The Little White Cottage is Beauty in Motion!

So, The Little White Flower Cottage isn't ACTUALLY moving, but what IS in motion are the flowers and the growing season. I think of the flowers that were in the ground and bouquets just a few weeks ago and a month ago, and I consider what I have for you now - today - and it amazes me how fast this growing season is going past me. Hellebores, daffodils, forsythia - long gone. Tulips... anemone... out of here...  So right now, the peonies are just getting ready to flood the gardens with their blooms. I grow a number of varieties so I can extend the bloom time. My first ones are always coral. I have started tucking scattered blooms into some of the bouquets. A number of white, blush and pink varieties will follow, along with the "reds" which are more a purply-red than a bright orangy-red. Finally, I have a bicolor one, which is fuschia-colored and white. Peonies aren't the only thing going on here, however. I go outside and suddenly the iris, false indigo, geum, columbine and so many others are staring me down as if to say, "Watch me now!" I don't feel so on top of things. 

If you want to see what a year in the garden looks like, please stop on by at this rockin' Little White Flower Cottage, my new little retail space right here at Butternut Gardens. You can find it, and so many amazing flowers, at 1120 Hulls Highway, Southport. Come by often, even just to look, to see what's growing. I think you'll love it.

When Pigs Fly....

The Little White Flower Cottage here at Butternut Gardens is open for retail flower sales. Come by to pick up some fresh flowers right where they are grown. 

The Little White Flower Cottage here at Butternut Gardens is open for retail flower sales. Come by to pick up some fresh flowers right where they are grown. 

The Little White Flower Cottage at Butternut Gardens had its big day today as it opened for retail flower sales of my farm grown flowers. I loved showing off TLWFC to so many of my flower friends. Thank you to all for stopping by.

In case you couldn't make it today, you can try to beat the Nor'easter and stop by tomorrow - Saturday, May 13 between noon and 6 PM or come on by with Mom on Mother's Day, Sunday, May 14 between 10 AM and 4 PM. Maybe best to wait until Saturday, so Mom doesn't blow away?

Within this magical little cottage you will find amazing (don't mind if I say so) flowers keeping cool in their nice cool, temperature-controlled cooler. You don't know how happy this makes me. I hate, yes, strongly dislike, working so hard to grow awesome flowers and then not getting them to you in as cool a fashion as possible. So, cue the cooler. And cue the huge smile on my face! To think, I used to bring ice to put into the buckets at the farmer's markets! I know my flowers are super fresh when I cut them, but ninety-five degrees is 95 degrees, folks, and once that flower is cut 95 degrees is NOT ideal. Neither is wind.

Going forward, the Cottage might need a day off after Mother's Day weekend, just to rest up a bit. After that, you will be able to visit this magical little cottage whenever it is best for you. It will be open and full of flowers pretty long hours every day of the week. So, forget about racing to the Farmer's Market before it closes. Forget about having to drop the tennis racket, or pack up the beach gear to meet market hours. Take a casual little drive over to the cottage whenever it suits your schedule. The Little White Flower Cottage will be holding some sweet flowers just for you.

Weathervane on top of the Butternut Gardens LLC barn near the Little White Flower Cottage.

Weathervane on top of the Butternut Gardens LLC barn near the Little White Flower Cottage.

Closing up for the night, after day 1, wasn't easy, but this flower farmer needs a bit of rest so it was, "Good night Little White Flower Cottage. Good night pig flying over the barn. Good night Moon." 

Tomorrow is another day.

Mixed bouquets, straight bunches, and flowers in vases are all available.

Mixed bouquets, straight bunches, and flowers in vases are all available.

Tulips and Poppies for Spring

We have blast off, folks!  

As I am busy trying to get things set for retail sales at The Little White Flower Cottage here at Butternut Gardens, I am also working my "real job" of getting seedlings planted, and, yes, actually cutting flowers.  

Here are some of the goodies bursting into bloom right now.

