How to Care for Flower Bouquets

With summer's arrival, fresh cut flower bouquets are available in a riot of colors and varieties from farmer's markets, shops, and gardens.

Locally grown flowers already enjoy a longer vase compared to imported stems. Local blooms will be harvested at the correct stage for consumers, and have never known life without a water source.

Ranunculus from Tanglebloom

By contrast, flowers flown in from other countries are usually picked early, packed dry into boxes for easy shipping, and then fumigated when they arrive in the U.S. It can be weeks from flower field to your vase, compared to days (or hours!) when locally grown.

 By following a few simple tips, you can enjoy the maximum vase life from your locally grown flowers.

Start with a clean vessel. Bacteria shortens vase life considerably, so make sure you wash your vase between uses. If it's dishwasher safe, that's a great way to sanitize it between uses. Otherwise use warm soapy water, and a bottle brush to clean any hard to reach spots.

Give stems a fresh cut. Sharp scissors or garden pruners can be used to cut stems at an angle when you bring them home. This exposes fresh stem area to allow flowers to "drink" water from the vase. Cutting at an angle gives you maximum surface area, while also preventing stems from resting on the vase bottom, which can trap bacteria. Be sure to also remove any leaves that will fall below the water line.

Use floral preservative. Typically this will extend the vase life of your blooms by a few days - a plus in my book! Our bouquets will always come with a packet of floral preservative. 

Display flowers away from heat and produce. A sunny window or other heat source (like the top of a refrigerator) will shorten the vase life of flowers. Ripening produce like bananas on your countertop give off ethylene gas which also shortens their life. Avoid these locations for maximum enjoyment. 

Refresh. Change the vase's water every 1-2 days, and remove any spent blooms. Ephemeral treats like poppies may grace your bouquet for a few special days, while satin flower and lisianthus remain fresh 10-14 days later. 

Spring blooms from Tanglebloom

Enjoy! I like to place vases of flowers where I'll see them frequently: my desk, nightstand, dining table, and bathroom vanity always host vases of various shapes and sizes. Decorating the fireplace mantle makes a great focal impact in a room, and the covered porch is another good place to add fresh flowers during the summer. 

Honeywort's delicate flowers

Sign Up for the Spring Flower CSA!

April showers are in the forecast punctuated by overdue sunshine. The first swollen buds are almost ready to burst open in the greenhouse. We're getting close to the start of our Spring CSA. We'll continue taking sign ups for the next few weeks - or until we sell out!

Our new spring share features the first flowers of the season. You'll receive a weekly bunch of blooms that may include specialty tulips, fragrant narcissus, hyacinth, anenome, and rose-like ranunculus. Some weeks may highlight a single variety, while others may be a mixed bunch.

Spring flower CSA

One of my favorite things about spring flowers is the impact a simple bunch can make.  Place stems in a Mason jar or ceramic pitcher for a casual arrangement, or try an ornate vase for something more elegant. Blooms like tulips with float and bow, creating a naturally effortless arrangement.  

Spring Flower CSA

You'll receive flowers for 6 weeks beginning in May. Flowers can be picked up in Brattleboro or at the farm in Brookline. We'll contact you by email with all the details. Let us know if you have questions, or would like to suggest a new pick-up location.

Spring flowers CSA tulips

We hope you'll join us in greeting spring and the start of the growing season.

Click here to sign up today! 

Spotlight on Spring Flowers

Our most anticipated season is upon us. Not only are we eager to plant out all the seedlings growing rampant indoors, but New Englanders can't wait to have fresh flowers on their tables again after a long gray winter.

In celebration of spring, here's a look at some of our favorite early flowers:

ANENOME

Sometimes called windflower, anenomes are some of the first cut flowers available in spring. They're very cold hardy, meaning we can plant them into the unheated greenhouse in February and be cutting the first stems a few months later. Colors range from pastels to deep burgundy and violet. The classic "panda" variety (pictured above) has a black center surrounded by crisp white petals, making it a popular spring wedding flower. 

