My friend Michelle works out of Apotheca in Faversham as a massage therapist and recently asked me if I could give her some advice on what flowers she should grow in her garden.
At this point I should put my hands up and admit I’m not a gardener. That’s Mr JDFW’s domain – he has planned our garden using the elements of (garden and floristry) design which includes colour, form and texture. Accordingly, our garden has been planted for year-round colour in terms of shrubs, bushes and trees, with only minimal floral interest.
10 flowers for your garden
If my green fingers were ever to be found I’d love to have an overflowing cottage garden. Although I’m not a gardener I know enough to realise that having a wish list of plants isn’t enough. You need to understand your soil conditions and local climate. My top tip would be to see what your neighbours are growing and use that as an indication of what will grow in your garden.
Here are my dream ten:
When I think of Tulips I think of spring, with their egg-shaped flowers bringing the promise of Easter goodies. In reality tulips bloom once your daffodils have died back. By the time they’re prolific- in May - its practically summer.
2. Sweet peas
I don’t know about you but I dream of wigwams of Sweet Peas. You need to cut them as they come into bloom, rather than enjoying them on the vine. Once they go over they start to set seed and flower production stops.
Peonies are really fashionable at the moment. We’re having success with Coral Charm – which has survived being transplanted from our allotment (a very short-lived story – see above and lack of green fingers).
4. Lady’s mantle
Lady’s mantle - Alchemilla mollis - is beautiful buzz of zingy yellow flower heads and furry green leaves which collect droplets of rain water. Its renowned for self-seeding. Although ours has stayed stubbornly confined to the spot where it was planted …
You could go for the fashionable chocolate variety of Cosmos or harness your inner cottage gardener and go for a riot of pinks.
6. Japanese anemone
The Japanese anemone is an elegant flower, with a simple dairy like flower head in pink or white. I like it once it’s gone over and you can enjoy the seed heads, which have an architectural look to them
The bright orange daisy-like flowers of the Calendula are really easy to grow. You can use the petals to garnish your salads. These are one of the first flowers I leant to grow with my Dad.
Zinnia this is a more elegant flower than the Calendula. It isn’t nearly so brash and comes in a huge range of muted colours from cream, to dirty pink (light and dark) through to green. My friend Anne grows Zinnia on her allotment and I love going around to pick them.
9. Bells of Ireland
Bells of Ireland - Moluccella laevis – is a really striking plant, which you can dry and preserve with glycerine. Another friend has the knack of growing them, where they almost spread like weeds. Sadly, I haven’t had any success with them.
Now Cerinthe is an easy plant to grow. Scatter the chunky black seeds around and in no time you’ll be rewarded with bushy plants. Technically the purple tasseled flowers are bracts.
Stretching my top ten flowers to eleven and adding in a plant for greenery I’d go for Eucalyptus. My only advice is not to let your plant grow into a tree. It grows so fast you won’t be able to reach the branches to cut them. Keep your Eucalyptus cropped, so it stays controllable at waist height
Advice from the flower farmer
Anna from Anna’s Country Flowers recommends growing not just flowers but foliage like cerinthe, asparagus fern and herbs like fennel which is multifunctional –cook with it, and use it in your flower arrangements. Another favourite of Anna’s are sweet peas especially the scented ones. Being in the know Anna told me that sweet peas need good nutrients in the soil to get the best flowers.
She also recommends dahlias for their continual flowering later in the season. You can grow them from seed and have them flowering the same year. Anna also recommends Scabious ‘ping pong’, for its interesting seed heads.
In terms of the actual growing, Anna has one word of caution and that’s when growing from seed or plugs don’t plant out too soon as you’ll lose them to the late frosts. Before planting out you’ll need to make sure your soil is warm to the touch, and protect your plants if frost is forecast. Anna also advises that staking is important so heavy-headed flowers don’t get damaged and your plants get to grow straight and strong – which will make them easier to arrange in your vase indoors.
Need more advice?
If you’d like to read more on the subject of growing your own cut flowers I’ve heard great things about these books. I’m an Amazon Affiliate – if you shop using these links I get a small commission.
The Cutting Garden by Sarah Raven
The Flower Farmer’s Year by Georgie Newbery
The Flower Arranger’s Garden by Rosemary Verey
Floret Farm’s Cut Flower Garden by Erin Benzakein and Julie Chai
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Until next time, happy flowers!
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