Sunday, February 19, 2017

Time Flies When You Are Having Fun!

About this time of year each year in the dog days of Winter (which has apparently not gotten the memo here in Oklahoma, seeing as we were 86 degrees just last Saturday!) we flower farmers sit down and go over our pictures and notes from the last year's flower season. We do this to judge how much progress we made over the previous seasons, and to see what needs to improve as we rush headlong into the newest flower season.
This is now our fourth season as cut flower farmers. My hubby and I have come a long ways...and we have a long way's to go! We have big dreams and plan to really start laying the groundwork for those dreams this year.
Last year was a decent season: We had big heartbreaking losses due to weather, and we had several very happily successful crops. We learned what works and what doesn't in our climate, and we developed deep and lasting relationships with our customers on my long 190 mile delivery routes, twice a week. We made a lot of progress with landscaping the farm and getting infrastructure into place, and planted lots of beatufiul garden roses and shrubs which are thriving. We put in a fresh water well, which by the grace of God was NOT salty water -once drilled deep enough- and set up the site for our very large walk-in cooler.
We grew 80 varieties of specialty cut flowers, and also successfully overwintered a field full of 2,000 dahlias...not an easy thing to do.
And most of all, despite the heartache of losing our first most important crops, we had fun with the rest of the season. Each new flower variety that bloomed was treasured and thoroughly enjoyed...and for me, I got to stretch my wings a bit designing floral arrangements for friends and new customers.

So, without a further ado, let's take a look back through pictures shall we? We shall.

Spring Beauties!

























Monday, September 29, 2014

The Cut Flower Garden Of My Dreams!

What a wild and crazy Summer it has been! Hot and humid as always in Oklahoma in midsummer, but cool enough this year that our first foray into commercial flower farming was made a great deal easier than it would have otherwise been. We had glorious flowers all summer long and were able to have enough to make a 90 mile run to the florists every other day and also had more than enough to take to Farmers Market on Saturdays- another 90 mile drive...needless to say we have put a lot of miles on our little car, and learned many remarkable ways to stuff every square inch of space in that car to the gills with gorgeous blooms. When the lilies, english sweet peas, and tuberose were in flower the fragrance in the car was so powerful that I would arrive at the florists half asphyxiated from the long drive. It has been a wonderful experience designing and arranging flowers and meeting so many incredible people, all with such unique stories and lives. I have found my niche, my passion, my lifelong dream and hope to have this love of flowers and enjoy the smiles that they bring for all the days of my life.

As to what my husband and I planted this year; I have to admit that my eyes were much to big for my trowel, and as a result was not quite ready to plant the thousands and thousands of flower seeds, flower plugs, and plants which I amassed over the Winter and Spring. Instead of dozens of varieties I ended up planting less than a dozen...but there were about 10,000 of those total. Despite this I had a lot of fun making arrangements with these varieties and enjoyed the sheer color impact that they had, with the vivid and bright hues with which to make bouquets which varied daily and were never the same.

What I planted:
Tulips: 1800 perfectly wonderful fragrant beauties, enough said. Plan on 3,000 next year.
Sunflowers: Had one great crop and harvested and sold all of them. Should have had 8 more crops but the voles and rabbits ate them all every time I planted. Ended up with three outside cats as an emergency measure to get rid of the vole invasion. I planted my last crop a month ago and it is now blooming in the greenhouse. Just beautiful.
Dahlias: More than 300 different varieties, one of my all time favorite flowers EVER! They are absolutely amazing! Even in the hot summer they just kept going, and now in the first part of Fall they are churning out dozens of flowers everyday.
Gladiolas: Love them.
Tuberose: Love them. One open bloom on soft evening can perfume the entire garden.
Lisianthus: Planted more than 3,500...the reason that I didn't get much else planted for the season! Love this flower. It takes 5-6 months to grow from seed and it one of the most beautiful of all flowers. Will do this one again and again, despite it's difficulty.
Liliies: Oriental fragrant beauties, always a classic and very fun to grow. My husband loved these.
Sweet Peas: English classic. My favorite flower. So fragrant and with so many frothy clouds of soft colors. It was paradise to walk into a warm sweetly scented greenhouse on a cold early spring day with rows of trellised sweet peas climbing their way to the ceiling, blooming their heads off!
Celosia: These ended up way taller than me! Loved the foliage for my bouquets as well as the brightly colored flowers.
Delphinium: Beautiful as always. An elegant classic.
Stock: They really should have named this gorgeous fragrant beauty a prettier name.
Scented Geraniums: Wonderful and fragrant foliage for bouquets.
Ageratum: Will grow again. Great foliage for bouquets and long lasting.
Zinnias: The powerhorse of all cut flowers. Beautiful vibrant colors that every one loves, particularly the florists. Loved this one and am already looking forward to next season.

