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Growing a climate resilient garden – Cut Flower Edition

We grow flowers for weddings so we are pretty keen weather watchers at the best of times but especially during harvest/wedding week. Whilst rain is wonderful for plants it can be detrimental to near full flowering blooms that I wish to use in our arrangements. Harvesting the flowers at the right bloom stage and as close to the event as possible is key and knowing the potential weather impacts is hugely beneficial. A little note on wind – wind is the worst!

In 2019/20 we experienced the dry and the fires. We were getting water trucked in for home use and for water for our animals. The grass was crispy underfoot and our beautiful river was near empty – stagnant and green.

Having weddings booked around that time was an added worry. Our plants were fending for themselves. This was around the time when I formulated the idea for the Manning Valley Flower Collective. What a weight was lifted! Knowing people in our local community growing flowers who were prepared to cut and sell on to me, was a life changer. Whilst being able to stick with our ethos of local flowers for weddings we didn’t have to sit with all that weight of responsibility solely on our gardens which is especially comforting during times of challenging weather. The accumulative efforts of our flower growers will always lead to local flowers being in the hands of people who want them as an accompaniment to their celebration.

We are coming into another La Nina summer meaning above average rain. We plan to plant as much as we can this summer thinking ahead to the dryer times which will inevitably come. Annuals can be water intensive for them to flower at full capacity. Well established perennials and shrubs on the other hand can get by with very little in dry times so I plan on future proofing our gardens by having a diverse range of flowering shrubs/natives/perennials and the idea is to get them established when rain/water is readily available – which according to all reports is now!

The river rose incredibly high at the beginning of 2021. Some of our roses were submerged for days. Even our main flower garden became a riverbed overnight. Surprisingly we didn’t lose any of those submerged roses but we have created a new growing space on top of the hill and planted some new roses there. We have 3 different dahlia growing zones aswell. Firstly to see where they like it best but also as a safety net so if one area happens to be damaged by rain, wind or the like, we may have another zone unaffected and able to supply us with the flowers we need.

“The question is not what you look at but what you see”- Thoreau - We also need to train ourselves to “see”. Environmental constraints sometimes force us to look at what is growing around us differently. We never guarantee the use of a specific flower variety as there can be so many variables outside of our control. When life gives you lemons make lemonade – when rain decimates your dahlia crop look around you. We explain that we will use the best in bloom the week of a wedding. Beyond the flower look for the seedpods, the twisted stems, the grasses or the berries. You can use all manner of things in a design which are beautiful and can enhance an arrangement and be a showstopper unto themselves. Whilst at the same time being a beautiful mirror of the time and place you are living in.

Our whole ethos is that we use what we grow or can source locally. We need to have some level of trust that our gardens will provide what we need (not underestimating the “doing” of the sowing, planting and tending) otherwise we may wilt quicker than cut foxgloves in December.

For a climate resilient cut flower garden:

  • Have a community and a back up plan if a crop fails

  • Grow perennials/shrubs/natives – we grow salvias, buddleija, viburnum, roses, dahlias, fruiting trees, grevilleas, Geraldton wax, chrysanthemum just to name a few

  • Seeing the potential in the overlooked. It’s not about making do but seeing the world differently, sharing about it and helping others to see it too.

  • Take note of those plants which survive an extreme event – take cuttings and increase stock

  • Scattered planting if you have the space

The long term impacts of what’s to come due to climate change is scary to think about especially after experiencing some of the predicted wild weather first hand over the last few years. All I know is that putting plants in the ground, especially the perennial types – is a great thing. Get your plants settled in with this rain and their resilience will see you and the planet through any trouble and strife down the way.

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