How to be blooming gorgeous!


Autumn gardening is all about planning and protecting plants in order for them to give joy and excitement next year, says Charlotte Tombs

image by Charlotte Tombs

It may surprise some people to learn that Autumn is a busy time of year for a flower farmer.
One of the most important aspects about growing flowers from seed is that we have to look forward into the following year and this obviously means planning ahead.

Like so many other businesses we keep our eyes focused on the latest wedding, fashion and colour trends. It is our job to to see what highly fashionable ‘society’ florists are using in their wedding florals and what the predicted new trends, colours and ideas will be as these will quickly make their way down to us in Dorset. We need to be ready as no one is going to want last year’s fashions!

Planting now

This week I have been busy planting my biennials which I sowed back in June. Normally around Midsummers’ Day is as good time as any but not if there is a heat wave forecast. You don’t want to fry those seedlings. Right now the soil is still warm enough so it’s an ideal time to plant the well-established biennial seedlings. You won’t see much leaf growth throughout the winter months but the roots will be growing, working deep down into the soil. Come the spring when the weather improves and it’s warmer they will already have a head start and will be much quicker to
reward you with an explosion of gorgeous blooms.

Pretty petals

Early autumn is also an ideal time to get ahead with sowings of hardy annuals such as calendula, cornflowers, sweet peas and antirrhinum (commonly known as snapdragons – those wonderful flowers of one’s youth that
you squeeze the flower and ‘the mouth’ opens and it looks just like a dragon). Larkspur is another one to sow now.
These can all be over-wintered in a cold greenhouse, sweet peas can be kept in a cold frame or just under the eaves of a house or perhaps even under a garden table outside just to keep the

worst of the weather off them. These stalwarts of your cutting garden will put down a great network of roots over the cold winter months. Some of them such as the cornflowers are quite frost-tolerant and you can plant them pretty much at the end of February or the beginning of March. I do this with my sweet peas as well but I do have a bit of horticultural fleece at the ready just in case they need an extra layer if it’s going to be very frosty or windy and, of course, we must protect against biting rain.

“I’ve also been busy pre- soaking and planting up my ranunculus and anemones corms. Ranunculus are beautiful flowers with layer upon layer of petals that rather remind me of a ballerina’s tutu. What is fantastic about them is that they have a great vase life, and continue to grow and bloom in the vase. Tulips also continue to grow in the vase – you can find when you arrange tulips that a few days later you’re thinking they’ve put on a few centimetres in the water and grown at a funny angle.”

by Charlotte Tombs Northcombe Flowers


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