22 March 2022
Out of the window of the Petalon farm we’re watching our 9th consecutive day of almost uninterrupted sunshine. After only one proper night of frost in a really mild winter here the field is literally months ahead of last year. March isn’t over yet and we’ve already said hello and goodbye to our first crop; the speciality Narcissi. This week our selection boxes have up to four varieties of Cornish-grown flowers in them and the diversity of crop is only going to grow as the season moves on. Below we’ve got a little preview of what you can expect from us this Spring.
Here in West Cornwall we’re lucky to have an abundance of wild poppies. One of our local beaches is literally surrounded by a sea of them for a chunk of the year. But as many of you will know, wildflowers rarely transfer well in to a vase and poppies are no exception. In an effort to replicate their ethereal beauty and to find something that isn’t bothered by a Cornish winter we sowed Icelandic Poppies this year and they’ve been a roaring success. Their naturally windy stems have deceptive strength, feeling like pipe-cleaners to the touch. This makes for a really architectural flower once in a vase. Though their vase life is less than many cut flowers it’s longer than one would expect from such a thin stem and such delicate beauty.
Last year’s Spring heavy hitter, our ranunculus are flying again. They are a pain to sow. Their corms are absolutely delicious for small mammals which lead to us having to elevate them 3 metres off the ground for much of their early lives. It was worth the trouble though. Their vase life is excellent and they look great in very different ways from being tightly in bud right the way to when they explode outwards. Their diversity of colour, both between different varieties but also within the head of a single stem, is unparalleled.
This is our first year growing tulips and it absolutely won’t be the last. Their bulbs are similarly delicious to our local fauna but those that made it through have been a delight. We pull them up as a whole plant, only cutting the bulb right before we package them to be sent to you meaning they arrive ridiculously fresh. The joy of tulips is that you can grow them in every colour under the sun. We’ve grown a melange of these in lower numbers to get a feel for what we do and don’t like this year before looking to press on with the best ones in 2023. The tricky thing will be working out which is which so we know what to order next time after Florence and James’s son Ossian (aged 2) started mixing and matching the labels before the flowers came out of the ground.
This might be the only flower we grow less of this year than last. This isn’t because we didn’t love it, it’s because we discovered that it grows like a weed and once it started flowering last year we simply didn’t have the hours in the day to cut them all! We’ll still have plenty of them though and they are already bringing their sweet scent to our selection boxes.
Rather than the more common blue cornflower we’re growing the Classic Magic variety this year. These range from purple through maroon to a pinky shade. They are the rare combination of delicate in appearance but really hardy to go with it.
The mice loved these so much that they ate a bed of 400 of them but the bed they ignored is thriving now! Much like the ranunculus they have a good vase life and look great in different ways in each stage of their development.
These are posh. We’re so proud of our Icelandic poppies and the feedback we’ve had from customers has been incredible. But we think these guys might be even better. The Colibri is technically also an Icelandic, but it has been bred in Italy specifically for the cut flower trade and brings with it a better vase life with all of the normal poppy beauty.
You can’t win them all.
Unfortunately not all of the crops we had planned for this time of year made it out of the door. Our stocks were briefly beautiful and sweet smelling, before a fungal infection took over the whole bed and we had to pull them. The joys of farming with pesticides! We suspect that they had been in the ground too long, growing slowly over autumn and winter. The plan for next year is to put them in the ground a bit later and take advantage of the faster growth in Spring. The good news is that we have a second planting of them in the ground right now and they’ve shot up over the last two weeks. Hopefully they’ll be ready to send before we know it! Our first succession of snapdragons had a really poor germination rate and got a bit rotten when the ones that made it did get planted out. Again, luckily we now have a very healthy bed of seedlings in the ground. The Sweet William got munched by our ducks, flowered in December then died back but now appears to be making a comeback, so who knows if it might pop out again at some point. Finally our “Man on the Moon” marigolds got scorched on the heat bench in James’s greenhouse after we forgot where we left them for a weekend. We don’t want to talk about it.
Now we’ve written it all down that looks like rather a lot of stuff! It’s going to be a really exciting April, keep your eyes peeled on our Instagram and our Field Flowers page for updates as and when we start cutting. Because we aim to have the flowers on your table the day after they are cut it can be quite a fast turnaround so make sure you’re subscribed to the newsletter (in the footer of this page) and subscribe to our Instagram stories.
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