As a florist, naturally I would love you to visit my shop as often as possible and buy flower arrangements for your home. But in fact, few of us can afford to have fresh flowers from the florist on display year round. A good way to keep your home in fresh flowers is to grow them in your garden, for those times when you can’t stretch to a gorgeous bouquet.
There are loads of garden plants and shrubs that can be used for flowers and foliage in arrangements for the home – and there’s nothing stopping you from giving them as gifts too.
If you have a little plot in the garden, I would highly recommend you dedicate it to growing cut flowers.
Credit: Tulips in Holland
You can adapt an existing flower border by planting groups of bulbs, annuals and perennials that will be perfect for cutting – without significantly affecting the appearance of the border. Choose some varieties of shrubs and grasses that offer interesting foliage for your arrangements, alongside your choice of flowers.
If you’re lucky enough to have a plot that you can dedicate to growing flowers solely for your arrangements, this is perfect – it means you don’t have to cut into established beds and borders which can deplete their colour and spoil their appearance. You can also ensure you plan the area so offers maximum productivity.
Plant or sew your plants in rows as this will make doing the staking, weeding and picking a lot easier. Make sure you leave sufficient spread between the plants. It’s tempting to cram a lot of different varieties together – however, if you plant things very close, the plants will just fall into each other, get damaged or tangled – and be no good for your arrangements. You’re likely to pick taller plants as these are better for arrangements, so they will need good support – leave adequate space for this.
Acanthus spinosus Credit: Pinterest
Preparing your soil
Flowers for cutting need fertile soil that is free from weeds. Try to apply organic matter annually (one or two bucketfuls per square metre/yard) particularly if your soil is sandy or clay – this will help to retain the moisture and improve the soil structure. If the summer is dry, water to achieve a good stem length. Fertilisers can also help in achieving tall healthy growth and plenty of flowers.
A lot of cut flowers will be sun lovers – although some, such as Solomon’s seal, Acanthus spinosus (above) and heuchera, will tolerate the shade. Avoid windy sites as staking will be necessary for achieving tall plants.
Pick your plants according to their situation (location e.g. sunny/partial shade, soil type).
Annuals survive for a year but give you the chance to try out different plants.
Herbaceous perennials – select varieties that provide a long season of picking. Make sure you choose plants that will give you foliage as well. Although most perennials won’t flower in the first year if they are raised from seed, some – such as Achillea millefolium ‘Summer Pastels’, agastache, echinacaea and delphinium – may do.
Bulbs are perfect for cut flowers – many begin to flower late winter or early spring. Try to plant a variety of early, mid and late flowering bulbs to give you the longest possible picking season. Although Tulips and hyacinths do flower year after year, you may find they don’t flower as well in subsequent years – some people like to just dig up the bulbs and start over.
Achillea millefolium ‘Summer Pastels’ Credit: Thompson & Morgan
According to the RHS, bulbs can be forced by an initial period rooting in cool and dark conditions before being brought indoors to flower from mid-winter. Bulbs, narcissi for example, lend themselves to naturalising in grass or deciduous shade from where blooms can be taken without reducing flowers in the garden.
Choose shrubs for both flowers and foliage – camellia, Japanese quince (Chaenomeles), forsythia and witch hazel (Hamamelis) all give you the perfect material for arrangements through late winter and early spring, but shrubs can also give you ornamental foliage for your arrangements year round.
Don’t rule out climbers – the seed heads of clematis are great in arrangements, and climbing roses are good for arrangements too.
For ideas on which plants to choose for each season, see the RHS guide here.
I hope you enjoy growing your own cut flowers and I also hope you still stop by the shop to choose from our gorgeous flower arrangements and gifts from time to time!