Tulips are going to my local retail partners for the weekend! Some bright, and some more subtle. 

Slow Flowers movement continues to grow

As it says, "Love a Farmer!"

As it says, "Love a Farmer!"

I am thrilled that Debra Prinzing invited Butternut Gardens to be part of her wonderful article on the local cut flower movement - or Slow Flowers movement - that is included in the recently-released issue of Southern Farm and Garden magazine. Debra is a major advocate for American flower farming and locally-grown flowers. For years, among other things, she has offered weekly podcasts related to the Field to Vase movement. Southern Farm and Garden is an absolutely gorgeous publication - one you want to read and view time and time again. It is available through subscription or at Barnes and Nobel stores. Please look for it.

Want to learn how to make a gorgeous Spring Centerpiece?

Last night's workshop was jam-packed with gorgeous spring flowers and, boy, was I ever amazed by the finished designs my "students" put together.  When teaching, I take a step by step approach and then stand back and let the creativity and experimentation take over.  There is always, always, always a moment when I look at the designs and freeze because the beauty and individual expression of design simply overwhelm me.  Happened again last night!

With the upcoming holiday weekend in mind, I challenged workshop participants to craft a design which could be lightly freshened up for next weekend if they are hosting a gathering. We put in bonus potted pansies which enhanced the designs and can be planted outside for months of enjoyment. Thank you, wonderful flower friends, for the courage to give this a try. I hope you are proud of your creations. I know I sure am! I hope to see you again at a future workshop.

DIY Wedding Flowers - a workshop recap

As mentioned in my last post, I am looking forward to a great season of growing AND an expanded workshop and speaking schedule. I'm totally psyched!  Today was a fabulous day for my first DIY Wedding Flowers workshop for 2016.  Two more are scheduled - one in June and one in September. Please see the Current Workshops page of this website to learn more and sign up. 

Beautiful bouquets put together by some beautiful gals.

Beautiful bouquets put together by some beautiful gals.

You don't necessarily have to be a future bride to participate. Anyone interested in design is more than welcome.  Helping get you started is extremely rewarding and fun for me, whether you are soon to be married, are soon to be starting your own design business, or are simply seeking an educational and therapeutic afternoon with the flowers. Today, I think we covered it all, from flowers, to budget, to scheduling and design. I'd say we really crushed it! Hugs!

Winter Summary

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Phlox in the gardens. This year I am branching out a bit more and will offer a nice selection of gardening workshops as well as floral design workshops. 

All in a winter's time-- so much goes on in the offseason around here, it is hardly just to call it an offseason. Starting with the basics, there is seed purchase, creation of planting plans, accounting roundup (who doesn't want to do this one) photo organization and, of course, overall business review and evaluation.

This winter, I have taken a very deep and thorough inventory of myself, as well as the operations of Butternut Gardens, and I am setting a few new and different priorities as a result. I will share with you Revalation #1 here and the first change coming to my operations.  Check back for future posts to see what other exciting and new directions in which I am choosing to go.

Revalation #1

So many times over the years I have been asked to teach others about gardening and basic landscape design as well as floral design. It stands to reason that as a flower farmer I might know a little about growing plants. I have, in fact, been a gardener nearly all my life since some of my earliest chores related to earning  my childhood allowance were garden- (or weed-) oriented. I also studied at New York Botanical Garden, became a Master Gardener trained in Connecticut decades ago, and worked at Oliver Nurseries in the Alpine and Perennial plants department under Priscilla Galpin Twombly. I have come to learn just how much I love teaching others, and how very much I want this to become a central part of what I do.  Face it, growing a whole bunch of flowers (45,000 or so) can become a bit isolating. As much as I love putting flowers in people's hands, I even more love putting knowledge at their fingertips. I also realize it is critical that I find a bit more balance in my life by doing non-farm activities as well as flower-growing. So, this year, I am greatly expanding my workshop offerings. I am also reaching out to groups to provide speaking engagements, and I can't wait to meet so many more gardening and plant fanatics as a result. I will be growing flowers, OF COURSE, but am actually downsizing a bit the amount I grow. I am looking to add to the number of varieties I grow, again, rather than reduce the number of varieties. One of my reasons for doing this is I wish to demonstrate to home gardeners that they, too, can grow a number of flowers for cuts and arrangements, which they likely believed they could not grow. Well, I want them to grow them. Because they can! 

