February has been kind to us here at Tara Hill Flowers. Dry clear days has allowed us to catch up on overdue work and the land has dried out considerably. The sunshine is warming the polytunnel and autumn sown bulbs are showing promise. It is a lovely time of year, full of hope for brighter days to come. Seeds are being sown.
Valentine’s Day was busy; this year, rather than turn away orders, I decided to use imported flowers for any customer that wanted a bouquet. Also coming too early in the season is the biggest day for bouquet orders – Mother’s Day on 19 March. Moving Mother’s Day and Valentine’s Day to July and August would be transformational for Irish growers!
There are 101 jobs to be done at this time of year, but in our fourth season we have certainly learned from the mistakes of the past. My husband put all our seed variety orders on an Excel and he can now very quickly do a stock check and see what is required for the season ahead. The websites and seed catalogues are very tempting and it is easy to spend hundreds of euro on seeds that you won’t have time or space to utilise.
We use a mixture of Irish, Dutch and British sources for seeds and bulbs – Brexit has certainly made sourcing from across the water more challenging.
Many visitors ask if we save our own seed – the answer is no and whenever it is suggested, my husband with his agricultural background always dismisses the idea. “Leave that to the experts and benefit from their new varieties,” is his stance. Having said that, the same guy can be seen harvesting tiny seeds from wild Foxgloves in summer and admiring the crop that follows!
Our polytunnel was transformed over the Christmas break. When we started growing flowers, we took the advice of one grower who told us to pack it with plants and leave as little space free as possible. In hindsight it was a mistake and it wasn’t a pleasant or efficient working environment. We have now divided it into three large beds, with two narrow paths providing clear points of access. Furthermore, we have put in a bed of perennials on one side of the tunnel, complete with ground cover for weed control.
Our coastal location overlooking the Irish Sea thankfully protects us from frost most winters. As a result, we leave our dahlia tubers in the ground. However, cold artic air dominated Irish weather in the second week of December 2022 and we didn’t escape a blast. Our neighbour kindly arrived with a trailer load of stable manure which was quickly placed on top of the bed (replacing old carpets and cardboard that had been hastily put down the night before). We are hopeful that it was not a case of closing the stable door after the horse bolted and the tubers remain healthy. Only time will tell, but we think we should be okay.
The stable manure from last year, which arrived partially rotted, has been transferred back to the flower and vegetable beds and should provide all the nutrients required for the season ahead.
2023 is also looking like being a busy year for weddings, with some nice events in the diary for the year ahead. Working with brides as they plan their big day is a time consuming but satisfying part of the job.
I’m also looking to add some new revenue streams to the business alongside the flowers. Watch this space!