Thursday, May 31, 2007

Testing lab

A large percentage of the flowers that I grow and sell are not the kind of flowers that are grown commercially as cut flowers. You will not find them in most florist shops, you cannot look them up in Alan Armitage's reference book on growing cut flowers. There are no DEFRA or USDA figures on yield, vase life or post-harvest treatment.

This is why I have my very low tech testing lab - a row of old glass bottles on the dining room mantlepiece. The site is typical of a house - not in full sun but open to the steam of the kitchen - the bottles are filled with plain tap water and the flowers get no special treatment bar searing where necessary.

For a flower to pass the test it has to last a week.

As I type this we have Gladiolus byzantium, (a small pink gladioli I first saw in the meadow at Great Dixter), Allium christophii; Briza media, (my favourite small grass), Briza maxima, (beautiful but a nightmare to pick); flag iris (which are just going to squeak it to a week I think), wild oats and a bright orange Iceland poppy.

It is an essential part of the process - to let the customer know how best to treat the flowers when they get them home. The gladioli for example will need a bit of flower food and a pinch of sugar in the water to give it the energy to open right up to the top of its spire.

The odd side effect is that this ever changing parade of individual bottles is quite my favourite thing in the house.


Gloria Hendry said...

Jane, I have been delighted with the flowers you send every week, but have been thinking it would be nice to know what they are. I use the plant food initially then change the water every 3 days and also cut a bit of the stems. I have had some of the flowers last two weeks. I had no idea until reading your blog about poppies that some stems need seared. Gloria

annakarenin said...

I have fox gloves in my bedroom at the mo should I treat them in the same way as the gladioli to get them all open.

Also this is really useful as I tend to treat all my flowers the same maybe you could add a blog on how to treat each type, I would find it very useful as I love cut flowers and you are so right they really do add something to a room.

Jane said...

Hi Gloria! Glad that you are enjoying the flowers. We have thought about putting in a note about what is in each bunch of flowers but didn't get around to it as time always seems to be short. If euphorbia or poppies are in a bunch there should be a wee note in it about how to treat them (euphorbias have to be seared as well if you cut above the mark on the stem but you have to be careful of the sap, some people are sensitive to it).
I shall try to remember to add a note to your bunch - I have done it in the past for a customer who was planning a garden and wanted to know what grows well in the area. From memory there would probably have been sweet rocket, allium christophii (comes out as a silvery purple globe) and nectaroscordum siculum (the one with the hanging bell shaped flowers)in last week's bunch.

Annakarenin - the gladioli need extra sugar to keep the flowers opening - it wouldn't do the foxgloves any harm (though make sure your vase is squeaky clean and add in flower food or 1/4 teaspoon of bleach to stop the water getting smelly). Foxgloves can make other flowers in a bunch last longer - I have seen some old recipes fora foxglove based flower preserver but due to its toxicity I haven't tried it.

weirdbunny said...

Your mantle peice looks truly stunning with all the invinidule bottles and flowers !

Gigibird said...

How delightfully artfully scientific!!

lampworkbeader said...

Thanks for the information about orientals I will give it a go. I have found that if you make a mixed posy out of a smallish bunch of flowers and put them in water with an elastic band still round them, they last a few days longer.
Best wishes L

the flour loft said...

The prettiest laboratory i've ever seen!
ginny x