Christmas Reading For Flower Growers

Christmas Reading For Flower Growers

Christmas Reading For Flower Growers

An Eco Florists Guide to Gardening Books For Christmas

WORDS: Kathryn Cronin
PHOTOS: Ricky Bache


As I write, the rain is lashing against the window and the dark is only a few precious hours away. Having missed the briefest of winter sun filled windows, my best laid plans of bulb planting have, as Robert Burn’s noted in his poem “To a Mouse”, “gang aft agley”. The one advantage is to hear our little owl hooting earlier much earlier at this time of year. The other is that I can tuck up with my Christmas reading list ensconced next to the fire.

In the blink of an eye Christmas is upon us. Loved by many but also an emotional time for us all. Memories flood in while we rush for the perfect present. More than ever, I feel the need for space and sanctuary, reflection and rest. In December, it is tricky to be in the garden so I like to do what I consider to be the next best thing. Reading about what to plant and do in the garden next year.

But what to read I hear you cry! Here are the books on my Christmas reading list that I am carrying around the house with me:

  • Jinny Blom - The Thoughtful Gardener
  • Michael Morpurgo - Grandpa Christmas
  • Michael Chinery - The Living Garden
  • Beth Chatto - Beth Chatto’s Shade Garden
  • The Thoughtful Gardener

    The truth of the matter was that I had been already plotting and planning the creation of more flower beds in the paddock given that the others were all but filled with perennials. More space was needed for the annuals that were busy growing in my newly acquired greenhouse.

    With hindsight, it was perhaps not the best year to do a major expansion of my cutting garden. The hottest summer for a generation saw us watering, and watering, and watering some more. Of course, nothing grew in that heat but at least noting died either. And as if in a perfect storm of coincidence, our canal that had breached earlier in the year providing the most perfect breeding ground for mosquitos. What many others regarded as the most perfect idyll of summer’s was in my canalside cutting garden a rather different picture. At least the bats were happy was my overriding thought.

    Then, in one of those serendipitous moment of luck, two tickets to meet the most marvellous and inspiring of garden designers fell our way in the Autumn.

    Of course, I had read Jinny Bloms' book already. Cover to cover of unique, original, romantic amazing garden designs. Meeting and talking with the numerous times Chelsea gold medal winner over the most delicious of lunches at Wollerton Old Hall was both precious and inspiring. And I read her book again with her instructions ringing in my head.

    In December, it is tricky to be in the garden so I like to do what I consider to be the next best thing - reading about what to plant and do in the garden next year!

    Hearing tales of her exploits with the quite frankly huge gardening projects that she has undertaken had the effect of galvanising me into action in our own cutting garden. Designing our canal side cutting garden has been my driving force ever since that meeting. Read it as an instruction manual was her advice. Do it yourself was the other. I have heeded both.

    Gardening gives me an opportunity to grow, and with a bit of help from nature, create a canal side cutting garden that not only inspires me but I hope encourages others to grow too. It takes time to plant a garden. It takes time for trees to grow. I will never see the oaks from my acorn saplings but my greatest desire is that they grow into huge huge trees. I don’t have the 450 maasai warriors that Jinny marshalled for one of her amazing projects. What I do have is a renewed sense of purpose in creating a cutting garden that I hope can leave the smallest of legacy’s to inspire others to garden. I will be forever grateful to Jinny for that.

    Michael Morpurgo - Grandpa Christmas

    This next book is one for gardeners of all ages. Michael Morpurgo's “Grandpa Christmas” is perhaps not the usual flower growers book recommendation but bear with me for we have all been or are grandchildren. I haven’t managed to make it to the end of this book yet without tears streaming down my face We are all Mia, the grandchild who features in this most precious of tales. Undoubtably, it touched a nerve. That I garden at all is from seeing and being with my own darling grandfather. I miss him still.

    I had been lucky enough to listen to Michael when he gave the Roscoe Lecture in Liverpool in 2015. In my view, his writing goes far beyond the realms of his purported audience of children. As with War Horse, and Private Peaceful, two of my favourites of his books, the tale connects with a far deeper and more fundamental part in us all. Of course, he is a master story teller. He both sweeps you along while serendipitously stripping away any defences. He is quite honestly a genius. Grandpa Christmas is on my Christmas reading list because it is about the best book I have read about why to garden and why it is important that we all be as environmentally conscious as we can. It’s about life and living and caring for our world seen through the eyes of one who is leaving while looking on at the legacy of his grandchild. This most magical of gardening books is about why to pass on your passion, any passion but particularly of gardening and nature, that I have read in a very very long time. Perfect Christmas reading for everyone.

