I dream of a cutting patch to rival the meadows in the 1980s Flake adverts. I have reveries filled with drifts of cornflowers, zingy orange Eschscholzia, larkspur, poppies and cow parsley. Sometimes there are jumbly self-seeded areas of my garden that look like this. When it happens it is a joyful thing, but I have written before about how it is rather accidental and the result of self-seeding rather than planning. When these flowery drifts do occur they can also be rather transient and in the last year or two I have felt that I could do with some help in extending the amount of time during the summer months that my garden looks meadow-ish.
About a year ago I was standing in Tracy's greenhouse and she showed me her stash of Autumn-sown seedlings she was growing for some meadowy action this summer. This was a totally new concept to me. Autumn? Really?
She told me about a seed seller that lived in a field surrounded by flowers and showed me the seed packets he had sent to her. I felt slightly swoony at this point. They were little brown envelopes hand-stamped with an Arts and Crafts-style image echoing belle epoque posters. Never mind the seeds, I had an urge to stick the envelopes to my wall with washi tape.
Benjamin Ranyard is the man behind the envelopes. His little seed company is called Higgledy Garden, his cut flower field is in Cornwall and he tends it with the help of a large, friendly, orangey dog called Harry. I asked him how he began:
Friends were having a fete style wedding/camping weekend type affair. I decided to try and grow them 100 sunflowers in containers to dot around the fete to make it look groovy. I just loved getting back from work in the evening to see how much they had grown and changed....and at the wedding I had lots of lovely people* saying how much they liked them. I decided on the day of the wedding (after a couple of bottles of fizz) that I liked impressing these lovely people* and that it might be a good idea to grow some more flowers as they seemed to like them so much. Within the week I had rented a field (a completely inappropriate field for growing flowers in) and got started...
I've been a customer of Benjamin's for a year or so now and his blog is an absolute mine of information about growing a cutting patch, preparing your soil and arranging your flowery bounty, whether you have an entire field or a small sunny corner.
Celia and Dottycookie, oh and, um, Alys Fowler are also fans of the Higgledy (praise indeed). Tweet, comment or email him with your larkspur worries and he will help to put your mind at rest.
Tracy's beautiful Ammi majus grown from Higgledy seeds, channelling a meadow with cornflowers and godetia
Thrillingly I have begun to write for Benjamin's blog. Regular readers will know how passionate I am about umbellifers - I photograph them, write about them, draw them and make them in silver, indeed my Etsy avatar is a silver cow parsley seedhead.. Ammi majus is an umbellifer I grew for the first time this year, from Higgledy seeds. It's like an exquisitely fancy umbel, a tiny umbrella for bees, an excellent cut flower and is part of Benjamin's 'Flowers to sow in Autumn' collection. Pop over here to read my post about Ammi, secret rootballs (and a weasel).
In the next few days I'll be holding a Higgledy seed giveaway. Stay tuned...