The last few months I’ve been fully immersed in writing my first book. The office is scattered with mud streaked notebooks, half empty coffee cups and piles of dog-eared reference texts. The writing process has been a pretty tough, and at times I feel like I’m a million miles from where I want to be. Every author I’ve talked to says this is how the process goes though and it’s worth the pain. Two weeks ago, during a particularly rough patch with my first deadline looming, the mail lady showed up with a copy of the new book, The Flower Farmer’s Year. I took it as a sign and closed down my computer and curled up on the couch for a much need break and read it cover to cover.
Authored by UK-based writer and flower farmer Georgie Newbery of Common Farm (@CommonFarmFlowers on Instagram) The Flower Farmer’s Year: How to grow cut flowers for pleasure and profit is a great resource for serious gardeners and beginning flower farmers alike.
Georgie Newbery’s personal story is a fascinating one. A recent New York Times Magazine article highlighted her previous work for fashion designer John Galliano and American Vogue in Paris and as a writer who penned three fashion-focused novels. Finding joy—and now a new career—in her Somerset-area farm, Newbery traded in her heels for Wellies and now operates one of the UK’s leading farmer-florist operations.
Newbery’s 255-page book is filled with great advice for small scale production. Her recommendations on succession sowing and incorporating loads of biennials is great for new growers, as they are details often glossed over by other texts. As she wisely observes, “Making a success of growing cut flowers for profit is so much about planning seasons in advance.” The planner she includes in the Appendix is a nice overview which you can use and adapt to your own growing season and climate.
The book includes a thoughtful narrative on the pro’s and con’s of dedicating precious real-estate to perennials. Newbery also does a great job of explaining the differences in how you approach flower production as a gardener and how that differs from that of a flower farmer. The emphasis on speed and turnaround, efficiency and effective use of space (and time) is one that can’t be emphasized enough to beginning flower farmers and gardeners ready to “scale up.”
I enjoyed Newbery’s description of the “Chelsea Chop,” and other details where her personality really showed. Her efforts to combat slugs was particularly endearing, as was her need for a “bold bulb budget,” a term that I just might borrow in defense of my next overzealous tulip order. I also loved how she encouraged readers to “put aside horticulture snobbery” and consider using certain shrubs and wildflowers.
The Flower Farmer’s Year has a great flow, nice-sized photos and several spectacular illustrations by artist Fabrizio Boccha, who also happens to be Newbery’s husband. (Note: Boccha’s illustration of a low-cost heated propagation bed is brilliant. The design is a great option for growers that don’t have access to a heated greenhouse for seed starting purposes).
The Flower Farmer’s Year is a delightful read and a solid reference book that will find a prominent place alongside Lynn Byczynski’s The Flower Farmer, Sarah Raven’s The Cutting Garden and other “bibles” on every farmer-florists’ bookshelf, my own included. It is available at Amazon , Barnes and Noble, and other retailers.
To celebrate the availability of this book in the U.S. and to toast all the newbie farmer-florists out there starting their first season, I’m offering THREE free copies of The Flower Farmer’s Year. To enter to win, simply add a comment below. In your comment, please share your favorite garden or flower-themed book. Submissions close on midnight PST Wednesday and I’ll announce the winners on the blog on Thursday. Good luck!