We grow over 75 acres of daffodils. That’s a lot of daffs - especially when you have to pick each one by hand! We pick an incredible 10 million daffodils every year with a workforce of up to 40 pickers and packers. The team are all pros, as you can see here. Some of this is sold to large supermarket chains and wholesalers, but the scale also allows us to ensure that we have beautifully fresh daffodils from the first week in January right up to the end of April, when our scented and multi-headed varieties come into their own.
It makes for pretty impressive shots, as you can see from this drone footage. We also garner plenty of media attention when we are in full swing during the spring, as you can see from this story on RTE’s Nationwide.
When the flower picking is over, the work continues. We spend the first couple of weeks roguing our varieties to make sure that they are 100% pure. When June rolls around, we roll out the big guns to start lifting bulbs. We leave the bulbs in the ground for about three years, partly to allow us to get a couple of years picking out of them, but also to allow the bulbs to multiply up sufficiently.
This process takes a few months to complete because when the bulbs are out of the ground, we spent weeks cleaning, brushing and drying them to bring them to a satisfactory condition for retailing.
Of course, we keep at least half of the crop to ensure that we have enough to replant for ourselves in the autumn, and so the cycle begins all over again.
Sunflowers, gladiola, lily and wildflowers
We also grow acres of sunflowers, gladiola, lily and wildflowers outdoors, along with a well established peony rose orchard and some Sweet William. These all require different management, planting and harvesting regimes, but it also ensures that we have beautiful fresh flowers coming in every week from the fields right throughout the summer and autumn months.
Some of them come in a panic - peony, I’m looking at you! They are planted for years before we can start cropping them, so they settle into their own blooming pattern that is largely dictated by the weather in any given year. And everyone knows how unreliable the Irish weather is! Instead, we rely on a range of early, mid, and late-season varieties to give us as wide a spread as possible.
This contrasts with crops like the sunflowers and gladiola which we plant every fortnight as soon as ground conditions in the spring allow. The idea is that it takes about 100 days for the plant to mature and burst into bloom, but of course we have to arm wrestle with the weather to even out the throughs and peaks.
Tricks of the trade are the use of fleeces for example to cover the earliest plantings to help push them along when the weather is encouraging them to stay tucked up in the soil. If conditions are getting too dry, we’ll roll out trickle irrigation pipes to help get the seeds to germinate.
In the case of the Sweet William, it all gets turned on it’s head, with the seed being sown in late summer in the hope that it’ll tough it out over the winter months and burst into bloom the following May. As you can imagine, there’s a lot of sweating, hoping and praying going on around Elmgrove farm at various points during the year!
Check out our Instagram and Facebook pages to see behind the scenes footage and photos of what it takes to grow Irish flowers year round.
Polytunnels have been flying up every year in recent times at Elmgrove Farm as the team looks to expand further their range and supply season. Oriental lilies dominate currently, again planted every fortnight from late winter until mid summer.
New lines such as scented roses, anemone, dahlias, ammi-majus, etc are being trialled in the tunnels on a continual basis.
We try hard to grow as much as possible, but we can’t do it all! Here’s some of the fantastic Irish growers that we source from.
Brothers Noel and Michael Ruigrok have probably forgotten more about flower growing then the rest of us will ever learn! They hail from generations of Dutch flower growers, and today specialise in tulips, lilies, sunflowers, gladiola, and ornamental Brassica from their state-of-the-art glasshouses on the Rogerstown Estuary in north County Dublin.
See how the Ruigroks are able to grow millions of tulips hydroponically from December until May here.
Tom is a superb grower of Calla and Alstromeria lily under glass at his nursery on the Clare-Limerick border. These start in April and continue until August, with Tom constantly looking for new vibrant colours to keep demanding customers like us happy! See how Tom does it here.
Stuart is a second generation grower of a wonderful variety of cut foliage from his orchards at Redcross in the foothills of the Wicklow mountains. Phormium, twisted willow, scented eucalyptus, vibrant pittosporum and delicate pussy willow are all specialities from Redcross Farm, and you can see how Stuart manages acres of cut foliage here.