Flower farmer, Phoebe Poole shared her beautiful 1.5-acre flower farm with 25 Perennial Planters on a warm cloudless Sunday in Westport. Phoebe is passionate about her chosen floral farm business and grows stunning organic flowers for the floral design trade. Her blooms grow in both outside planting beds and her 3 large hoop houses. We learned about the local demand for flowers which drives the local floral trade (did you know that Newport is #2 wedding destination in USA?). The Floral Reservewww.thefloralreserve.com is where she sells most of her flowers stems to the local floral market. They sell both to wholesale and retail customers.
Phoebe specializes in growing flower types and colors which are used for floral design work and weddings. She pushes herself each year to find varieties that are beautiful, hold up well, and are somewhat unusual. Here are some of her tips:
1. SOIL – You need good soil – She builds hers up with compost (Earthcare in Wakefield - www.earthcarefarm.com), rotation planting (never the same plant in the same spot – this helps feed the soil) , and adequate water (drip hoses in her greenhouses and soaker hoses outdoors – but during growing season she always waters the bottom of the plant). She feeds her plants with diluted fish emulsion and compost tea throughout the growing season. At seasons end, she aerates her beds with the deep tines from her groundfork – but she does NOT turn the soil, which helps to promote the healthy biome environment in her soil. She is generous with her mulch and a believer in its magic!
2. SEEDS - Quality seeds – Phoebe recommends Johnnie’s Seed in Maine www.johnnyseeds.com and Washington ‘s Floret www.floretflowers.com. Phoebe starts over 300 varieties of annuals in her small greenhouse – Her word to the wise about starting seeds is read the package for seedling needs – all seeds are different in their demands. Seeds are started in the BEST seed starting mix – “Vermont Potting Mix – Fort Vee” www.vermontcompost.com. She also uses heat mats under her seedlings. 3. SOME OF HER FAVORITE VARIETIES OF PLANTS– Nigella (Love in the mist) Old Fashioned Chrysanthemums (She takes cuttings from last year’s “mother plants”) Snapdragons – (loves the more exotic Madame Butterfly & Azaleas series) Ami Dara (false Queen annes lace) Tuberrose – Polianthes tuberosa– Stunningly beautiful and fragrant!! It is the flower used as the base fragrance in all perfumes New varieties of Nicotiana (Tinkerbelle – muted rusty color) Chinese Forget me not – Blue Cynoglossum - ohhhh that blue! Silver drop eucalyptus – grown for its small leaves
4. DESIGN TRENDS AND TIPS – Phoebe uses herbs as “greens” in many if her arrangements – they add delightful fragrance. (Rosemary BBQ., Lemon Verbena, Mint, scented geraniums grown for leaf color and scent but not their blooms, and lemon basil). Color trends are: white, “Muddy” colors (think beige – it goes with all colors) and deep burgundies and blue. Vines are making a comeback too, for use in arrangements and bouquets.
5.TIMING OF BLOOM CUTTINGS - Because she grows for the design trade – she cuts her flowers when the blossoms are still tight, so they can open when used in a design. She uses no conditioners – she advocates early morning cutting, no disease (she bleaches clippers and collection buckets daily), puts her blooms in water asap, and keeps them in a cool area to keep flowers hydrated. She suggests that we will lengthen our own enjoyment of blooms if we too, cut when blossoms are not fully open.
6.Take JOY in growing flowers – and don’t be bashful about trying something new!
Phoebe concluded our day’s program by sharing some of her autumn perennial beauties – Japanese anemonies. She had divided hers and sent us all home with a big clump so that we too will be able enjoy the beauty of autumn blooms. We each have a “surprise” clump of either ‘Honorine Jobert’ (white) and ‘September Charm’ (mauve-y pink). Next October we’ll know for sure which variety we got.
P.O. Box 603146 Providence, RI 02906-0146 www.perennialplanters.org