Anenomes have an excellent vase life of 7 to 10 days. 

RANUNCULUS

Once unrecognized outside of wedding and floriculture circles, ranunculus is gaining in popularity thanks to press from Martha Stewart Living and other prominent publications. Referred to as the "rose of spring," ranunculus is also fairly cold-hardy. It blooms in shades of coral, peach, and pink, plus darker burgundys and violets. Interesting picotee varieties feature a contrasting color pattern around petal edges. We're growing some of each this season.

Ranunculus has an outstanding vase life of 8 to 10 days. 

TULIPS

Not your mother's tulips! This spring flowering bulb is available in a dizzying array of colors and forms. Some have fringed petals, while others are ruffled like a peony in miniature. The blooms can be tall and slender, or short and rounded. Softer, more subdued hues are a welcome contrast to the bright, saturated colors widely available. Some varieties even boast a subtle sweet fragrance.

Tulips should be purchased before they're fully open. They will "bloom" in the vase, taking on an all together different personality when fully open. Expect them to last from 9 to 12 days!

NARCISSUS

Known commonly as daffodils, this is another harbinger of spring accessible beyond the familiar yellow trumpet. Many of the unique varieties are heirlooms cultivated 100+ years ago, before they were replaced by the handful of varieties we recognize in landscapes today. 

Plenty of the heirloom types are fragrant - a pleasant surprise if you're not used to associating daffodils with scent. They perennialize more reliably than tulips, allowing us to diversify and expand our collection each season on the farm. 

When you get your hands on a mixed bouquet that incorporates narcissus, don't re-cut their stems. Fresh cuts will exude a sap that's toxic to other flowers in the vase. If you must cut them, place them in a separate container of water for 4 hours before mixing with other flowers. If, on the other hand, your bunch contains only narcissus flowers, then you can re-cut them without worry. Expect about 7 days vase life.

BLOOMING BRANCHES

A little later in spring, shrubs and trees come into flower. From magnolia and lilac to crabapple and cherry, there are myriad varieties to appreciate for both scent and color. One of my favorite things to do is pause underneath a tree in full bloom and listen to the chorus of buzzing bees. They're no doubt ecstatic about the abundance after a winter devoid of nectar. 

If you've ever tried clipping lilacs to bring inside, you've probably noticed they don't last terribly well. There are a couple tricks  you can try to help them last a little longer:

The florets will not open much more once cut, so aim to pick when the branch is 75-95% open. Next, strip most of the foliage, since it will struggle to hydrate in the vase. Then, using sharp pruners, carefully cut 2-3" up the stem, splitting it in two sections at the bottom. This exposes more surface area for water uptake.

Your lilacs should perfume your room for 5 or 6 days when you follow these tips. 

Happy spring! 

Bringing new ideas to light in 2017

When I confessed "What farmers do in winter" I mentioned that dreaming up new ideas was one of my favorite winter tasks. Each season I look forward to the process of bringing a select few out of my notebook pages and into the light of day.

Spring and fall community supported flowers

Our flower CSA (community supported agriculture) has been invaluable from the beginning. The community invested in our flowers during the winter and early spring that first year, which provided us with the last bit of start-up funds we needed to purchase seeds, compost, and irrigation components. 

Three years later, it's still a model we embrace. Not only does it provide that much needed bit of winter cash flow when expenses are high, it also allows us to plan our crops really well. After allocating the majority of our growing space to CSA members, we can then cultivate for florists, retail, and weddings on what remains. 

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Thanks to our new hoop house, we're thrilled to be offering both a Spring and Fall flowers share for the first time, in addition to our popular Summer options. Customers told us they'd love flowers earlier, and later, so we're making it happen!

The spring collection will feature many new blooms including anenome, rose-like ranunculus, and fragrant hyacinths. Our heirloom narcissus and frilly tulips will also be included. 

In the fall, we're featuring a focus one of our favorite flowers: dahlias. Members are in for a treat as they explore the myriad colors, forms, and sizes of this autumn beauty. We've been expanding our dahlia tuber collection and can't wait to share these new beauties with you!

