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.
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.
Some of the most lovely spring flowers, which everyone wants in their bouquets - Anemone and Ranunculus - are tucked in the ground here at Butternut Gardens, hopefully well-protected from the coming winter cold.
The Anemone run the gamut from striking red to red and white bicolor to lovely pastels and more subtle dusky blossoms.
My Ranunculus will cover the absolutely delicious sherbet palette of colors - peach, salmon, orange and pink.
Neither of these bulbs overwinters well without a bit of added protection, so the low tunnels are up! Also called low hoops, short for hoop houses, or caterpillar tunnels, these low hoops will keep the soil at more moderate temperatures, and enable these two fabulous flowers to flourish.
Before I plant either the Anemone or Ranunculus
in the ground, I let them develop a good root
system in a moist medium under more controlled
temperatures. That way I give them a good head
start. They do want to grow.
After a good period of time, you would be amazed
by the wonderful roots that both Anemone and
I am always amazed by
Here's a shot of the little octopus-looking
Ranunculus with all of its wonderful white roots
ready to be put into the ground under the low
Into the tunnels they go. Five low tunnels are currently harboring a wonderfully-warm (relatively) climate for all of these beauties. On one recent day, my visiting grand dog, who has helped me all summer with the flowers, decided it was necessary to enter one of the tunnels to inspect for mice and voles. I escorted her out, and thanked her for her loyal efforts! Took out the leaves as well.
Never-ending inspections taking place here!
So many wonderful couples came my way through two recent wedding expos in Connecticut. The welcoming Fox Hill Inn in Brookfield recently hosted a Wedding Steps Expo and was followed by another Wedding Steps Expo held at the gorgeous Water's Edge Resort in Westbrook. Wedding expos are a great place for couples to meet vendors, get ideas, and begin planning for their wedding day.
I love meeting with couples, often with families and friends, to talk flowers. While I don't have a lot of time to go into all the individual details of each wedding, I am able to answer a number of questions specific to a good number of wedding visions and also to comment on issues which most couples face. In addition, of course, I am able to talk about Butternut Gardens and how my Evelyn Lee Floral Designs often differ a bit from designs of others. I am the only flower farm in Fairfield County. My designs are definitely garden-inspired. They incorporate so much rich material fresh from the field and showcase a wildflower, or simply wild look. While tighter arrangements can be made, the looser, more natural feel is definitely what most brides seek when working with me.
As I design in the late weeks of autumn, I love
working in some of the best of the local vegetable
At both shows I decided to create an interesting
mix of blooms and veggies around a hurricane
lantern. You can see it here in the lower right. Kale,
carrots, peppers and more, including a soft plume
of broom corn sparkle among the mums, dahlias
Here it is closer up.
I was also able to bring a sweet arrangement showcasing a rustic look with zinnias and sweeping Baptisia foliage in a fabulous green vase.
Didn't you know, one of my delphiniums joined in!
It is not unusual for some of the spring-bloomers to send up fall blossoms.
You might notice, in your own landscape, for example, that the azalea near your house offers up a few blooms at this time of year.
Nature has its wonderful own way, and I am absolutely willing to work with it.
Hence, a striking blue accent to this lovely grouping.
Brides dream of their bouquet.
So, how could I go to an expo without some hint of what a bouquet might look like?
For both shows I took a lavender and white combination which popped with dahlias.
Deep purple, ivory and lavender ribbons flowed, and how could I help but sneak in some totally awesome ornamental kale with its soft green and lavender-pink lacy leaves.
To add to the softness of it all, dusty miller nestled in quite nicely as did one of my favorites - the grey-blue ageratum.
To those of you who have waited so patiently for this year's crop of Tuberose, it is time to celebrate!
The 2014 Tuberose is a-bloomin'.
Many of you have said the fragrance of this beauty reminds you of Jasmine.
Many have said it reminds you of Hawaii.
Others think Gardenia.
For those of you who do not know Tuberose or its allure, prepare to fall in love!
Though not large in size, each of the waxy flowers packs quite a wallop of a scent as the blooms spiral open up the stalk.
Some have called this the secret lily, owing to the fact that a number of lily varieties also have such a strong fragrance.
Tuberose is not a rose and not related to roses. Tuberose is related to Agave plants.
In the field, I leave a number of flowers so I can enjoy the scent for quite a few weeks in late summer and early fall. These few flowers send off fragrance, which wafts through the entire front garden. During the heat of the day, I smell very little of it. Come late afternoon and dusk, however, the fragrance is intense. This is because Tuberose is a night bloomer. In its native Mexican habitat, the Tuberose is pollinated by nocturnal moths.
