A week at Dead Head Flower Farm
In the second in a series of posts by different members of Flowers from the Farm, Lucy Marshall takes us behind the scenes of a week at her flower farm in Somerset.
As the schools go back and the cool nights begin, there’s a distinct sense of autumn rolling in, but September is still a busy month in the flower farmer’s calendar. Some say it is the start of the growing year – the time for new plans, for sowing seeds, and for clearing some of those bright summer blooms; so there is plenty to be getting on with this week.
Most things have flowered later than usual this year due to the strange seasonal weather. Even now I still have a huge amount in bloom, which means there’s a lot of maintenance to do. This mainly involves deadheading and clearing spent blooms. The plot may be a little weedy after the summer holidays, but there simply isn’t time to worry about this. A quick snip of anything getting overly thuggish will do for me.
Another key job at the moment is harvesting flowers for drying. A large portion of what I grow can be dried as either flowers or seed heads, which need to be cut on a dry day, then prepped and stripped before being hung up in my home. The process takes a lot of time, patience and care, but I absolutely love it. I’m always storing away what’s dried to make space for more. I build my stock for markets and website sales during the day, and in the evenings work on dried commissions, including the first wreaths of the season.
I try and whisk myself off for a few hours a week to keep on top of admin. There are always invoices and emails to send, website pages to update and socials to plan. These jobs easily get popped to the bottom of the list, but in fact they’re the nuts and bolts of running a successful business. If I leave them til the evenings, I’m just too tired to give them my full attention.
September is a great time to sow seeds for next year. When most flowers have finished or are slowing down, it feels amazing to see new seedlings popping up, and know that you’re getting ahead. I might do a late sowing of biennials around now too, just to hedge my bets and give me some later crops of those varieties. You never know what the weather will do, so succession sowing is always a good option if you have the space.
I will do a little tour of the field on a nice dry day to gather as many seeds as I can from plants that have gone over. Generally this is very easy to do, gives you the freshest seed possible, and means you can save your favourite colours. And of course the seed is free – it’s a win win!
Above all, I need to keep harvesting and selling fresh flowers – the backbone of my business. The dahlias have only really got into their stride in the last few weeks, so the field is still bursting at the seams with life and colour. The flowers haven’t got the autumnal memo just yet! I deliver locally in the Frome area 3 days a week, and sell wholesale to florists too. Some weeks that means I’m cutting flowers every day for fresh orders, and requests often come in last minute, which I do my best to accommodate where I can.
Now the schools have gone back, and childcare is available again, it’s time to push on with the business. I can catch up on the field and finish this season strongly, as well as making plans and starting to get going on next year’s flowers. There truly is no such thing as a quiet week in the life of a flower farmer.