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.
Since I started Fleur du Jour as a sort of countdown to Spring and fresh garden flowers, I find it necessary right about now to remind everyone of the simple beauty of soil. Is it not the soil which nourishes the plants, holds the roots, houses the microfauna, holds the water, and feels so incredibly wonderful as it runs through our fingers? I don't know about you, but we just had two snowfalls, are completely snow-covered, are expecting more snow in another day, and then one or two more snow "events" (some event, huh?) in the upcoming week, so I am suddenly really missing the beautiful brown soil and welcoming spring green grass, which grows between my flower rows. Since I am in a suburban neighborhood, I try to make my flowers fit in, hence the 4' flower rows separated by about 30" rows of suburban-familiar lawn. Even with the loss of space to lawn cover, this little flower farm that could, known as Butternut Gardens, cranked out nearly 45,000 cut flower stems in 2014. Here's to nice, warm organic soil! Hope to be working it by mid March, which means only 49 days to dirty hands and fingernails. Yahoo!
While new peonies are introduced every year, some of our garden favorites, and most popular cut peonies, were introduced in the the late 1800''s and early 1900's. Sarah Bernhardt, a favorite pink variety was first introduced in 1906, while Duchesse de Nemours was introduced in 1856 and remains a sought after white. Some of the popular coral varieties were more recently introduced - Coral Charm in 1964 and Pink Hawaiian Coral in 1981. I am sure they will remain popular for centuries to come. This spring I expect to offer another very interesting old-timer called Gay Paree. It is a pink and white two-toned peony, which I think will be absolutely spectacular for event work and everyday bouquets and arrangements. Gay Paree was first introduced in 1933. Imagine the changes our world has seen. If peonies could talk! Only 120 days, and many, many snowflakes to peonies 2015!
As the snowflakes shush to the ground here with a soft chorus and our Blizzard 2015 unfurls, I call upon Peonies for today's Fleur du Jour and thoughts of spring. It is magical watching peonies develop from the tightest round buds akin to pin heads, to hard, marble-like buds, and then slightly-open marshmallow buds, which finally burst open into breathtaking blooms.
Throughout, it is common to see ants marching up and down the stems to garner the sweet sugars, which peonies secrete as their buds develop. Peonies can live for decades, and some for even more than a hundred years.
For those of you in the New York metro region, which includes me, who are prepping for 1 to 2 feet of snow, I can't think of a nicer Fleur du Jour to highlight today than Hyacinth. I will sit here and just dream of Hyacnth's sweet, sweet fragrance. I did, for a number of years, force Hyacinths into bloom for winter farmers' markets, but have since decided to grow seasonally only. I must say, I do miss the forced bulbs. Between hyacinths, tulips, grape hyacnths, paperwhites and narcissi, you really can create a stunning midwinter show to boost the spirts. For outdoor growing, based on last year's first cut date of April 10th, we have only 82 days to fresh cut Hyacinths. When the blizzard expected during the next few days passes by, it will undoubtedly seem like an eternity to these fragrant beauties, but let us enjoy the wonderful winter snow cover while we have it, for it does indeed help the plants in the ground, and let us find patience within us for the grass and flowers to appear once again.
Fleur du Jour is my way of bringing the beauty of fresh cut flowers into our lives as we feel, perhaps, a bit grey to match the winter weather, although today was a real sparkler around here. Yesterday I offered up a marvelous subtle spring tulip. Today a very different approach - vibrant Dutch Iris with equally vibrant tulips, columbines and allium. Dutch Iris are planted every fall. Although I do get some repeat bloomers in following springs, I could not depend on them for the number of blooms I require (or desire). Based on last year's first cut date of May 20, only 119 days to go to those gorgeous deep purple iris. I know that sounds like longer than we want, but that's why we have the likes of anemone, ranunculus and poppies, which burst open even earlier!Enjoy.
