Who's In and Who's Out in 2023
Deciding to grow cut flowers was easy. I had no problem imagining a gigantic cottage garden, a flowing dress (ask me why I thought that would be the right attire for the job?), and neighbors flocking to an adorable roadside stand to bask in the bounty of my field...er, backyard.
However, as you know, deciding to do something and actually doing it are two entirely different animals. My first season felt like an exercise in futility. From trying to get a business certificate, to killing hundreds of seedlings, to weeds, to bugs, to disease, to EVERYTHING, I just kept running into walls. BUT, we can all do hard things, right? So I kept going and I called all of those setbacks lessons. And here I am taking those with me into year two.
I thought it would be fun to share some of those lessons with you in the form of the Rumphius Farms Worst Crops List of 2022 TM. These guys did not work for me in any way, and it would take some serious trauma healing for me to ever try them again. So without further ado, I present THE LIST.
Coming in at number one, we have phlox. It's the special unicorn that I got to hate twice. I say twice because I grew two kinds: Cherry Caramel, an annual variety that's a stunning and delicate pastel when done right, and a hot pink perennial variety to spice up market bouquets.
My main gripe with phlox is that it takes all season to get maaaaaaybe one centimeter high. It's completely unusable and in my not-so-expert opinion, just meh. I don't mind a diva of a crop (see: dahlias), but it has to BE a diva. Like the music stops when it arrives. Phlox is not that. Phlox is the party guest that arrives 20 minutes late and makes a beeline for the chips.
Oh, cosmos. How I wanted to love these. They're airy, easy to grow, and the Cupcake Blush variety looks like a fairy took pinking shears to it. They're beautiful to look at and add a much needed whimsical element to bouquets. The big BUT is that they have a terrible vase life.
I tried harvesting them every which way every which time of the day. High, low, early, late, super closed, a little more open. No dice. They last a few days at best.
I think that with dahlias or really special garden roses, that's acceptable, but for a market bouquet, I generally aim to include flowers that are going to stay beautiful in your home for a while. In fact, that's usually one of the advantages of locally-grown flowers. I grow them here in Weymouth, cut them at most a day before getting them to you, and sell them no more than a mile or two away at Weymouth High School. They *should* last. So when I saw cosmos melting down in the heat week after week, my heart sank. They're great for events, but that's not the bulk of my business, so they sadly have to go.
Why I even tried carnations is beyond me. Don't get me wrong. There are really gorgeous new varieties of carnations that when fluffed up and photographed at a certain angle look like no carnation you've ever seen. But carnations and I go way back to the funeral arrangements at my dad's old flower shop, and they've just never been my favorite for everyday bouquets.
I attempted to grow the Chabaud variety, a super fragrant mix of heirloom carnations. Who doesn't love a great smelling bloom? Sadly, these didn't like whatever I did to them. They barely germinated and the survivors grew so slowly that I struggled to keep their bed weeded. They were stunted and I think that they produced exactly one tiny bloom. I didn't even bother to photograph it because I was so disheartened. So, no more carnations for me.
I don't even know how to pronounce this one. CaLENdula? CalenDUla? Moving on...calendula is a cool weather flower that grows quickly. I popped it directly into a bed to get one last round of flowers in before the last frost and it worked brilliantly.
Honestly, it isn't terrible. Anything that's easy to grow gets major brownie points from me.
That said, calendula has a lot stacked against it as a cut flower. First, it's short. And as you've read, that's sort of the number one no no for me since the bread and butter of Rumphius Farms is bouquets. If I did loads of boutonnières, calendula might work. The second major downfall of this flower is its stem. It has a fat, spongy stem that becomes sticky when cut. It's just not...sexy. And lastly, someone told me that the variety I grew, Orange Flash, looked like bird poop, and I'm not sure they were wrong.
In Japan they've perfected growing sweet peas. In Weymouth, I have not. Sweet peas are delicate flowers with (unsurprisingly) a sweet scent. They come in practically every color, even blue, which is hard to come by in the flower world.
I was so excited about sweet peas that I dedicated an entire row to them, putting up t-posts and netting way back in March to give them an early start. I started them inside, pinched them, fertilized them, did all the things. And they produced. I got a few flowers. I just didn't feel like they were worth the space.
They can be pretty short, and if you let a plant go to seed, which can happen if you don't harvest daily, it's done for the season. It'll stop producing flowers since its purpose was fulfilled. They were completely done before June and never quite fit into any bouquets.
Still, I love the tendrils for foliage, so if I ever find a low maintenance, sunny spot for them, they may get a second shot. Maybe. Probably not.
So there you have it, the five big losers of last season. I have no regrets growing them. Growing everything is the only way to learn what's going to work in our climate, my space, and the Rumphius Farms aesthetic that you've come to know. If you ever want to give these a try and need some old seeds, you know where to find me.