    Michael Chinery - The Living Garden

    “The Living Garden” is a very thoughtful early Christmas reading book from my Mum and Dad. It is a practical guide to attracting and conserving garden wildlife. It gives advice on creating habitats as well as why you’d really want thousand of insects in your garden, really! His simple but effective suggestions have me turning into a hedgehog homes developer. As we have the canal right next to us, I have always worried that they will drown but now we have rabbit fencing I have more confidence. Reading Michael's’ book has made me more convinced of one thing. We need a pond. Aand nother thing I am convinced of now that this one has made it onto my Christmas reading list. We can all make a difference to wildlife conservation even in the smallest of own gardens.

    Beth Chatto - Beth Chatto's Shade Garden

    Last but by no means least on my Christmas reading list is Beth Chatto’s Shade Garden.

    Our canalside garden has many beautiful trees that have been here long before I was and I hope will be here long after I am gone. I consider it part of the stewardship of our beautiful canal side wharf to look after them too. Obviously, they cast a lot of shadow. Obviously, they suck up a lot of water, especially the old and rather large horse chestnut. In gardening terms, I could pretend that I have full sun everywhere but I don’t. Acceptance of your gardening conditions and a willingness to augment what is already there is where I have got to. My conclusion, and Beth’s, is that it is pretty pointless to fight with this state of natural affairs. Beth Chatto’s shade garden is proving to be a surprising lesson on patience, an invaluable source of knowledge and an insightful take on thinking longer term for how I would like our cutting garden to be in 5, 10 even 20 years. It has a fantastic plant reference section as well as good humour and honesty. I am sorry I will never meet the lady but I am glad that finally it has made it onto my Christmas reading list (even though it was first publish in 2002).

    Better late than never is my current thinking on a number of things including my Christmas reading list. I would love to hear what’s on your flowery Christmas reading list. Please contact me and let me know.

    The fierceblooms blog has been going for about 3 years now. In this section of my site, I write about my exploits and passion to grow British flowers in my canalside cutting garden with other articles and videos on how I use them in my floral designs. I am thrilled that the blog has reached the voting round of the 2019 UK Blog Awards in the primary category of Green and Eco.

    May I please ask for a little bit of your time to vote for me. It would mean such a lot to me if you did - all you have to do is click a little heart next to my name. The link to the voting site is below.

    Blog Awards Voting

    I'd be really pleased if you wanted to share this post with others via the social links below.

    Christmas Reading For Flower Growers

    British flowers are key to my wild garden style floral design for both aesthetic and environmental reasons.

    fierceblooms

    About Fierceblooms

    more about Me

    Iam an artisan florist growing British flowers with a design studio and cutting garden nestled beside a historic canal in rural Cheshire.

    If sustainability is important to you, if it matters that your flowers are as lovely to the environment as they are to look at, then I am a kindred spirit.

    Get in touch to discuss your wedding or event. You can also be inspired and learn what informs my original designs by attending one of my flower classes . Update - 2020 FTF classes in our local village hall have been cancelled due to Covid, but get in touch with me regarding live on-line 1-2-1s.

