Is there anything better than a fresh cut of blooms on your kitchen table? Or better yet receiving a little posy of love from someone special. A fist full of daisies and clover are my favourite but as much as I love to receive flowers they are just as much fun to give. So to make sure that I have enough blooms to go around this year I am totally digging the idea of having my own cutting garden to pluck from whenever the spirit moves me.
People have been adorning their homes and special places they want to honour for thousands of years. While flowers were often and still are an important part of many religious celebrations, the ideas of bringing your bloomers inside to simply brighten your space is just as storied and beautiful. Flower arranging is a coveted art form but before you can even think about how you are going to make a statement with your cut flowers it’s important to know what to grow.
Megan Balodis and her husband Eric own and operate Marshdale Farms – Beef and Blooms. Megan, a graduate of the Faculty of Agriculture from Dalhousie with Bachelors in Plant Science and Masters in Agriculture, is no stranger to research and science. In the last few years that she has been farming flowers she has started to figure out what flowers bloom best and how to plant so that you can be cutting and enjoying flowers in your house all summer long.
After graduation Megan went to work for a company exploring vertical warehouse farming. She enjoyed her work but something was missing in her day. It wasn’t until she met Eric and settled on their farm that it became apparent, she was missing the sun. Megan happily gave up the computer screen and launched into farming beef with Eric and soaking up as much daylight as she could.
Megan says that their farmland has in one way or another been part of her husband’s family for decades but after settling into farm life, she found herself wrestling with her role and needed something more.
As we chatted on a bright February Day with the farm acreage still a foot deep with winter’s frost, Megan shared that she was never an animal person. “Plants are my thing,” she says, with seed catalogues on the table and flowers everywhere you look in the farmhouse. The “Blooms” portion of the partnership began in an experimental capacity as any new adventure does on a farm. Seeing a niche and resurgence in cut flower farming, her natural ability to produce gorgeous blooms was evident, but not without hard work.
Today Megan has about a quarter of an acre planted for her flower farming. It doesn’t sound like a lot and only a small percentage of their property but it’s enough to keep Megan in the cut flower business from spring until late fall.
Most of Megan’s flowering plants are perennials. Last fall she plugged 100 peony bulbs in the ground and is expecting to have about 60 different varieties of bloomers throughout the growing season. Sunflowers and wildflowers with a mix of ornamental grasses are some of her more popular bouquets that she sells at the New Glasgow Farmers’ Market once her plants begin to produce.
In the next month she looks forward to the first spring flowers to emerge from the earth. Daffodils and tulips will wake from their winter slumber and the show will begin as the Queen of blooms, the Peonies start to bud and the Cosmos, Zinnias and Snap Dragons respond to the warming sun.
Being a flower farmer brings a special joy into Megan’s life. She says she loves when she chats with her customers at the market and they will share stories that are evoked from memories of flowers. And just like the fresh produce that vendors display Megan’s flowers offer that freshness that can’t be found in a flower bought in a store that has had to travel far before it makes its way to your favourite vase.
“I believe that flowers shouldn’t be for special occasions only, “ says Megan. “They improve quality of life and therefore should be part of your everyday. Of course I would love to sell my flowers to everyone but at the same time they shouldn’t be so hesitant to cut their own. Arranging flowers isn’t a science, just relax and put things together that you like.”
Planting some extra would ease the pressure if the thought of cutting those precious blooms will disrupt the displays in your landscape. Megan’s right. We do need to relax and just pick/cut the flowers! They do grow back after all.
MUST HAVES FOR YOUR CUTTING GARDEN:
Did you know that the flower got its name because you can bend it in just about any direction you want so it is a great flower to add to arrangements.
TIPS TO NURTURE YOUR OWN CUTTING GARDEN
Margie Beck of Westville is known for her bloomers. This summer she will be hosting a number of workshops at the Stellarton location of West River Greenhouse including a chat about growing flowers to share. She answered a few questions about backyard flower farming so there will be no seeds of doubt that you can grow your own too.
AH!: Margie you are well known in the gardening community. What should a new gardener consider if they want to plant a cutting garden?
MARGIE: There are so many beautiful flowers. I mostly stick with perennials with lots of blooms but I also think it is important to grow a few species of greenery to really show off the colour.
AH!: What are your favourite flowers to grow for cutting?
MARGIE: That’s a tough one but I do love lots of Daisies, Black-Eyed Susan’s and Cone Flowers. Dahlias are awesome too and so are Liatris they have a unique shape and they have three or four flowers on a stem.
AH!: Do you plan your garden so you have blooms all season long?
MARGIE: If you plan properly you can have flowers or at least something to bring indoors all year long. From the first little pansies to come up to Lily of the Valley and hyacinths right through until the fall with Chinese Lanterns. Then there are things that you can forage as well like pussy willows. I also like to take a Forsythia branch indoors. If you put it in the dark for a couple of days and then put it in water you will have spring blooms before the snow is even gone.
AH!: Is there a right time to cut a blossom?
MARGIE: For a lot of flowers you should cut just as the colour is starting to show in the bud. Then you are going to get a much longer life out of the bloom. This is especially true for Roses and Peonies and Glads.
AH!: Is there an renewed appreciation for more of the heritage plants or plants that were often in your grandmother’s garden?
MARGIE: I think that flowers are very nostalgic and as the Baby Boomers continue to age there is more time to reminisce. For younger people I think there is a trend or a need to return to more simpler times and flowers will do this. The garden is a happy place for a lot of people. Once the weather improves I live in my garden and sleep in my house.