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Planning ahead for flowers

Part of a flower farmer's job is to take fastidious notes and implement lessons learned for the following season. As strange as it may sound, the lessons I learn from spring take effect almost immediately. In North Texas, almost all my spring blooms come from fall plantings. And those seeds, corms, and plugs must be ordered now to arrive in the fall. Blooms for spring 2024 are ordered as spring 2023 winds down.

We've always sold to designers and florist shops from our very first day, but since deciding to expand our offerings to them, we've had to transition our crop plan. This means the crops we grow must be premium flowers which are hard to get via traditional wholesale shipments or are in high demand. Some flowers that are plentiful and inexpensive for florists to purchase (think bells of ireland, carnations, alstroemeria and even lilies) aren't very profitable for us to grow. We're also thinking less of a field that can grow all the elements of a bouquet and instead envision a field that grows only the special elements. Less foliage, more focal. So here's some varieties we're growing more of in 2024 and ones we're letting go from previous seasons.

Butterfly ranunculus. These beauties get beat up in shipping, so a fresh local product is nearly undeniable. They also fetch a nice wholesale price that helps us pay our bills. :p The cherry on top? They fare much better in the heat than traditional ranunculus. We're doubling our crop for 2024. They take up more space than a traditional ranunculus, so we're squeezing in around 175 plants, and dialing back our regular ranunculus to only 100.

Poppies: they aren't great for traditional florists, who may need to hold flowers in their cooler for a week until the right order comes in. But for an event that needs an immediate fluffy ephemeral beauty, poppies are hard to beat. We're growing roughly 200 plants.

Snapdragons: In our high tunnel, we can get extremely high quality snapdragons and they don't get beat up in transit. We normally plant about 300 plants, 3x3 inch spacing, with no pinch (though a random freeze can sometimes pinch for us), we will increase it to roughly 400 and grow more colors that are typically spring (yellows, pinks, apricots and lavender) and less bold reds which don't tend to be as requested.

Phlox (annual): after leaving it off the plan this spring, it's returning in 2024. So many designers I know absolutely love it for color bridging, so we'll give some space for a planting of 50 plants or so (they are tightly spaced and productive).

Lisianthus: with such an expensive plug, it's hard to get enough from a csa bouquet to pay for their quality production. Since they're a premium cut flower, wholesale can really provide the perfect outlet for designers to get them and for us to get the price per stem we need to keep growing them. We'll be doubling our growing amount from 250 to 400 plants.

Delphinium: the dark purples are hard to use with citrusy spring colors, so while we're not growing many more, we'll be growing primarily the sky-blue color next year instead of the mixed seed packets.

Other plants that we're keeping the same amount is foxglove, dianthus, stock, anemones, larkspur, statice, strawflower and bupleurum, roughly 50 to 75 of each plant. These are amazing workhorses and growing them gives us a nice steady progression of harvests through the whole spring.

Some plants we won't be growing on the rotation include bachelor buttons, agrostemma, carnations, nigella, scabiosa (the annual), dara, rudbeckia and bells of ireland. They tend to be secondary flowers that can't command as high a premium price and earn their keep on our very small growing space. We're also cutting back on daffodils, tulips, and anemones, in part because we're coordinating with other farmers and they can grow these flowers in high quality and high quantity making it not necessary for us to use our space for them.

We're also investing in more peonies and roses, though it will take several years for that investment to pay out. We've trialed enough the past three years with these two crops to feel confident moving forward with adding them to official production of our premium cut flowers.

On the periphery in small batches, we'll also continue to grow forget-me-nots, yarrow, fama scabiosa, gladiolus sweet peas, and feverfew. I'm not sure yet if these will continue to make our grow list but I'm tracking their production and use to designers for the next two years to be sure I know exactly how useful they are to our overall crop plan.

I'll try to write a summer and autumn summary when the year comes to an end :)

Happy growing!!

sarah jo

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