't forget the spikey cactus forms and serenity of the water lily dahlia (and that's not an exhaustive list of the forms available).

In terms of colour again there is a huge choice and when you take into account the bi-coloured flowers I wonder if dahlias may have one of the biggest range of colours available in one family of flowers. The only colour which is still not seen in dahlias is the elusive blue - the reason why blue is so rare in flowers would be enough to fill another blog!

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Dahlias have been in Europe for over 200 years now and originally came from Mexico. They are typically grown from tubers and can also be grown from seed but when grown from seed they can naturally hybridise, which explains the huge variety of colours and forms we see today.

If you love dahlias as much as I do then the time of year to get excited about is July as this is when they start to flower. They are a fantastic addition to any bouquet or flower arrangement and I use them regularly through the summer....in fact I now have over 400 dahlia plants so I am practically drowning in dahlias but I'm not complaining!

Updates from the flower farm

So what's been going on at the flower farm?

In brief all the beds are now prepared and rotavated. I have planted some new perennials and shrubs. The shrubs are strategically placed to act as windbreaks but obviously they will need to establish a bit before they work their magic.

This week the first flowers started to appear but I think I have 6 on the plot so not quite ready to start selling to florists yet! I do however have a well stocked garden that I am using to make arrangements in the meantime and there are too many flowers to mention right now.

So things are looking pretty good at the moment. The bare root roses planted last month are bushing out nicely and even some of the newer plants have put on good growth in just a week or so.

The dahlias and peonies are starting to appear so hopefully soon the empty looking beds in the background will start filling out.

On the negative side it appears I have a resident mole that has moved into my most recently planted flowerbed. He's undermined a lot of the plants I've just put in so yesterday I spent quite a lot of time stamping the soil back down. Hopefully if I annoy him enough he might get fed up and move on!

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