Thoughts: I enjoyed this season so much that I am not willing to let it go...Jay and I are planning to heat and light the greenhouse all Winter so that we can grow most of these flowers all year. With the cool weather we believe that the flowers will be better than ever at this time of year. And with a Winter indoor farmers market to go to there will be a good venue to sell them as well. With this in mind, my entrepreneurial husband is designing a quite unique wood burning rocket stove to blow heat into the greenhouse. The goal is to keep the temp at nights at 40 degrees, hopefully 50...and light the GH for 4 extra hours each night.
Next year: We will be doubling the flowers, with dozens of varieties which we are planting now to winter over as cool annuals outside under row cover. And we will be taking on weddings next year. I have really enjoyed arranging flowers this year and will be training this Fall to specialize in wedding flowers next year. With 4 weddings already lined up we will be quite busy around here. I can't wait work with these lovely brides to assist in making wonderful memories which will last a lifetime.


Now for pictures:




More pictures coming...lots and lots to cut to the right size...and it's late. This is what happens when I procrastinate writing on the blog for several months...it's like homework, it just piles up. I will catch up, I promise.




Sunday, April 20, 2014

Finally, it is Spring!!!

There goes my good intentions for updating the blog once a week! But hey, you can only do so much when you are digging in the dirt 24/7 taking care of a u-pick berry farm, a plant nursery, and now a cut-flower farm...add children to that mix along with a husband who slaves for me in what little time he has from his full-time job...and it gets a bit chaotic around here.

What's new in the field: Tulips! With their rich colors and fragrant gorgeousness it was a wonderful crop and the first wave of 1800 has found very happy new homes...now we are waiting on the next wave of 1400 tulips which should coincide with Mother's Day. Also new in the field, peonies are growing like mad in this crazy 80 degree one minute and 27 degrees the next weather we have been having, they have gotten a little bit wind burned from the constantly strong and -unusual even for us- winds that have we been having for the last two months...but they are hardy survivors and are putting out buds faster than I can nip them! Next up in the field are the berries; The blueberries that we planted last Spring are now fully established -despite the goats pruning them!- and have their first blossoms with lot's of new green growth. Jay and I have been busy laying plastic and planting strawberries...we intend to get 2000 strawberries into the ground over the next week. The blackberries and raspberries have also fully established themselves, and we are so excited to have some berries off of them this year! As for the flower field, we laid white plastic with our new mulch layer for the field, we are hoping to get the Lisianthus in the ground over the next two weeks, and with 5000 plants to settle in it will likely take the full two weeks because we will also be planting out sweet peas, dahlias, gladiolus, and tuberoses at the same time!








What's new in the greenhouse: With around 20,000 new plants -mostly all grown from seed over the Winter- the greenhouse is FULL! And we have ROSES! The first blooms started yesterday from Abbaye de Cluny a gorgeous apricot, huge bloom and fragrant hybrid tea rose...the fragrance is so intense that it hits you like a wave of deliciousness from the moment that you step into the greenhouse...it is moments like these in which I thank God that I am a flower farmer blessed with a love of the land and all things colorful and fragrant which feed my soul!

Happy Easter everyone! and come blessed Spring after the long cold Winter!


