KILLRUDDERY CUT FLOWERS – JUNE
Fionnuala Fallon, of The Irish Flower Farmers, offers the following tips this month:
Along with sustainability, seasonality is at the very heart of what Killruddery Cut Flowers is all about, from the first precious bunches of anemones that bloom in the walled garden’s Victorian pithouse in spring, to our in-house florist Aiva Veinberga’s wonderful winter wreaths adorned with dried flowers, seedheads, grasses and twiggy branches. Part of the magic of growing cut flowers and foliage in this way is learning to accept that no growing year or growing season will ever be exactly the same, with fluctuating temperatures, variable rainfall and changing light levels all having a significant effect on when and for how long different species will bloom.
For example, last year’s unusually warm, sunny spring resulted in a dramatic acceleration in growth levels, while this year was very different with a late, cold, dark spring that really slowed down growth but kept our anemones and ranunculus (cool-season flowers that dislike too much heat) blooming in Kilruddery’s pithouse and polytunnels until early June. After flowering their socks off for months, these beautiful spring blooms are now making way for summer-flowering heat-lovers such as zinnias and celosia as well as other cut-flower summer crops such as ornamental carrot and ammi that we’ve found perform better when grown under cover, protected from pests and diseases.
This year’s late cool spring had also delayed but prolonged the blooming period of spring- and early summer-flowering perennials that we grow outdoors such as aquilegia, sweet rocket, geum, lupins, luzula and tellima. Now coming to an end, they’ll soon be followed by summer-blooming cut-flower perennials such as echinacea, rubeckia, verbascum, phlox, linaria, potentilla and sanguisorba.
Raising thousands of young seedlings and cuttings under cover in spring as we do every year in Killruddery’s pithouse also has a huge effect on seasonality, bringing baby plants on, so that they flower much more quickly than if sown outdoors. Transplanted outside over the last number of weeks into their final growing positions, these young transplants now fill the walled garden’s 120-metre-long sunny border, which will very soon start bursting into glorious summer bloom. We’ve included hundreds of giant sunflowers in shades of plum and lime-green strawflowers (because who doesn’t love sunflowers), papery strawflowers, limonium, craspedia and starry helipterum for drying, choice dahlias in fruity shades of apricot, peach, plum and raspberry, plume-flowered amaranthus in tones of biscuit, coral and plum, ghostly scabious, silver-blue eryngiums, fluffy grasses and dozens of intensely-perfumed sweet pea. We’ve also made room for cress, gaura, cosmos, malope, phlox, atriplex, feverfew, snapdragons and asters, all species that will provide a gloriously diverse choice of exquisite summer and autumn cut flowers and fillers in the months ahead. In this way we’ll continue to celebrate the rich diversity and constantly shifting beauty of the Irish growing year in a truly seasonal way.
KILLRUDDERY CUT FLOWERS – MARCH
Some Flowers are too precious to pack too closely together! Do you agree?
We grew all the flowers in this arrangement – along with many, many others – in our cut flower borders. This arrangement was made to complement the stained glass windows in our Victorian ornamental dairy, now known as the Tea Room, in late June last year.
This month we are completing the year’s seed and plant sourcing. Anemones and ranunculus are beginning to feature in our cut-flower bouquets in our Farm Shop, while dahlia tubers are waking slowly in the “hot beds”, and sweet-pea shoots and other cut flowers seeds are being propagated. Narcissi and daffodils are blooming outdoors.
Follow along with us this year as we further establish our Cut Flower Farm. Our team is expanding and includes the wonderful Irish Flower Farmers Richard Johnson and Fionnuala Fallon.
Fionnuala offers the following tips this month:
Do you dream of picking fistfuls of your very own, deeply-scented sweet pea to fill your home or give to friends? Then you will be delighted to hear that now is the perfect time to plant the baby plants out into the garden or allotment (don’t worry about frost; sweet pea is what’s known as a hardy annual so the young plants will survive temperatures as low as -5C). Alternatively, if you didn’t get around to sowing the seed last autumn or earlier this year, then you’ll be glad to hear that there’s still enough time to do so. At Killruddery we grow hundreds of plants for our cut flower border from seed every year including many of my favourite sweet pea varieties such as ‘Mr P’, ‘White Frills’ and ‘Wiltshire Ripple’.
