I am walking, watching, waiting for my blooms to grow. It is still and in the quiet as I explore my canalside cutting garden I manage to startle a blackbird who is preoccupied stealing my loganberries.
Everywhere in my evolving garden there is growth and light and life. Not too many blooms yet but it is early days for me. I reckon at year 4 or 5 I’ll get there. I have already concluded that growing a cutting garden requires patience, something of a life lesson for me. It also requires horticultural skill and experimenting. Now I can do that. I am learning and growing the same flowers in different places to know what my soil will support, where certain plants like to sink their roots, where the best light and shelter can be found. It also has the advantage of staggering my crop as there are always worse and better places where some things thrive and some things quite frankly sulk.
Everyone I talk to and everything I read says it’s hard graft creating a cutting garden. Well, it is but in another way it isn’t.
Yes, there is a physicality to it – beds need to be made, greenhouses built, plants dug in but there is also such contentment in the connection to the seasons. I believe you only really get to understand that when you sink your hands into the earth and grow.
How I appreciate and value my flowers for I know what it takes to grow them and the work that has gone into being able to cut them.
I love the contrast of the physical with the creative. Designing bridal bouquets one minute and building composting bins the next, it is never a dull moment.
If I could say one thing to my former growing self though it would be this – you need to take care of yourself. Cutting garden safety is actually really important.
After a sharp stab through gloves that were too thin (I know that now), one very swollen painfully arthritic finger had me running to the doctors for a course of antibiotics. I have a new found respect for blackthorn after that rather nasty stab. Who wants sepsis? I know now that blackthorn is notorious for it. Thicker gloves are winging their way to me as I write.
Footwear is another subject I would talk about to my former office based self. I have always loved my wellies but when I found myself striding through the wet damp of early mornings, my fondness was elevated too a whole new level. Warm socks and dry feet makes you feel you can conquer the world. Well, the cutting garden anyway. Except the time when we were creating a new bed and discovered where the former owners had buried the old hardstanding for our house. Pulling out huge concrete slabs in what I usually felt were more than good enough wellies had me taking extra care with my toes.
Then when I found I needed to have steel toe caps to help build the shed for the Tatton Flower show as part of the NW Flowers From The Farm team, it was time to acquire proper footwear. Even when flower arranging, it appears that safety boots are an essential item.
How tricky can that be I thought? Well, for those of us with slightly smaller feet, you’ll probably have already discovered the difficulty in purchasing steel toe capped boots. Quite frankly, it’s all about the boys and I get that there is a differential of men to women on building sites but really? In all fairness, judging by the clients that walked in the door when I was trying on my ones on for size, it is mainly where you go and get kitted out for a construction site. I was the only girl.
I found I needed to have steel toe caps to help build the shed for the Tatton Flower show as part of the NW Flowers From The Farm team
I can recommend a trip to Safety Boots UK in Bolton for it yielded a great pair, chosen from a bijou selection amongst the myriad of mens pairs. I was advised to go for a composite construction meaning the steel bit is build in for comfort and they are also lighter. I tried on a trendy pair of DMs but quite honestly, my pair of black Cofra boots with their pink stitching were going to be light and comfortable and warm and waterproof. Vanity would have influenced my criteria not 6 months before and I would have been tempted with the DMs but not now.
At the last meeting of the North West Flowers From The Farm, we had just had an amazing tour of one of the grower’s fabulous cutting patch. I remember distinctly looking at the pile of footwear heaped up at the door. It was all sturdy shoes, wellies and boots. We are all practical girls who have learnt the value of warm dry comfortable feet and cutting garden safety.
I would also warn my former growing self to take care of my back. Obviously, there is a lot of planting and weeding and cutting where you are repeating the same actions over and over again. So occupied was I with ensuring my trays of seedlings were taken care of (it was slightly obsessional if I’m honest), I started to stop doing my morning pilates. Now I am a big fan of pilates. It has saved me big time before. What I realised though is that I needed to give myself the space and time to continue to do it. It is no good if I hurt my back. Then I am really scuppered.
Mostly though, what I’d say to my pre-growing self is that watching the flowers flourish in my cutting garden has been and continues to be life affirming. When all else seems to be in a tragic hectic state of rush and panic and constant change, there is a rootedness that can be found in the land and the seasons, a peace and contentment amongst the busy bees who think only of where the next flower with nectar is. For that alone, growing flowers is worth every moment – the perils of cutting garden safety notwithstanding.
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