Sunday, February 9, 2014

Still Here!



I realize that is has been almost 7 months since I last updated this blog, but we are still here- and that in Oklahoma is an accomplishment! We have been extremely busy building a new greenhouse -this one is made out of 2 inch steel- and filling it with thousands of plants, bulbs, and flat after flat of starts. My talented husband has also designed a novel aquaponics system which we are trying out with roses for the cut flower market...more on that later.
 November 9th


Last Fall we invested heavily into turning much of the property around our house into growing fields for cut flowers, into to these we planted 2,400 tulips and daffodils and 390 peonies. Here it is February 9th and they are just now poking their heads up through the snow. I can't wait for the carpet of beauty that I have been imagining all Winter! The Peonies of course will not have any marketable stems until next year but maybe a few blooms will open this year -just so that I can look at them and smell their heavenly fragrance...you are not supposed to cut them in their second season from planting, they need to be undisturbed until their third season if you want several years of good yields of gorgeous dinner plate sized peony flowers.
After several hours of backbreaking trenching with a shovel, we got smart and used the tractor.
Like eggs in an egg carton!

Alden the serious with an amazing work ethic!

 As far as potted peonies are concerned: I just received a shipment of large tubers from Holland last week, and they are now available for sale to be planted this Spring or to be held over (recommended) in the pot until a Fall planting in October or November. Tubers are $24.95 for red, pink, and white varieties. Yellow Bartzella with it's huge lemon scented fluffy yellow flowers is $38.95. It is a prolific and early maturing bloomer and in it's second year often will produce upwards of 70 blooms per plant! These can be sold at your local farmers market for about $4-5/stem.


It has been one of the coldest Winters ever here in Oklahoma and across more than 2/3 rds of the United States. We were not able to finish the heating system for the greenhouse and so transformed my husband's home office into a growing room with shelves of grow lights and heat mats in every available space. We have started more than 5,000 seeds this way, and intend to start still another 5,000 or so as we closely follow the growing calendar that I spent many months creating. We are growing Delphiniums, Stock, Dianthus, Lisianthus, Rudbekia, Sweet Peas, Calendula, Pansies, Begonias, Roses, Petunias, Foxglove, Butterfly Bush, Dusty Miller, Tomatoes, Peppers, Squash, Pumpkins, Snapdragons and Geraniums....and it is only February 9th! We still have thousands of more Snapdragons to plant, Sunflowers, various bulbs, Peonies, more vegetables, Campanula, Gladiolus, Zinnias, Dahlias...and many many more that I cannot remember right now. Also in March 2000 strawberry starts will need to be planted for our u-pick berry field in orderly rows of plastic covered raised beds. I adore strawberries and am very excited to grow them again, this will be our third year trying to grow strawberries...or any berry for that matter!



This is our first year growing Sweet Peas Flowers and we discovered just how fast they grow! We planted the seeds without soaking or scarifying into 288 cell flats, covered them with plastic domes, and put them on 70 degree heat mats. 7 days later they sprouted, within three days of sprouting they had to be transplanted because they were 4 inches tall! We transplanted them in to 5" deep pots on trays and placed 15 trays of them (18 pots/tray) onto the living room floor because it is still too cold in the greenhouse for them. Lol. We have watched them in awe as they have grown more than an inch per day until they were 10 inches tall and starting to flop over. So I pinched them (cut the stems to the first leaf node above the soil), this will encourage stronger and bushier stems and will likely produce a better plant for cut flowers. I plan to put these babies into the ground this week in the greenhouse if the weather warms up. I will be using lovely and inspirational fellow flower farmer Erin's method from www.floretflowers.com to grow. Her blog has been the best guide ever to growing the various varieties of flowers and I am indebted to her for life! Her blog is truly eye candy and very uplifting and inspiring when I am feeling a touch overwhelmed. Here is a link to her wonderful post on sweetpeas. http://www.floretflowers.com/2013/12/my-favorite-sweet-peas/ and of course a picture to lend a flame to your Spring fever! Lol.