    Follow Me On Instagram

    @fierceblooms

    There's a gathering at the Wharf this Monday and Tuesday.....
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    There'll be tea and Welsh cakes - well, once you've made one batch, it's easy to make the next one.....
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    ....and it's the same with making bouquets, once you've found a way to think about them, to understanding your way to creating with the things growing around you, they're easy.....and I'll show you an easy way to wrap your spring bouquet too...
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    Come to Cheshire in the North West of England this Monday and Tuesday, there's a few seats, virtually for now, but with all the clever cameras and sound, it feels like you are right here. See our canalside cutting garden, still damp and cold but starting to spring. The beautiful @smithandmunson tulips have arrived (ours are just peeking), so like proper school, our online flower school is back again on Monday. DM for details.
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    It is the day of yellow and Daffodils and celebrating being Welsh.....
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    Its the first day of March and I am resolved in a Fawlty Towers-esq fashion to not mention the war - or the rugby on Saturday even ha ha 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁷󠁬󠁳󠁿....
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    Rather I am dreaming of warm Welsh cakes cooked on a Welsh steel griddle that my father made me.
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    That heavy bake stone holds heat like nothing else I possess. That steel holds so much more than heat. Home and hiraeth and love and laughter are melded into that steel just like the scent of daffodils drifting over all of Wales on dydd Dewi Saint.
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    This Welsh girl is wishing all her followers a very happy St David’s Day today.
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    It appears the only thing the rabbits don't like...
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    ...are the daffodils! So, there's going to be the odd daffodil bouquet this spring!
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    ...and the season is marching on with just over a week to go for our wild garden style online floristry classes with British flowers, of course. Will you be joining us?
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    Nurturing our wild garden is my focus right now......
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    .....or is my wild garden nurturing me? Things in life are often the other way round. In late winter, as my potatoes are chitting on the Wharf's window ledge, there are patches of frothy cow parsley shooting and bulbs braving the Cheshire weather.
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    Most gardeners are already planning, weeding, sowing, if not quite digging for the season ahead. Our floral seasons are carrying on, whatever else is happening. So, I have decided to take a leaf out of its book, if you'll pardon the pun.
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    Along with our garden, we've been carrying on too. We're daring to be different, and reimagining how we do our flower classes for a more sustainable mothers day.
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    Our wild garden style "Nurture and Nature" booklet is written and our mothers day bouquet class is coming up soon. In this world of ours that is feeling disconnected and isolated, we want our "online" to be so so much more than the click of a button. I think it matters to nurture both our environment and ourselves. I think it matters to use local seasonal, and in our case, British grown flowers. And more than ever, I think it matters to keep creating.
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    I hope you do too. DM to join us
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    #flowerclass #britishgrownflowers #slowsimpleseasonal #homegrownflowers #ayearinmygarden #flowerworkshop #grownnotflown #gardengathered #wildgardenstyle #realflowersoftheseason #seasonalfloweralliance #learnfloraldesign #floristrycourse #flowerschool #gardeninspiredfloristry #aseasonalyear #thefloralseasons #britishflowers #sustainablefloristry #onlineflowerclasses #mothersdaybouquet
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    Where do you get your inspiration?....
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    .......was a question I was asked just the other day. The answer is both short and long, appears both superficial and deep. It is both simple and complex......
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    ....and I think to do it justice, to hold the authentic discussion if you will, it is beyond the written word even. It is a conversation, an engagement if you will, with the things that matter to you. Then, and only then comes the how. How to translate that into your floral design.
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    The swallows will be swooping when next I can gather the stems for this spring bouquet from our canalside cutting garden. DM if you would like to converse with us.
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    #springbouquet #inspiredbypetals #wildgardenstyle #slowsimpleseasonal #homegrownflowers #ayearinmygarden #flowerworkshop #grownnotflown #gardengathered #wildgardenstyle #realflowersoftheseason #onlinefloristry #seasonalfloweralliance #learnfloraldesign #ecoflowers #floristrycourse #flowerschool #gardeninspiredfloristry #floristrystudent #aseasonalyear #thefloralseasons #britishflowers #sustainablefloristry #onlineflowerclasses
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    Growing wild garden style bouquets...
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    .....and like every other grower of seasonal British flowers up and down the country, I am sowing seeds for our canalside cutting garden. Rather than germinating too many though, I now have a method after ending up with hundreds of plants and no beds left to plant them! So I have learned over the years that if I sprinkle enough seeds to cover a single small pot, it is more than enough for 4ft blocks of different types of home grown garden flowers.