As a result of this one shift in personal and business planning, some of my offseason has been spent updating and fine tuning my course syllabi, as it were, and associated handouts and powerpoint presentations for a host of new presentations and workshops. Boy, has it been both fun and rewarding.  At my age (not old but not young) I reap great joy out of helping others. I am super excited to see how many more people I can reach in my quest to share my gardening wisdom as well as flowers themselves. I am especially interested in working cutting gardens, pollinator-friendly gardens,  and earth-friendly gardens, into others' home landscapes and raising awareness of their value. In the floral design area, I am going to work very hard to hand DIYers the tools to put together most or all of their wedding flowers, and to help others acquire design skills to put great-looking centerpieces on their tables and throughout their homes.  Together we will all grow.

In the next few blog posts I will share more about my other winter revelations and where they will be taking Butternut Gardens and me in the upcoming season and beyond.

For now, Happy Gardening All!

TURNING OVER A NEW LEAF - JOIN ME!

Chopped leaves forming a mulch for perennial beds at Butternut Gardens. Shagbark hickory is a main contributor, hence hickory nut hulls are part of the mix in this area of the farm.

Chopped leaves forming a mulch for perennial beds at Butternut Gardens. Shagbark hickory is a main contributor, hence hickory nut hulls are part of the mix in this area of the farm.

I live and farm in a suburban area where “lawn-scaping” is a major part of the surrounding neighborhood’s landscaping. That being said, come this time of year, the number of leaves, which falls astounds me. Other than the few that scoot into the inner confines of foundation plantings, most leaves are carted out of the neighborhood, and out of surrounding neighborhoods, to be deposited in the composting area of the town dump. There they are mixed with wood chips, grass clipping, and other ingredients, to create future mulch and compost mixtures. I grew up on 30 plus acres of beautiful property. Leaf storage was never a problem, and my family enjoyed many turns on the lawn mower naturally chopping up and mulching leaves on our lawn back into the ground.  Although I yearn for a larger parcel again, here I farm on my suburban lots making the best of every inch.  For a number of years, I too, having limited space for leaf storage, moved many leaves offsite. This year, I changed my ways, and I have to say, I am nearly giddy with this change. This year just about all of my leaves stayed right here for current and future use. To handle this year’s garden cleanup I implemented a four-step system using common homeowner equipment. I desperately want to share this methodology with you because I KNOW there are many others like me whose land and gardens could benefit from saving their leaves. 

My go-to equipment for keeping my leaves on site: weed whacker, leaf blower, and hand mower.

My go-to equipment for keeping my leaves on site: weed whacker, leaf blower, and hand mower.

My first step of leaf clean up was to cut down leftover plant stems with my weed eater and create two separate piles of clippings. Stems from Phlox or other plants, which had any sort of mildew or unwanted disease condition were piled for removal. These I do not wish to retain on site. Stems in “clean” condition are being kept on site to be incorporated into future compost.  Using a weed eater with a metal cutting edge, rather than a string type trimmer, allowed me to easily cut thicker stems of perennials, such as Baptisia, Asters, and Peonies with one easy walk down the aisles.  I may very well do a second run down the aisles with hand clippers a bit later this season to remove any stem material closer to the plant crowns. 

With beds cleared of plant stems, I started up the leaf blower, gently steering leaves out of the beds and onto the grass pathways between the flowerbeds and onto the lawn more generally surrounding the beds. I also corralled leaves into a large pile on my paved driveway and into a couple of piles on site.

