Cook, gardener, businesswomen,
TV personality, broadcaster, teacher, author, entrepreneur = Sarah Raven. Last night, Ms. Raven stood in front of a packed house and spoke non-stop with passion, for over an hour. Her reputation as a powerhouse was confirmed. Raven’s talk was billed as “about how to prepare, plant, maintain and harvest buckets of flowers from your garden – from March to November – with her best sowing and growing techniques.” She delivered.
When you are in the business of growing flowers, figuring out how many flowers one can harvest per square meter is pretty important. One bucket of peonies yields one bucket per one square meter. Cosmos bipinnatus ‘Purity’ yields 52 buckets per square meter. What would you grow? Raven’s flower garden is organized by 4 x 12 ft. beds. Her cutting garden is 150 ft. x 170 ft., which yields 50 buckets of cut flowers every other weekend.
Raven trials many varieties to find: the ones with the greatest scent; longest “shelf life” in a vase and ones that keep on coming. She grows130 varieties of tulips,180 varieties of sweet peas and 62 varieties of dahlias. She described going to Holland every year and walking the fields looking for new varieties of tulips. In the “dust bin” of the tulip fields, she rescued and named, Tulip ‘Sarah Raven.”
Dahlia ‘Dark Butterly’
Beyond focusing on beautiful varieties of flowers to grow and the advantages of growing those varieties, Raven had a few tips. The two photographs above show mustard greens inter-planted with tulips. This is a new technique that Raven is experimenting with. She also mentioned that green tulips have three times the gardening life of other tulips. They last 3-4 weeks in a vase.
Another tip: white distilled vinegar in a vase makes your flowers last a lot longer.
Why does she love a dahlia? “They lift my heart.”
Another tip: searing the stems of cut flowers for approximately 10 seconds in boiling water. The amount of time to dip the stems depends on the diameter of the stem itself.
Raven attributed her love of flowers to trips she took with her father, a botanist, as a child to countries around Mediterranean. One can never underestimate the importance of exposure to nature during our childhoods.
The Cutting Garden
Wave Hill Horticulture Lectures
February 21, 2018