Frostmas has come and the dahlia plants are melting in the fields. The butterfly filled fields are filled no more. The tunnel alarms kept us awake from 4 a.m. on this morning as the inevitable annual kinks need to be worked out of the system. In fact, one alarm is going off right now as I write this Thursday evening. I’ll be off shortly to try and sort it out.
We are about to get ready for an overhaul in our propagation house, but have been waiting out the unfolding of nature. Some Passionflower vine took hold in our propagation house and we let it run wild to serve as a host plant for Gulf fritillary caterpillars and boy did it ever do that. There’s so many hungry caterpillars in there, that they’ve all but completely demolished 180 square feet of leaves. We’ve enjoyed watching them grow day by day, eventually forming their chrysalises, and finally emerging as the beautiful butterflies that I first encountered the day that I met Mandy on her old farm 20 years ago. Back then, I found one trapped in her greenhouse and captured it so I could set it free outdoors. When it flew up and away, I was overwhelmed with delight at the shimmering of sunlight reflecting on the silver spotting of its under-wings. I’d lived for a summer as a butterfly tour guide in Costa Rica, but had never seen anything like that and it's stuck with me ever since.
The tunnel of mums is beautiful and the harvest has begun. The other tunnels are continuing to be filled up with ranunculus, butterfly ranunculus, anemones, and soon too with poppies.
Dr. Armitage (Floriculture legend and UGA prof) and Sabine Seeling from Heuger Plants in Germany toured our 2 acres of woods today to examine our understory that is heavily planted with the Ice & Roses series of Hellebores. They were tickled by our laissez faire approach to growing them, as traditionally they are grown in rows, fertilized, weeded, and irrigated. Mandy, instead, has them peppered throughout our woods, amidst grasses and ferns, never watered or fertilized, mulched only by their competitors, yet remarkably beautiful and resilient and naturally unharmed by deer. They hadn’t seen this approach before and kind of loved it. I’m sure we could increase our harvest 4 fold if we actively managed them, but their beauty and value to us is in part due to their self sufficiency.
A really exciting piece of information we received on that walk was that the infamous Black Death that wipes out peoples highly cherished collections of hellebores, does not seem to bother the Ice & Roses series! We always just loved them because they are really fast growing with beautiful flowers, long stems and high yields that come in just in time for Valentine's Day, but now we’ve learned the amazing news that in addition to all that, they are highly resistant to the Black Death that wipes out other Hellebore varieties! Amazing!
Once we started posting images of our hellebores a few years back, lots of inquiries on how to get them started pouring in, so last year we started to offer limited sales of them ourselves. For brief periods in the spring, we offer a lot of the Ice & Roses series and have a number of new colors this year, so if you’re interested in getting your hands on some of these incredible plants for your farm, garden, or landscape, you can sign up on the Hellebore Wait List here and you’ll be the first to have access to them. They did sell out on our first sale last year, so we offered another round and those sold out too, so the wait list is advisable.
For you dahlia lovers, we have been eagerly collecting all our seed pods prior to the frost and just spread them out on tables in the propagation house. We’ll dry them out and get them ready to process and store until planting time next year. We are super excited to experiment with the genetic offspring of our painstakingly selected heat tolerant varieties in order to see what new strong beauties will appear for the very first time into this world. Breeding is fun!
We were surprised to learn that a lot of gardeners are excited about this process too and are interested in these seeds, so we will be packaging them up for sale for you playful and adventurous gardeners to experiment with too. Who knows. You might grow the new southern favorite.
If you are a farmer that’s going to the ASCFG conference next week and want to see some of the heirloom mum varieties we are offering first hand, go and find Farmer Bailey’s booth. Despite them already being so worth a visit due to being the loveliest of people with the biggest plant brains ever, they will also have a lot of our mums on display. We’ve partnered with Farmer Bailey to get our heirloom varieties into the hands and tunnels of more flower farmers (and gardeners), so they asked if we might have some for display at the conference and we just shipped out a huge box of lots of varieties to them this eve. Bummed we couldn’t hop in the box and join them, but our plate is full on the farm right now.
If you are a flower lover, we’ve got holiday mum bouquet pre-orders available on our site. They are gorgeous and fragrant and will stimulate that gratitude mojo we all need to expand in our hearts. The best state of mind is that of gratitude for all the little things around you and the easiest way to that space is through the beauty of nature. We’re hoping to spread some of that good stuff
Last but not least….for you real flower enthusiasts, we just had a great chat with our old friend Scott Sheperd of The Flower Podcast where we discuss growing mums, breeding seed, business pivots and other odds and ends with a long time flower insider. Scott was the first large purchaser of our dahlias way back when and he shares how before us, it was widely understood that farmers can’t grow Dahlias in Georgia. Actually Armitage said something similar today. I knew it wasn’t being done when we started, but to hear from the big dawgs that we made an impact was a bit of an “aw shucks” moment…but anyways, you can find an auditory or visual link to our interview here:
The Flower Podcast
I think that’s it. At least as far as I can remember it is. The brain is still at half mast from too much halloween fun.
Take care y’all. Stay warm!