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    After a disastrous "weeding" of one of our flower beds, or perhaps a stroke of genius on his behalf dear reader, the darling Scot proved he is unable to tell an emerging flower from a weed. The flower beds are not covered in anything, I want them to be be beautiful and plastic free. And having just the bare earth means there's always lots of self sown plants free from mother nature. So as it's just me on the weeding front, I am also filling our cutting garden with perennials, bunnies willing. We're playing to our strengths here though. He is, after all, far better at the IT.
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    And if you'd like to experience our extended zoom platform incorporating multimedia, multiple camera angles, great sound technology, and a few flowers, DM for details of our classes.
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    #gardengathered #gardeninspiredfloristry #littlegardenstories #slowsimpleseasonal #realflowersoftheseason #wildgardenstyle #ecoflowers #gardenbouquet #onlineflowerclasses #learningfromnature #seasonalfloralstyle #naturalflowers #authenticflorals #gardengrown #floralstories #akinderwaytoflourish #seasonaltales .
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    Delivered by a beautiful canal boat.....
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    .... my fid. A what? A fid, a tool, a rather old fashioned tool, but a tool none the less, used to work with rope.....
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    .....we grow flowers right next to the historic Shropshire Union canal. We live in an industrial Wharf, with Jacobean gable end walls, and stone finials. Beauty and aesthetic with function at Bridge 14. That is where you'll find us, with all of the nostalgia of the Cheshire countryside that surrounds us. You'll find us crafting and making our wild garden style floral designs.
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    One of @country_cut_flowers rope wreaths hangs on our door. Our friend Emma appreciates that history of crafting, handed down by her uncle to her.
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    A grateful thank you always to @coalboat_alton and @fuel_boat_halsall, for passing slowly on their beautiful historic narrow boats. Frankly , they make our day whenever they pass our Wharf. And although you can't physically come here right now, you can escape here to one of our classes from your very own chair at your home.
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    If you want to learn how to craft your own bouquet of flowers, DM me for our classes. I can promise you'll adore the canal, and the beautiful narrow boats that pass here, oh and did I mention the swans? See our stories....
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    #inspiredbypetals #wildgardenstyle #slowsimpleseasonal #homegrownflowers #ayearinmygarden #springbouquet #flowerworkshop #grownnotflown #gardengathered #wildgardenstyle #realflowersoftheseason #onlinefloristry #seasonalfloweralliance #learnfloraldesign #ecoflowers #floristrycourse #flowerschool #gardeninspiredfloristry #floristrystudent #aseasonalyear #thefloralseasons #britishflowers #sustainablefloristry #onlineflowerclasses
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    The reason I know that spring is coming is....
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    ...the rooks are attempting to rip off the chimney cowls. You know, the covers at the top of the chimney pots.
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    It has me thinking of making, as clearly the enterprising pair are thinking of their next nest. Some of their predecessors were not as efficient in their design and came tumbling down into the Wharf. That's what put the cowls there in the first place.
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    Learning how to make things well is an age old tradition. Here at our Cheshire canalside garden, we craft bouquets. Our purpose is encourage an enthusiasm for design, but not any old design. Wild garden style floral design that uses garden gathered materials, that make our wild garden style bouquets, well, wild. There is nature in the crafting and nurture in the giving.
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    Escape to our Wharf from the comfort of your own home to learn how to craft bouquets, with nature and nurture and the hope of the spring season. DM for details.
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    Home grown flowers for a Saturday at home........
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    The Wharf feels like a boat today. It is built slightly lower than the canal, so when the wind is whistling across our cutting garden, as it is right now, we're looking at waves through the goods entrance, now our low window. And just like a choppy sea, I suspect it far too tricky to navigate.
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    So I braved the elements to check on our bulbs. Yes, they are still there. This is good because I want our grown not flown flowers for our online flower classes. And whatever the weather and whatever the circumstances, our flower workshop will still be happening.
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    Join us for some online floristry in our boat like Wharf. We'd love to have you aboard. DM for details.
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    In ever hopeful anticipation of spring, and bouquets...
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    "Are you Fierceblooms?" was the shout from the canal tow path. I almost didn't hear knee deep in weeding as I was.
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    "I recognise the hat!" was the next sentence (my current favourite green one in case you're wondering). And then we had the lovliest of conversations about her plans for flowers and growing.
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    Isn't it a small world?!
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    A spring bouquet for this Sunday morning.....
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    My fingers are emitting sparks of fire in anticipation of the labours to come.......
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    Monday is the first of our "Nature and Nurture" series. Valentines reimagined. In a year where I have no doubt I am not the only one who has never cried so much, nor loved as much. Flower arranging classes for the the love of, well love.
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    We'd love to welcome you at ther wharf, virtually for now. DM to join us.
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