January at the farm
In a normal January, the floristry industry takes a deep breath in. We indulge in gloom – knowing that February is around the corner – and from then on in , we sail off into the sunset of March with armfuls of narcissi, mad tulips, billows of blossom and van sunrises before 7am.
I thought I was duty bound to perhaps write a post that used the concept of spring as a vehicle to push the idea of hope à la every influencer on Instagram. But as basic biology, photosynthesis and sense prevail, I can’t. It’s winter. It’s not spring. And if there was ever a January that was hard, it is this one. I hope that you have all revelled in the gloom of it all, lapped it up, and let it seep into every bone in your body.
At the farm, it’s all mud. All I see is mud, I dream in mud and I walk around wearing what Sarah from Nettlewood Flowers calls ‘clay clogs’ (really good leg workout ). If you’ve got clay soil, you’ll know what I mean. There’s some debris still to be cleared from last year’s annuals. I like to give myself one small task a day and if I manage to complete it, it’s a good day.
January at the farm has been a reminder to me that things need to be dormant in order to come back stronger, better and more vibrant. So this January, I’m going to channel my inner hydrangea, stay gloomy and come out for a good time in August.
Meet the sole object of my affection this winter
This time last year, I was cutting snowdrops, dwarf iris, and other short stems perfect for the shot glasses that can’t be used during dry January. I didn’t plant any this year. I think I arrogantly decided I had bigger fish to fry and ultimately tiny stems don’t sell. They’re the OG culprit of a florist’s indulgent tendencies.
This year, the arrival of some very early, very skinny and sporadic Icelandic poppies have blessed my kitchen table and no doubt bored you to death on social media. If I’m honest, they were an experiment but have been the sole object of my affection, as they are the only flower giving me anything to write home about at the moment, quite literally.
English grown poppies are so very different to handle, especially when you are used to the sturdy cabaret performance normally put on by their Italian relatives. They are skinny and sporadic. Sometimes lasting for a day, sometimes for a week. You’ll be lucky if you have two in full bloom in your vase at once before one starts wilting and another starts to unravel. They are delicate beyond belief and move and grow towards the light in a way I haven’t seen in any other flower. So far I’ve not managed to part with many, but I’m working on letting go and getting them into the bunches slowly but surely.
Getting forced into a spring submission
Despite my self deprecating tone, I have been forced into a spring submission. As I start to see the first shoots emerging on the farm, I see life creeping back into the patch: the first fritillaria, muscari and hyacinth lifting their weary and waterlogged heads and I get a resounding feeling of hope for the future. I know that the next few months will bring days that echo the pre-Corona days.
We will watch tulips unfurl in the soft spring light of the new studio, knowing they are too old to sell but too captivating to compost. There will be days when the scent of the narcissi is overwhelming and someone says the studio smells like wee. The hyacinth itch will give somebody a terrible allergic reaction, but it will all be worth it for the sensory experience that can normally only be achieved by really fancy perfume shops and ultimately nobody will want to pay for the expensive frits. But we love them, so we will just watch them die, their snakeskin petals fading as they open up into a full star formation before a death defying confetti shatter on their final day. It will be enthralling, even though we were complicit in their death penalty.
The patch for me is a place of solace. It’s somewhere to dig deep into the inherent knowledge of plants that have been subtly handed down to me from my farming lineage. A distraction and a place to stop, heal and I’m sure the irony isn’t lost on you here but grow.
It would be easy to say that we waded through last year’s turbulent events and imply it was similar to swimming in mud. Truth be told – it was as if we fell from a great height into a cowpat that was precariously perched on a riverbed, which we then slid into and got lost downstream, only to emerge in a dam of never ending lockdowns and tier 4 cycles as did almost everyone.
My message here really is stay sad, choose your favourite annual or perennial of choice and live like that flower because there really are brighter and more abundant days ahead.