‘Bread feeds the body, indeed, but flowers feed also the soul.’ The Koran
There is a revival of growing your own – fruits, vegetables and herbs, but also flowers to dress your home. More and more people are starting to keep a cutting patch in their garden or allotment to grow flowers. Gone are the days of boring structured bouquets with very plastic looking flowers that have no scent. Bouquets with personality and romance are very fashionable now. How wonderfully decadent to have flowers in the house through the seasons by growing your own bouquet.
Site your cutting border in a sunny location. Cut flowers tend to have long stems. The plants may need staking so avoid windy locations. Prepare the border well, adding lots of organic matter. Apply fertilizer as specified, to get a higher yield of flowers. Growing plants in rows will make it easier to carry out weeding, staking and picking. Select plants suitable for your site. Be sure your plant selection gives you a good cutting mix through the seasons. Think about the structure and colour palette of your arrangements. Think thrillers, fillers and spillers. Choose colours that work well together in your floral arrangements.
Seeds are an inexpensive way to grow a variety of flowers for cutting. They also give you the opportunity to try out different varieties from year to year. Good varieties to try are Cosmos ‘Purity’ or ‘Candy Stripe’, Ammi Majus, Tithonia rotundifolia ‘Torch’, Sweet Pea, Nigella ‘Midnight’ or ‘Miss Jekyll’, Antirrhinum ‘Night & Day’ or ‘Twinny Apple Blossom’ and Cleome ‘Pink Queen’. There is now a good range of sunflowers and poppies to try as well.
Bulbs are great for cut flowers. Choose bulbs that come up at different times of the year. Some bulbs like tulips and hyacinths are best renewed every year. Bulbs can also be grown in containers so you may want to save the space in your cutting border for other plants. Try the following bulbs, Narcissus ‘Paper Whites’, ‘Dutch Master’ or ‘Petrel’, Alliums ‘Purple Sensation’, ‘Mount Everest’ or ‘Nutans’, Lilium ‘Manitoba Morning’, Lilies ‘Star Gazer’, ‘Martagon’ or ‘Tiger var splendens’, eremurus ‘Romance’ or ‘Cleopatra’. If you like scent tuberose is a must have. Tulips ‘Mount Tacoma’, ‘Apricot Beauty’, ‘Menton’ and ‘La Belle Epoque’ make a beautiful combo both in the garden and in a vase. Dahlias are back on trend and make great cut flowers. Some of my favourites are ‘Arabian Night’, ‘Crème de Cassis’, ‘Hillcrest Royal’ and ‘Chat Noir’.
Herbaceous perennials have more outlay initially but they come back year after year if maintained well. Choose plants that give you a long flowering season. Good varieties to try are Astrantia major Shaggy, Astrantia ‘Hadspen Blood’, Astrantia ‘Roma’, Agastache ‘Black Adder’, Rudbeckia ‘Goldstrum’ or ‘Maxima’, Helianthus ‘Lemon Queen’ or ‘Vanilla Ice’, Peony ‘Sarah Bernhardt’, Gaura lindheimeri ‘The Bride’ or ‘Rosy Jane’, Helenium ‘Moerheim’s Beauty’ or ‘Ruby Charm’, Echinacea ‘Vintage Wine’ or ‘Magnus’, Veronicastrum ‘Lavendelturm’ or ‘Fascination’ and Veronica ‘Redfox’ or ‘Twilight’.
Foliage and stems help to show your flowers off. Do not forget to add some choice foliage plants into your cutting border. These can be ferns, shrubs, grasses, perennials or seeds. Try sprigs of Rosemary to give scent, large leaves of Fatsia and Canna give a more tropical feel whilst ferns make good fillers. Coleus leaves are very colourful, but use sparingly to give the best effect. Cornus ‘Midwinter Fire’ has flame coloured stems and look dramatic dotted in amongst an arrangement.
Emma Sousa is a florist who grows a lot of her own flowers and she also runs workshops.
All photos courtesy of Emma Sousa