As the last month of autumn passes and we move into winter, it is time to plan for next season and learn from the season that passed. In the last few days I had a few people ask me what I am growing for next season.
For me each month is highlighted with one particular flower that will be the most abundant on the farm at that time of the year. So let’s start with the earliest flowers to bloom.
Hellebores are already coming up and couple are already flowering however it is a bit early for them. I usually start mass harvesting around late July and all through August. These little guys are normally quite short, especially the double varieties but they provide a welcome colour boost when there is nothing else around. I only have one row of Hellebores planted but I will be contacting the grower soon and buying another row as I just adore these little guys and they are so easy to work with and maintain.
In September the sun starts to come out more and more and we see the start of windy days in this region. But it also means that Daffodils are out. I know people normally associate daffodils with just a boring yellow flower that everyone has in their garden but Alpine Blooms farm has you covered! We have pink, white, yellow and red, white and red and orange daffodils or as we prefer to call them Narcissus. They will surprise you with the variety of colours, and shapes but will still provide that beautiful fragrant feel in your home. I can’t wait to see these little guys pop-up and cheer everyone right up! They are also my partner’s favourite flower as they signal the arrival of spring and warm weather to come.
October! My favourite month now a days! Why you ask me… Well back in Russia I was born in May and that was the month for Tulips! In New Zealand we are upside down and my favourite gorgeous flowers arrive in October. This coming season I can’t wait to see all the beauty come-up! We have about 5000 tulips planted and if I did my ordering right then they should all be gloriously tall and gorgeous. The colour range is insane, we are going to go from yellow to orange, to red, to white, pink, stripy red and white, parrot and the list goes on. Just watch our Instagram for updates on what is available. Ah I am so excited I can’t wait to see them all flower!!
Then we move on to November. Last season this was a bit of a funny month. Tulips were almost all gone and we only had enough to fill a couple of orders. Peonies were not quite ready although some did flower like Coral Sunset. But as this is their second year we are still not a 100% sure if they are going to produce the blooms. So this year I have planted some Irises and Freesias as well as Gladioli Nanus. There are not many of them so I can’t really say that they are going to dominate the month, but I am looking forward to how this experiment will go as Irises are in the open air but Glads and Freesias are in the Hoophouse and covered in Frost cloth at the moment. So what will be the dominant flower you ask? Anemones! They start flowering earlier but usually first stems are too short to sell but by November they are glorious! Colours range from purple to white, pink and mixed colours like white and red or white with black middles. They are very hardy and last for ages in a vase and I must say I did not expect them to flower that much last year but they kept on going all the way till Christmas which was crazy! I have a full 16m row of these beauties this year and they are all safely tucked away and waiting for the warmer weather. In fact I will be covering them today with a small plastic hoop house and keeping them warm through winter.
In December fun starts! It is usually when wedding season ramps up 100% and flower farmers stop weeding and planting and tidying things up and just start cutting and watering and cutting again! We definitely have Peonies dominating the florist market at the beginning of December but as I mentioned before on the farm we don’t have too many of them and they are still quite young so we might not have enough this season to call it a dominant flower. At Alpine Blooms we start having lilies and Gladioli bloom but again we have a very limited number of these bulbs on the farm. My most sold and dominant flower will have to be Antirrhinum (or Snapdragons) for that month. I know it sounds weird as it is an annual and Christmas is coming and there are so many more summer flowers out there but Antirrhinum is an absolute trooper and they keep producing blooms as well as being hardy to elements and they are signalling all other annuals coming through and shining for us. I am planting quite a few of these guys this year and hoping they all come-up. They can be a bit fussy with coming up from seed but I am sure we can work together this time.
After Christmas and all the fun bits of December it is time to enter the heat of summer. In January you can expect a variety of offerings from the farm! I honestly can’t list all the flowers that will be growing and flowering through this month, you basically have a bit of everything, take your pick! January is annuals month. In general you have your roses and gladioli and other perennials or bulbs that are flowering but annuals are the shining knights of summer! I have to pick Cosmos as my flower of the month in January. These guys are producers galore! If you want to have colour in your garden and you think you don’t have green fingers, give these guys a go! They will grow anywhere and produce colour for months and months and you honestly don’t need to do anything to them apart from cut the flowers and give them some water every now and then. Colours are amazing, varieties are abundant and they self-seed everywhere so next year you will end up with even more of them, and they are a staple summer flower in any bouquet! I just love them! Going to have a full row of these guys this summer all different varieties and colours to fill buckets for everyone.