Leaf mulch on perennial bed.

Leaf mulch on perennial bed.

Step three was to bring out the hand mower. By making repeated sweeps over the leaves in between the rows and also in a couple of piles, including the pile on the driveway, I soon created a much more compact and manageable leaf situation.  For step four I brought the leaf blower back to life.  For a second time I walked through the grass pathways between the garden beds, and with a very, very gentle touch, I blew some of the shredded leaves back into the beds, and left some on the grass. From the larger piles of shredded leaves, I carted wheelbarrows full to layer on top of some of the garden beds. Most exciting to me, I still have some good size piles of shredded leaves, which I will combine with all of the green cuttings I have during next year’s growing season, to help build next year’s compost. To this mixture I will also add the stems from the plants that I cut in step one, once I shred them, either with my lawnmower or small chipper. 

So, why did I bother to do all of this?  To me, leaves are like the magic of this world.  It NEVER made sense to me to remove bio-product, only to add bio-product in the form of mulch carted in during the spring.  Granted, my flower harvesting removes a certain amount of plant material, and thus requires some periodic amendment, but the gardens will be much closer to self-sufficient if I keep what grows here right where it belongs.  In the wooded areas of my childhood property, tree leaves fell and stayed. New trees grew and flourished with no fertilizers added. The system worked well! 

A leaf is a gold mine to my plants. Just think about it: a tree’s roots go a lot deeper into the soil than I could ever dig or “double dig” and all the minerals available to those roots have become available to the leaves, which are now sitting within range of the roots of Butternut Gardens’ future flowering plants. Yahoo! Another gain?  Mycohrhizae.  These root fungi, found in the soil, in leaf mould (partially decomposed leaves) and, hopefully, on my plants’ roots, are extremely beneficial to my plants. In undisturbed soils, these mycorhizzae send out stringy white runners for, in some cases, miles if the soil is not disturbed! This lets plants take up soil nutrients from a far greater area than they can take up in the limited areas in which their roots grow. In this plant/mycorhyzzae relationship, plants give a considerable amount of its manufactured carbohydrates to  mycorhizzae as a source of energy.  As leaves decompose, you may very well find white stringy material, which is part of the mycorhizzal system. Next year, as I noted above, I will attempt to incorporate some ofmy leftover leaves into various compost mixtures, which will find their ways to more of my annual plantings.

Mulched leaves, and some which blew into my leaf mulch pile, and are not chopped up, showing fungal activity (white ares) starting to decompose the leaves. This leaf mould stage is one step in the decomposition process and is particularly beneficial to perennial plants, shrubs and trees.

Mulched leaves, and some which blew into my leaf mulch pile, and are not chopped up, showing fungal activity (white ares) starting to decompose the leaves. This leaf mould stage is one step in the decomposition process and is particularly beneficial to perennial plants, shrubs and trees.

Over the years, I have amended my soil with products brought in from offsite, and I might still have to do this a bit, but I can’t wait to see how fertile and fluffy my leaf-amended soil will be come spring, and I feel so great about knowing exactly what is going into my soil and having absolutely no fear that the amendments might contain residues I do not want in the gardens.  I hope you will consider saving your leaves next year and following my 4 easy steps for keeping leaves on site and helping your garden plants. Just remember to please wear eye protection/safety glasses, keep children, pets and other adults completely out of the way when you are using the noted machinery, and to wear ear protection.

Compost, resulting from decomposition of organic material - leaves, grass, plant stems, kitchen waste, and more, is the next step for decomposing leaves, and a great soil amendment. I am saving piles of chopped up leaves for next spring and summer, so I can mix it with more green material and create valuable compost.

Compost, resulting from decomposition of organic material - leaves, grass, plant stems, kitchen waste, and more, is the next step for decomposing leaves, and a great soil amendment. I am saving piles of chopped up leaves for next spring and summer, so I can mix it with more green material and create valuable compost.

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A compost/mulched product being incorporated into a new row.