Tuberose is not hardy here, but it is quite easy to dig each year and store. So, that is what I do. I plant in the spring in late April or May. To allow for the best drainage, I mound the soil a bit so as to actually plant the tuberose very close to the natural soil level. I add a dash of bone meal. Then I cover it with only an inch or two of soil. After watering in, I wait. Fortunately, I do not have to wait as long as one waits on tulips or other spring-flowering bulbs. For the bulk of the summer - some 90 to 120 days - the Tuberoses remain as tufts of light green foliage less than 6 inches tall. Then the magic happens. Flower stalks grow to 3-4 feet tall. I could extend the bloom time by staggering plantings in the spring, but I generally find some variability in bloom time from plant to plant.
Many of my Farmers' Market customers line up for bunches of Tuberose 'straight up' - no other flowers needed. For several weeks these customers return faithfully for the fragrance, which they report fills their entire apartment or home. My weekly subscription customers can look forward to either a bunch of Tuberose added to their order or a few stems mixed into their bouquets. As you can see here, I also enjoy tucking Tuberose into arrangements. Their clear white flowers and sweet fragrance are highlights of each growing season.
When the season comes to a close, I cut back the foliage and dig the Tuberose. For several weeks I let them dry in the sun on sunny days, and bring them inside if precipitation is on the way. Once fully dry, they will be good to go until next spring. Gems! Absolute gems!
Now that we are into August, one of my favorites - Ageratum - is hitting the bouquets big-time. I just love this soft, powdery grey-blue gem. What a heart it has! Keeps on blooming until frost, but makes a very immediate departure at that time. My mother used to grow Ageratum. Every summer, to complement her beautiful perennial beds and rock garden, she also planted an annual garden around our grass courtyards. Every summer she went with a red, white and blue theme, using the low-growing white Alyssum, the medium-sized blue Ageratum, and the taller spikes of red salvia. Lots of planting. Lots of summer color. No mulch. At the time, mulch was not used nearly so much as it is today. I cringe at the thought, but she was from Iowa, and whoever mulches their acres of corn?
The Ageratum I grow is hardly my mother's Ageratum. While puffy mounds of color were perfect for her garden beds, what I am looking for is far greater height.
My varieties of choice are either 'Blue Horizon' or 'Blue Planet.'
Every year I have roughly 300 Ageratum plants, from which i cut thousands of gorgeous stems of flowers. The touch of blue is a wonderful accent for the many bright summer - blooming flowers, but also goes beautifully with the softer tones, such as the rose, peach, and white zinnias. It looks equally nice with some lime green zinnias.
As we move later into August, and on into September, Ageratum adds a lovely touch to many dahlia-centric arrangements and bouqets.
It looks fabulous with white, lavender, peach, and almost any color at all.
Come fall, when we find the gardens moving into the more bronzy tones, I find Ageratum continues to shine. It so very often adds just the right touch of contrasting color to make everything else really pop to life. From October Dahlia bouquets and arrangements into November Chrysanthemum presentations, Ageratum makes a welcome splash. While this gathering of autumn color would be marvelous on its own, doesn't it gain from the little hints of blue afforded by a sprig or lavender statice and some of that powdery blue Ageraturm?
Summer is here.
It is sunny and hot (sort of).
The beach gear is ready.
You are turning your sights to summer entertaining.
All you want to see is a sunflower!
For many, sunflowers are the go-to summer flower.
With their bright yellow flower heads, they brighten your day in an instant.
In the early summer, and for nice contrast in the fall bouquets, the light-centered sunflowers are quite popular. In the heat of the summer, in July and August, the dark-centered suns are a favorite year after year.
I sow sunflowers from spring to about mid-summer to ensure I have them available from about July to almost up to frost. Different varieties have different light requirements for optimal growth, so I change varieties as the season progresses.
This week I had both dark-centered suns and light-centered suns. They were grown with the goal of having large heads for sunflower-only bunches. For bouquets, I like to grow smaller-sized sunflowers instead.
Here's a nice close-up of a couple of light-centered suns...
... and here is one of the dark-centered varieties.
This one I'll leave in the field.
Once a bee pollinates a sunflower, I leave it to develop seeds for birds and little ground critters, and that's just fine by me.
As a general rule, I strive to cut sunflowers before they are fully open to ensure the longest vase life.
For bouquets and arrangements, my goal is to grow smaller sunflowers, rather than larger ones. They seem to work better because they do not take over the whole bouquet. Don't these look great in this bouquet of bright summer colors?
To help keep sunflowers on the smaller size, I grow them closer together. It's like having a single tree growing near an old stonewall, soaking up all the sun, water, nutrients and having room to spread out versus a group of trees growing closer together, which have to share all the good stuff and tend to grow upward, but not as much outward.
Cutting sunflowers and prepping them for your bouquets and arrangements takes a bit of effort. By the time you see them, I have removed many large leaves from the length of the stem. I usually try to strip the stems in the field as natural compost.
At the end of the day, a nap is usually in order for my number one helper.