Sunday, 16 August 2009

Flowers in the Wind

When we moved to Cottarton Cottage, our neighbours raised their eyebrows when I spoke of starting a flower farm. No one had ever done it, at least not in this glen where the wind blows steadily. The only certainties are not death and taxes, but blowing wind and a good sprinkling of rain every second day. As for winter time, snow stories are the makings of many legends.

Two years later, flowers are blooming around our cottage, so many that we place bunches each morning at the end of the driveway, with a notice for people to take a bunch and drop a couple of pounds in an attached can. Though the road doesn’t have a lot of traffic, we always sell a bunch or two. Others we give away to neighbours and friends. Not everyone wants to taste our beets and broad beans but they all appreciate flowers. Faster than a nip of whisky they lift that depression brought on by cloudy weather, and they don’t give you a hangover.

Unlike during the sixties when stores sold flowers grown locally, all flowers in supermarkets and florist shops are trucked in from Holland, southern England or Europe, where a flower farm means acres of poly-tunnels. We’re doing it differently. We use the greenhouse to start seedlings --- everything we grow is from seed, but after leaving that nursery, the flowers grow in the open, in the most sheltered part of the garden, supported by netting. We have a four month blooming season from mid July to mid October and have no desire to lengthen it. Our sweet peas are into their second month, fuller and more heavily scented than usual, dahlias and asters are close to their peak. This year we’re trying out single stem chrysanthemums, more common at flower shows than at supermarkets. Most successful this year are flowers that preserve their blossom when you dry them --- acroclinium and helichrysum. In case you never heard of them, neither did we a year ago.

Gardening appears less common than it used to be. These days, between making a living, and babysitting the computer, people have less disposable time on their hands. Retired people typically tend small, manicured gardens where everything is grown in straight lines and not a blade of grass is out of place. A good show for the guests. Donald, who each year rents me a large rotovator, says that it’s rarely in demand. Vegetables and flowers are so cheap at Tesco that most people don’t see why they should grow them.

I can’t offer a convincing reason for growing flowers. Not the money we receive, which will only buy a few bottles of wine. Bees love the flowers. They hover about them in clouds, and then go on to pollinate our vegetables. But honestly, there’s very little practical about flowers. Perhaps that’s why we appreciate them.

1 comment:

  1. The sweet peas and Canterbury bells made the journey down to Edinburgh very well indeed and my kitchen was full of joy!