Winter on our English Flower Farm
Because all the flowers on our Hampshire flower farm are grown outdoors we are completely dependent on the seasons. Our English rose season ends when the first frost arrives and the farm begins to run at a slower pace following the dawn starts and long days of summer. This is also the perfect time for Rosebie, our founder and flower farmer, to do some travelling and for Rob, our farm manager, to take a very well deserved break.
In early November Rosebie joined global rose breeders and growers from around the world at IFTF (International Floriculture Trade Fair) in Holland. When Rosebie first started growing garden roses for the cut flower market – that is, roses that haven’t been genetically modified to extend their shelf life and remove their scent gene – industry insiders told her it would never work. More than twenty years later, the selection of flowers, herbs and foliage we grow is still unique to us but we experience a sense of strong support and camaraderie from rose growers around the world.
In December Rosebie was invited to speak at Fusion, Design, Future, the 2018 International Floral Design Trend Forum in Beijing. It was a pleasure for Rosebie to share her passion for the real English flowers we grow and her future predictions on such a prestigious platform alongside a stellar line-up of speakers that included Hideyuki Niwa from Japan, Dr Lisa Cooper from Australia and Christian Tortu from France.
Preparation and hibernation
Back on the farm, winter is a great time to prepare for the summer season ahead: prepping the soil, starting to prune the roses (we’ll prune for a second time in February), making plans, building and repairing. We’re always careful not to make things too tidy, though, leaving piles of leaves and straw around for hedgehogs and shrews to make a cosy winter home. If you read our Summer on the Farm post you may remember that we had a lot of baby hedgehogs or hoglets on the farm this summer. We are members of the Farming & Wildlife Advisory Group and part of the Countryside Stewardship scheme and caring for the natural world is vitally important to us.
We still have lots of English foliage on the farm: pussy willow, eucalyptus, viburnum, phillyrea (mock olive) and twisted willow are just a few of the stems we are picking this week. Hellebores, Lily of the Valley and our first crop of wonderfully scented Tulips are being carefully tended.
On our Sweet Pea farm in Chichester the winter crop of Sweet Peas is already half a metre tall. The plants are being carefully hand-tended every day to ensure they have the long, elegant stems we are known for. We would like to have Sweet Peas ready in time for Mother’s Day this year, but as it falls early, on Sunday 11 March in the UK, we’re going to have to hope for a lot of bright sunny weather to make that happen! Now is the perfect time to sow your Sweet Pea seeds on a sunny windowsill or in a greenhouse. You can find Rosebie’s tips for growing Sweet Peas here.
New course dates
Come and join us for our Flower & Garden Inspiration Day with Rosebie on Thursday 14 June when you’ll also get to pick flowers from the farm to make your own bouquet. Our farm is situated in the South Downs National Park close to Winchester and Petersfield (one hour by train from London Waterloo). You can find more details here.