February is the month of Zinnias! I can’t even describe how easy and abundant these guys are! There are so many colours and varieties and shapes that the hardest thing about them is choosing which ones you are going to grow! I think I have about 10 seed packets (60-70 seeds/plants per packet) of zinnias ready to go and that was me restricting myself hard! They are just gorgeous and I love them and apart from being biggest wusses when it comes to frost these guys love hot, dry and water free environment so they are perfect for Central Otago where we have like 0 rain in summer. Look out for these beauties in our flower booth this coming summer and they will not disappoint. They last for ages in a vase and if they are picked at the right stage they dry well as well for all your wee winter projects.
Look at that just like this we are entering into autumn and getting ready for spring abundance again. March is a confusion month for me. This is the time when things start to slow down and go to sleep. But at the same time it is still warm and sometimes we can even go the whole March without frosts which kinda makes it a summer month. This year we obviously had Covid-19 to deal with as well right at the end of March which made things even more confusing. One little star for me this year was Asters! King Asters don’t mind mild frosts and can keep going through bad weather although learning from this season I might put a hoop on top of them for when it rains. Their fluffy flowers get so big that when the rain comes they get too heavy with all the water and drop to the ground. But again the amount of colours and varieties and just pure size of them is amazing! I have bought about 7 different varieties this year and have consulted a Russian grower on best way to grow them so hopefully we can get them in masses in 2021 and I am going to try and extend their growing season by succession planting and hooping them! Oh the joys of flower experimenting!
April this year was definitely a write off. But I can still tell you what was blooming on the farm. We had heaps of Cornflower, Penstemon as well as flowering Kale and some Roses. The frosts in March and beginning of April whipped out Dahlias, Zinnias and all other softies in one go and left us with very little choice. I think the stand out performers were Cornflower and Scabiosa. These guys just kept producing and kept making my day while I was pulling all the slimy frost bitten foliage out. They are simple and don’t mind being cold or wet. And they actually produce all the way through summer and autumn making them great work horses and providing that little colour in your life. I will need to plant something a bit more dominant for the future for the month of April but I have not come up with what it will be just yet.
And then we enter my birthday month! It used to be the end of spring and the beginning of summer with promise of warmer times but now it is definitely time to put everything to sleep and wait for the winter to pass. May this year has been dominated by Chrysanthemums. I had a very experimental year with them and I am afraid the quality has not been the best if we are talking about stems (flowers were exceptional and colours amazing!). But lesson is definitely learned and noted. I will be putting them in pots from next spring and kicking them outside with all other kids and then the time comes they will be going back in the hoop house to produce beautiful blooms for us. Keeping them in the hoop house the whole summer this year made them way too tall and when they hit the roof they started to bend back down creating hard stems to work with. But even with these challenges I will be ordering a few more of these guys soon as they have provided an amazing burst of colour just as we thought that we were all done for the year.
In June and July the farm will be taking a break and no flowers will be sold this year. However next year I will work harder through summer and autumn to dry flowers as there has been a huge interest in dried flowers on our website. So next winter I promise we will have more dried goodies available for anyone who would like them. I am also hoping to attend a couple of workshops on making things from dried flowers and hopefully can offer dried goodies to everyone from our little booth.
And there you go a year in my favourite flowers. I know you probably wondering where are the old fashioned favourites like roses and dahlias? We are growing these guys and they are on our farm but I must say the competition for them is quite big and there are several growers in the area that do much bigger production of them and have many more varieties available. So we only grow a small amount of them and we are not too worried about this. If someone wants a bunch of flowers with Dahlias in them that is absolutely doable but if you would like a boot load of Dahlias we will just work with other growers in the area to provide you with them.
And lastly I would like to say a huge thank you to everyone who has supported us this season and we are very thankful to you all for your time and love of flowers. As a small grower and a start-up one we keep coming across problems and mistakes that we most likely will repeat again at some point but it has been absolutely incredible to have you all on board and enjoying our flower journey. Have a great winter and we will see you all with heaps of colour in spring!