Updated: Nov 26, 2020
Every week when we pick flowers and go into the shed to begin to design the bouquets I wonder what will come out for our customers. I never know, because the flowers decide for me what the bouquet will look like. It's a wonderful creative process that I enjoy every time I stand in front of the buckets of flowers and begin to arrange.
Our table stands in front of the open doors of the old shed up on the hill which stands over the river and out to the Blue Ridge mountains nearby and the view is as lovely as the flowers. Often one of the cats will join us to see what we are up to. This spring we had a little Carolina wren nesting on one of the shelves and so we saw her come and go for over a month as she sat on the nest and then hatched and trained her babies to fly. They were such an adorable little family and this was her second year in that nest. She is perfectly protected inside a closed building and is able to fly in and out of a broken window on the back wall. We obviously can't fix that broken window.
The many bulbs we planted in the fall allowed for wonderful bouquets and the mild winter produced absolutely amazing hellebores. We were able to use them as filler for our bouquets for many weeks, which was the most wonderful surprise. Next year, if the weather is good, we should have even more as our hellebore plantings mature. We get our hellebores from two sources: Sunshine Farms, owned by the amazing Barry Glick who has been to our farm a couple of times and whose hellebore beds high on a mountain in West Virginia are an incredible sight, and Walters Gardens.
Above are our tulips planted in a raised bed and tulips in crates picked and ready to go into the cooler. With our rocky heavy clay soil we find that raised beds are by far the easiest way to plant a large number of tulips. Some of these tulips were picked when more open then we would usually choose, but on warm spring days they can go from green and closed to open within hours and it's hard to stay ahead of them. We get our tulips and bulbs from a few sources: Ednie bulbs (Gloeckner), ADR, and Brent and Becky's Bulbs. Ednie and ADR require a commercial account, but Brent and Becky's is a retail company in Virginia that has been in business for 120 years and once supplied the east coast with all of its daffodils. Brent is a sought after speaker who is on-the-road much of the year talking about bulbs. I heard him speak at a cut flower farmer event in Virginia and he has a wealth of information to share.
Tulips are pulled out of the ground with the bulbs intact which allows them to be stored in the cooler for several weeks (or even longer) and also adds length to the stems. During mild springs this is especially important as tulips tend to bloom with short stems in warm weather. It can be difficult for gardeners to see tulip bulbs yanked out of the ground in this way, but it is a necessity. The bulbs will not produce again because the leaves and stem feed the bulb for the next year and when they are cut off the bulb is deprived of its food.
Its hard to see tulip time end each year. Their fantastic colors and shapes bring incredible beauty to spring and it is hard to imagine this time of year without them. But they are the heralds of things to come--peonies, sweetpeas, and then later all the abundance of summer, ending with the opulence of the dahlias at the end of the season.