Of course I had to put tulips into my Fleur du Jour postings! Spring wouldn't be spring without tulips. While we usually can't wait for bright reds and yellows to give us just the perfect pick-me-up that we need as we slog through the sometimes cold, rainy or blizzard-filled days of March, I chose, instead, to highlight one of the softer tulips grown last year at Butternut Gardens. Oh, the reds and yellows were there, as well. Never a worry about that since some 2400 tulips went into the ground the previous fall. Here for your viewing beauty I present a gem, which adds a really nice, cool feel to spring bouquets, and on its own. Based on 2014 first cut date, we can cross our fingers for tulips in another 93 days. Enjoy!
I think it safe to say I have a love hate relationship with winter. While I savor a slower pace than what is afforded during the active growing season, and I love the feel of crisp winter air, I greatly miss the sight and fragrances of fresh cut garden flowers and all that goes into working the land. To help get me (and you) from point A (midwinter) to point B (Spring flowers) I have decided to put forth a Fleur du Jour. Today's Fleur du Jour is Bachelor Button. Last year I cut 3,765 Bachelor Buttons, with the first cuts on May 18th. That makes it only 120 days until Bachelor Buttons! Woot. Woot. Are we there yet? This year's first Bachelor Buttons have been in the ground since last fall and are looking great. Can't wait for this versatile beauty.
It's that time of year when every seasonal flower farmer is truly missing the flowers. Sure, there are seed orders to fine tune, equipment repairs to be made and all the rest. It is not as though I am not busy every day. In fact, there is little time off in this job, especially for a farmer florist, who also does floral designs, weddings and events, as well as grow flowers. As I think back to the season past, I feel the need to reveal some of the perks of the job - weird as they may be - and which I so miss as I look out the window on a rainy December day. Today I'll just point to a few.
In no particular order, here goes. I am in my flower rows everyday of the growing season and many days before flowers appear, as well as after they are gone. It doesn't feel right to not be out there. Maybe I don't love it when it is raining on me or super cold or really windy when I am trying to do some jobs, which in do not in any way, shape or form require wind as a helper, and I don't love having my hair whipped around my face and totally messed p by wind, but I love being outside. I love smelling fresh, clean air. I love smelling air after it rains. I love smelling air on hot, humid summer days. I love smelling warm soil inside a plastic low tunnel when there is snow on the ground outside the tunnel. I hugely love the many fragrances of blooming stock and tuberose and lilies. How can flowers have so many different scents? Even chrysanthemums, which I have typically considered somewhat acrid-scented, have a very soft, subtle, sweet scent when coming out of my gardens.
Speaking of scents, I love, love, love running a hose to spray the basil!
Have you ever been totally surrounded by basil fragrance?
I mean TOTALLY surrounded, as in infused?
Grow some basil (or a few rows of it) and give it a hand watering! Wow!
The really cool thing is I grow a bunch of different varieties and they all have unique fragrances! Wahoo. I am in Heaven. I know I am.
And, by the way, anyone else around here missing the glorious scents of our scented geraniums? Ummm, yeah.
Here's another scent I really like - the scent of
honey. Yep, honey. When my hydrangeas are
blooming and bees are visiting, standing next
to these great big balls of flowers is like
sitting on the edge of a honey jar. It
practically bowls me over.
The same thing happens with goldenrod. One cultivated variety, in particular, blooms a bit later than all the rest so is a star bee attractant. the great thing about the great honey caper is the scent comes with the flowers.
So, when I cut them for an arrangement,
people's houses and event spaces can smell of
both flowers and honey. So sweet!
The big black blobs in the goldenrod photo to
the left are bees. It does make cutting a bit
awkward! Usually have bumble bees, honey
bees and others at the same time.
Finally, since I am speaking of scents, I'll share another secret obsession of mine: opening the cooler door when it is full of flowers. Well, I don't mean opening too often because I DO want to keep them cool, with that being the idea of the cooler afterall. Any visitors to Butternut Gardens definitely get "the open door" treatment, which consists of my opening the cooler door, standing back and partaking, with my visitors, in the glorious cool waves of mixed flower "perfume." Ahhhh. could do it forever. In fact, I think I'll take a walk now in this nor'easter of a rain storm just to see what it smells like out there, see what's growing, and give myself some hope for spring.