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  • Writer's pictureJulia Watson

Lulls and Gaps

Real life for a flower farmer - sometimes there are gaps in production.

I’ve been gardening for a long time, so I know when different plants bloom. But I didn’t notice lulls or gaps in that sequence, because it didn’t matter much to me. Now that we have a flower business, it matters a lot, and I have to plan our growing schedule carefully.

This is only my second year of flower farming, so maybe I can be forgiven, but we’ve had two gaps in flower production this year - times when we barely had enough to fill our orders. The first gap was in late spring, when ranunculus and sweet peas were finished, but the roses hadn’t yet come into their second flush of blooms. The second gap is the one we’re in this week – our zinnias are slowing down, but our heirloom mums aren’t yet ready for harvest. We have enough for our bouquet orders, but not much extra. Luckily our strawflowers and scabiosa are still going strong, so they make beautiful fillers.

Ranunculus don't bloom forever, and until those zinnias start, there's a gap to be filled!

As I plan for next year, I want to learn from those mistakes and make corrections. I’ll use succession plantings to extend the harvest for some of our annuals, and I’ll plan perennials and biennials that bloom in slightly offset times. Shasta daisies (which I already grow), could be increased to help with our first gap, while plectranthus and dahlias could help the late summer gap. This year I didn’t plant many dahlias, and now I regret it. We don’t do wedding work, and dahlias don’t last well in the vase, so I considered them non-essential for this year’s plan. But now I see that they could be blooming right now, in late summer.

Zinnias don't bloom forever, and until the heirloom mums start, there's another gap!

It’s natural to have lulls in seasonal flowers because of the day-length and temperature requirements of different plants. Hardy annuals (sweet peas, poppies, cerinthe) bloom in the cooler, shorter days of early spring, then fade when days lengthen and summer heat sets in. But the summer annuals (zinnias, celosia, strawflowers) aren’t quite ready to bloom, so we’re left with a gap. In the fall, a similar gap happens when summer annuals start to slow down, but fall-blooming perennials haven’t started.

Erin Benzakein of Floret suggests biennials to fill in these gaps, and next year I plan to try some. Campanula for the spring gap, rudbeckia for the late summer gap. I’ll keep you posted – meanwhile, let me know about your own garden schedules.

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