This is also an excellent time of year to sow seed of lots of other hardy annuals and half-hardy annuals (such as ammi, cornflowers, love-in-a-mist, larkspur, calendula, cerinthe and snapdragons) indoors on a sunny windowsill or under cover of a glasshouse, polytunnel or sunny porch – just bear in mind that the latter won’t take any frost – as well as to sow seed of fast-growing perennials including lupins, echinacea, linaria and achillea. At this time of year we also start potting on lots of dahlia tubers under cover in the Walled Garden’s beautifully restored Victorian Pit House as well as propagating fresh stock of some of our favourite varieties such as ‘Café au Lait’, ‘Jowey Winnie’ and ‘Burlesca’ from divisions and cuttings. The Pithouse also starts filling up with ranunculus and anemones flowers that were planted last autumn, two very beautiful early-spring blooming species that kick off the new growing season in style, while outside in the Walled Garden, the first of the scented narcissi are bursting into flower.
If you are thinking of starting your own cut-flower patch, then March is also a brilliant time of year to start prepping the ground for planting. Many of the best, most productive kinds of cut-flower species love a bright, sheltered position in full sun and a fertile, friable, free-draining soil, exactly the kinds of growing conditions that Killruddery’s giant cut-flower border can offer. But we also like to help nature along with the addition of a generous weed-suppressing mulch of well-rotted manure, something that the garden’s earthworm population loves every bit as much as its cut-flower plants do.
KILLRUDDERY CUT FLOWERS – FEBRUARY
Flowers. Perhaps I am not alone in having childhood memories that frequently lead down a path lined with flowers. Observations of tiny pink rock plants and the bells on heather; marveling at snow drops, solomons seal and lupines, fox gloves, daisy chains, bluebell forts, moss, fern and primrose hedges, roadsides of montbretia. I suspect many of us have memories punctuated with flower moments. My flower obsession – moments punctuate my life.
Way back in June 2009 we opened our Tea Room. I recall I sought the very most impactful flower we had in the knotted garden, to sit upon the large singular table we set for communal dining. I cut a pale, floaty-feather pink flower from a peony tree and placed it in a polished glass jar. I began to dream of a line of plants, grown purposefully to supply Killruddery’s vases.
At that time, the Walled Garden felt much like the Secret Garden, with whispers of formal layout and tiny remains of old planting, such as a beautiful lily which grew beneath overgrown thorns in the remains of the Pithouse. There were grass and ivy tangled apple trees, which had not been pruned in twenty-five years, and blackberry brambles that grew out of various corners undisturbed. As we began to serve soups, scones and teas to the small trickle of people who knew of Killruddery’s sleepy gardens, we stretched our green fingers to cultivate the Walled Garden once again. The toil and effort, reward and satisfaction have been greeted with delight. The apple trees are much restored, the brambles have long since disappeared and the gardens have, after much trial and effort, been organised for a good deal of efficiency. And of course there is more to come!
Our Walled Garden has two teams: Volodymyr who (with the help of Maria and Filip) works a generously-sized Kitchen Garden under the direction of Market Gardener Dermot Carey (consultant), to grow veg for our Farm Shop, Cafe and House; and Maria who (with the help of Volodymyr and Filip) farms our Cut Flowers under the guidance of and with great input from Fionnuala Fallon and Richard Johnson of the Irish Flower Farm. Our Head Gardener Daragh Farren, on top of managing a formal 17th-century Garden, now also has the regenerated Walled Garden to oversee.
I have committed to our Cut Flower obsession, and it manifests on each table we set at Killruddery. We want to wow you with bunches for your table from our Farm Shop, we want to adorn weddings with our flowers, and we want to expand our Botanical Series of Workshops. Here is where we introduce Aiva Veinberga, a florist abundant in both style and skill who has joined us this week. She is about to launch our 2021 flower season with Flowers for Valentine’s Day. I invite you to follow along as we develop our Cut Flowers with blooms for rooms and blooms for celebrations.
Soon as a Cut Flower team we will complete our Cut Flower manifesto, we want to use Seasonal Flowers, sustainably grown, flowers that show love by favouring carbon neutral solutions to growing and sourcing. So far our Cut Flower season has lasted well from March to the first few days of November, refreshed for Christmas season with greenery and wreaths. But what of Valentine’s Day? Do we import flowers if we can’t supply roses in February? There are European organic growers who do things beautifully, but if they come with a big carbon footprint, is it worth it? Instead we offer six weat selling paper white narcissi planted in a terracotta pot, a little moss and some fine twigs to allow them charming support. We offer foraged branches with winter- spring flowers, not aiming to be summer in winter. We offer to replace a February red rose with a hyacinth or sweetly chosen daffodils.
All of these ideals are a work in progress, we promise to offer each arrangement with charm, to a high standard and in great style! Watch this space. We want to make this year, the year KILLRUDDERY CUT FLOWERS bloom, to honor this and to share our learning, I’ll be dedicating one blog a month to telling our Cut Flower Story as it unfolds.
Yours Truly; Lady Ardee