Greetings from Maine!

I’m excited to write my first column as your new Regional Director. To put my farm into context, my folks run a retail farm growing plants, vegetables, apples, and raspberries here in southern Maine, and I own and run the flower farm piece of the puzzle. We have a slew of greenhouses and some nice woods for foraging mosses and twigs and such, plus we grow on about 14 acres here at home, and 20 acres of leased land down the road in the next town. I plant flowers in three high tunnels and some of the greenhouses, and on about four acres in the field. My flower farm’s revenue is about half wedding work including full service design and bulk flowers for DIY brides, a third in bouquets and solid bunches at Farmers’ Market twice a week, and the rest to other designers, wreath work, and other odds and ends. Our selling season is late April to Thanksgiving.

Last year was a blur for us on our farm, so I bet it was for many of you too. As I start to plan my seed orders and scheduling I sure do love thinking about the many waves of flowers we grew and sold last year. We all tweak our lists and refocus our attention based on what grew well and what our customers loved. I like to review the previous year, focusing on things we did well and things that were let-downs.

Triumphs 2016

Our anemone crop was really fantastic, and production was high enough to sell some to a local grocery store. Since we don’t heat in the winter or leave the covers on our high tunnels through our snowy season, I have been soaking and sprouting our anemone bulks in February, planting them into 72 trays and starting them in our seed-starting greenhouse, and planting them into the tunnels around the beginning of April. First blooms are usually mid May continuing through June.

We also potted up a few spare anemone and ranunculus corms in the spring to sell as plants at market, and they were a hit. I like being able to order a few extras and get a wider range of colors, knowing I can sell some this way. We planted one corm per 4 ½” deep pot and sold them for $5 each.

The peonies really stole the show in June, and held up great in our cold storage. We cut our first stem May 25th, and used our last stems July 15th. We were really thrilled to go straight from peony bunches to lisianthus bunches in our flower display at market to entice customers who like those softer tones.

This year we divided our eucalyptus into two fields: we planted some with our summer crops and harvested that as we needed it, but set aside the other section for November when it was a perfect accompaniment to our kales and mums. We sold every stem!

We tried growing some passion vine in our high tunnel to use for foliage, and it was so much fun, and very productive.

In the summer and the drought we weren’t sure our late plantings of celosia and amaranth were going to survive, let alone thrive, but they sure did! Late is great for both of these, and we pinched the amaranth with great success. Planting out the little stumps was a real leap of faith, but our September bouquets benefitted from the toughness of those little plants. I’m thinking about skipping my earliest spring/summer planting of amaranth altogether…

Tragedies 2016
Early daffs last year were damaged by a freeze, but the later ones really strutted their stuff. This is a reminder to me, that even though I am excited to have flowers as early as possible, mid-season and late-season crops are more reliable and profitable.

After we had been planting tulips in the same place for years and years, botrytis had built up in the soil enough to ruin about half our tulips. Update: we now have a deer fence around the orchard and I can now plant tulips there and not be just feeding the wildlife!

Our dahlias really struggled last year in the heat and the drought and we didn’t do a great job planting and tending them in a timely manner.

I am realizing I need to streamline my system for compiling orders from designers, and managing wedding inquiries and contracts, as I became overwhelmed this year and lost some business. My plan right now is to have one crew member be designated office manager a couple hours per week. This feels really scary to me as I am used to doing all that myself, but I’m prepared for it to also feel liberating.

We wasted quite a bit of energy on some seedlings for dried flowers (nigella and acroclinum) that never made it out into the field. I am scaling back some of my ambitions for next year, so we can focus our efforts on crops we are able to follow through on.

We planted some Cobaea for cutting, and I really love it, but it matched up for color and style with only one of our weddings this year, so it didn’t pay its way space wise. We will still grow it to sell as plants.

We overdid it making cuttings of our heirloom mums, so we tucked some in a high tunnel as a Hail Mary, but it got too cold as they were flowering to be any good. In our climate, we definitely need to put those in our heatable space.

I can’t wait to get rolling with 2017 as we face new challenges and fall in love with different varieties. Warm cozy wishes to you!

Carolyn Snell

Carolyn Snell Designs

Carolyn Snell Carolyn Snell Designs [email protected] [email protected]