The last couple of weeks have been somewhat muddy in the garden. The arrival of the gas men to dig up the back garden and drive, alongside storm Gertrude has been a muddy combination. I did not envy them the task of digging in the wild weather we have had but I do wonder wether our garden will ever look the same again?! I have found it somewhat frustrating being cut off from the flower patch in the day whilst the work goes on. I did sneak over the gas fencing late afternoon on a couple occasions to do a bit of planting and weeding. It made me realise it is no longer dark at 4pm anymore. You can work in the garden until 5, Spring must be just around the corner!
The gas works in the garden
There are other signs of Spring in the garden. The hellebores and snowdrops have really come on over the last couple of weeks.
Here are the first tulips emerging too, much earlier than last year.
As it has been so mild it may be that the stall opens in March rather than April this year. It is looking in a bad way with the sides breaking down and some panels fallen off. Robert has brought it round to the garage for repair and thinks he can keep it going for me to do another season.
Robert works hard behind the scenes of Cloudberry Flowers. He loves practical jobs and getting outside when he gets the chance. At the moment he has been working out a way of getting water up to the flower patch for me and then we will start to put in some kind of irrigation with leaky hose. This will be a godsend in the summer and help reduce the hours I have to spend watering the flowers. No more carrying heavy watering cans and buckets up the steps or dragging hose up to the patch as there will be a tap up there. He has also been building new flower beds and has found decking makes a good affordable edge to a new bed.
The hose is now in the flower patch connected back down to the garage. Next step installing a tap.
The new flower bed with its decking edging. Just need to top it up with homemade compost.
As last week I could not get out to the garden it gave me a good chance to do some badly needed admin for Cloudberry Flowers. It’s always easy for me to put off paperwork and spend time in the garden instead. Now I feel much more organised to start the new season. I have also had the chance to look at the results from the survey I put on my Facebook page a couple of weeks ago. A good number of customers completed it, which gave me a picture of what people liked at Cloudberry Flowers or wanted to see more of.
What did the survey tell me?
I was reassured to find the stall was more easily found than I had thought it would be. Our location up a quiet street away from the centre of town and up a steep hill I had thought might be off putting and make it difficult to find.
The majority of my customers use Facebook as a means of finding out about my flowers. I have found Facebook a very useful tool for advertising a business but somewhat unreliable! From experience the only way to guarantee someone will continue to receive notifications about my flowers is for them to like, comment or share any posts from Cloudberry Flowers they see. Facebook then allows them to see future posts. So for me it is a very useful way to let customers know when the stall is open and what flowers are available, but I cannot rely on it completely.
The survey showed that the jam jar posies on the stall are really popular. I love them as they are such a beautiful natural way to display flowers in your home and can be used in so many ways from one simple arrangement on a bedside table to a more impressive statement with a row of them decorating your dinner table. Jam jars of flowers use stems that are short and it is also nice to be able to buy long stemmed flowers you can fill your own vase at home with. The results of the survey did show that customers would like to see mixed or single flower bunches on the stall. This year as soon as the longer stemmed flowers start to bloom I will include some bunches alongside the jam jar posies and this will give my customers more choice.
The days I open the stall in the week is something I have thought a lot about since October. I had thought about changing the opening times from Thursday to Saturday as I felt sales were poor on a Sunday and I was wasting a lot of flowers. It was not a surprise that the great majority of people surveyed would visit the stall on a Friday or Saturday. However Thursday and surprisingly Sunday were popular too. From this feedback I have decided to open the stall on Thursday – Sunday this season. Flowers will be available every day of the week made to order too.
It was really encouraging to see that my customers thought the flowers were good value for money as deciding on the price of my flowers was something I found difficult last year. Running a business for the first time did mean I made mistakes with my costs. I underestimated my time and labour growing and arranging them grossly, concentrating more on the cost of the flowers and sundries. This winter I have been looking at my pricing a lot to make sure I get it right so Cloudberry Flowers can continue. It does mean there will be changes to some prices, which I hope my customers understand and I hope to keep further changes in the future to a minimum.
One of the ideas suggested which I found really interesting was providing plants to sell on the stall. This is something I would like to give some thought to in the future when Erin has started school and I have more time to devote to Cloudberry Flowers.
All in all the survey was really worthwhile and it was so valuable to have feedback from my customers. A big thank you to everyone who completed it for me.
It felt like Christmas again this week as I received another package through the post full of hedging plants. I do love a box arriving full of things for the garden! When I started the idea of cutting up the field for a cut flower patch we collected all the sods and placed them upside down along our back fence in piles and left them to break down. Now they have turned into a lovely bed of soil between the wooden fence and the rabbit fence but I hadn’t done anything with it. Today the snow had thawed, the girls were playing nicely in the front garden and I grabbed the chance to plant the bare root hedging plants and shrubs which had arrived. I chose each one to provide some interest from flowers and scent to hips. They will also be a haven for birds and other wildlife. The planting has included hawthorn, crab apple, willow, daisy bush, osmanthus burkwoodii, euonymus japonicus, viburnum tinus, prunus avium, rosa rugosa, June berry and dog rose. I hope I will be able to use them in time in my bouquets and jam jars too to continue the natural feel I like to have in my arrangements. I will so enjoy watching this area grow over the coming years.
And finally this week I don’t know about you but when I spend hours digging in the mud it just seems to get ingrained in my hands even though I have been wearing gloves! This year for Christmas I got some Crabtree and Evelyn gardeners hand scrub with pumice. What great stuff. I think it’s the only thing I have found so far that really gets the mud off my fingers. I think I will be using a lot of that this year along with an awful lot of handcream!! Has anyone come across any great hand creams for gardeners?
The week ahead will be another few days of the gas men in the garden working on the pipes, so it will be indoor time for me to spend sorting out my new seedlings and potting on. There is nothing like seeing seeds emerging as wee plants to nurture and know given the right care they will eventually turn into beautiful flowers.