Thursday, May 31, 2007
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.