The beautiful flowers that appear for 12 hours on the flax plants are affectionately known here as the "wee blue blossom". We are very much looking forward to seeing the flowers in bloom again in a few months time. A field of flax in bloom, swaying in the breeze is a wonderful sight and a strong (but not too strong!) wind is good for strengthening the stems. This year we are going to plant the same varieties that did well for us last year in spite of some difficult weather conditions; Lisette and Avian. These varieties grow tall and are suitable for textiles.
Flax has played such an important role in Northern Ireland's agricultural and industrial heritage that the wee blue blossoms feature in the logo of the Northern Ireland Assembly at Stormont, Belfast. The logo consists of six blue stems of flowering flax representing the six counties of Northern Ireland.
Each year, along with the main crop of flax, we plant out small plots of heritage varieties that we use for seed, including two named Stormont Gossamer and Stormont Motley, which has both white and blue flowers.
We are preparing the fields here at the farm for the new crops of flax. We have a seven year crop rotation plan, including potatoes which are brilliant for breaking up the soil. We have tried various methods of sowing seed over the past years and have found that a traditional tool called a fiddle is the most effective. Another technique we used last year which worked well, was to plant the field in two stages. This allowed us time to harvest the first section and once that was finished, the second section was ready to pull. We pull the flax by hand rather than cut the stems as this preserves the length of the fibres.