Join all 3 seasons, and you'll be treated to luscious local blooms from spring's first warm welcome and beyond fall's first frosts. 

We can't wait to share our flowers with you again.

Challenges of cold and winter

If you've ever planted a garden in the northeast, you know what I'm talking about.

A relatively short growing season translates to occasional challenges. 

Adaptation

This fall, we constructed a high tunnel (also called a hoop house) which is basically an unheated greenhouse. (And in typical biting-off-more-than-we-can-chew fashion, it wasn't finished until January.)

Our goal is to extend our season by a month or two in both spring and fall. We knew from the beginning it would be necessary if we wanted to be successful growing flowers in a cold climate. 

In February we planted out what will become our first spring flowers. It is still blowing my mind that I can plant something in February in Vermont.

Mother Nature's been keeping us on our toes ever since. Unseasonably warm sunny days brought sprouts to the surface quickly, providing some real instant gratification.

As I write this, we're in the midst of the second weekend in a row of sub-zero nighttime temperatures. Cue incessant nail biting.

Cover, uncover, repeat

Those first plantings, they're super hardy, but still require babying. I constructed low hoops over the beds that hold a double-layer of the thickest frost protective blanket I can get my hands on. I cover them late afternoon. The next day, I check the forecasted temperature, cloud cover, and wind to determine when (or if) they will be uncovered, and decide how much to vent the hoop house. 

As wonderful as it will be to have flowers in - April? Maybe! - it does require my days be structured around this...structure. Just the other day I had to rush home before completing errands because the sun came out (it wasn't forecasted to). Even on a very cold day, the temperature would quickly rise to an unacceptable level in the hoop house with the frost blankets still on and no venting. 

Eye on the prize

Flowers. In April. In Vermont. I hope so - and I can't wait to share them with you! 

What do farmers do in winter?

This question comes up a lot! 

People associate farming with working outside (rightfully so), and have romantic ideas about growers kicking back by the fire, or jetting off to a foreign land each winter. While a bit of both are definitely goals I hope to reach one day, there is still a lot of work on a farm in winter. 

Best laid plans

Each fall and winter I begin to map out the field and hoop house with crops for the coming season. I consult the lists I've scribbled all season, and screen captures on my phone of things that I want to grow. A lot of culling takes place after I consider production costs and market demand. 

A hundred here, a hundred there...

This is how my husband, Mike, describes farm spending in winter. The amount of money invested during a time when cash flow is almost zero, is... Well, sometimes you just want to run and hide and ignore that sinking feeling in your gut.

Seeds, plants, and bulbs are ordered and require payment, even if they won't ship for months. Tools and equipment plus repair parts are purchased. Supplies are replenished. Compost is ordered by the truckload, along with our organic fertilizers and soil amendments. Basically we try to anticipate everything we'll need so we're not suddenly without it during the long hectic days ahead. 

What's new?

My favorite part of winter work is developing new products and services. Sometimes they're ideas that have been quietly incubating for seasons, just waiting for the right conditions to hatch. Often they are in direct response to feedback we've received from our customers (thank you!). There's a lot of culling here, too. Sometimes we have to drop a product or account if it isn't meeting expectations.

I'm excited to tell you more about what's in the works for 2017 in a future post!
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Catching up

Since farming is so demanding during the growing season (12 to 14+ hour days are not uncommon), there are many things that simply get ignored. Bookkeeping is one of them. I start each spring with the best intentions, but by June, the receipts and other paperwork just become a big mountain on my desk, not to be unearthed until January. 

Balancing act

And yes, of course we do rest more when the mercury drops. We eat a proper dinner, at a normal time. Suddenly we're news junkies, making up for summer's disconnection and skimmed headlines.

And sometimes I go to bed at 9:00. Just because I can. 

Running a farm is just like running any other business, especially when you're in the throes of start-up. While the days are less demanding when the cold winds blow, it's really just an evening-out of intense commitments from the growing season.

A quieter season, where a love of farming is rekindled.