How to Grow Daucus Dara

Daucus carota ‘Dara’ is one of the most beautiful lacy flowers you can grow. Flowers range from palest pink to deepest burgundy, all are lovely and quite perfect for adding a light touch to a bunch of cut flowers. You may know Daucus as the Wild Carrot, the Chocolate Lace Flower or False Queen Anne’s Lace. Although it’s part of the carrot family this plant is not edible!

Daucus carota Dara has long stems and feathery foliage topped by large flowers in shades of burgundy and soft pink. Hundreds of tiny flowers make up each flower head and they are full of nectar which pollinating insects love. Like Ammi majus, Ducus adds a delightfully airy touch planted in drifts in borders. Daucus is good for cutting too… add them to mixed bunches of flowers to create a lovely contemporary look.

How to Grow Daucus Dara

Strictly speaking Daucus is a Biennial plant but you can treat it like a Hardy Annual so you can choose the flowering time. Sow Daucus Dara seeds in January or February indoors for flowers from May onwards, direct sow in April/May for flowers in summer and autumn. Sow in June to September as you would for other Biennial plants for flowers the following year.
The same applies to Daucus carota, the Wild Carrot which is the plain white version often used in wildflower meadows and wilder planting schemes.

There are full growing details for both in the shop if you’d like to know more about how to grow Daucus.

Daucus carota

Both of them have amazing seed heads too.

In Flower Farming, Daucus Dara is known as a filler flower. All the the best bunches of blooms have plenty of foliage in them too… up to 50% is a good rule of thumb to hep your star flowers shine. Huge dramatic cut blooms like Dahlias and Roses really benefit from having frothy fillers in the vase with them. If you like to have a look at Rachel using Daucus Dara with her Dahlias on Gardeners World then here’s the link to the BBC iPlayer. You’ll see that Daucus Dara is lovely in flower arrangements and complements most blooms.

Daucus carota ‘Dara’

Lacy Fillers Seed Collection

In the garden, Daucus grows well with other tall hardy annual fillers such as Orlaya, Ammi and Dill. The flat flower heads combine well with the spires of Larkspur and Antirrhinum and button flowers of Scabious and Cornflowers. That’s the beauty of lacy fillers… they go with more or less everything!

I’m growing lots more fillers for flowers in 2021. Not that I’m greedy or anything… but the more fillers I grow the more I love them. Daucus Dara in particular! If you love them too then you can buy Daucus carota ‘Dara’ seeds here. They’re in the in the shop now!

Which fillers are you growing for 2021?

Growing Cornflowers from Seed

Cornflower Header

There’s nothing quite like the sight of the true intense blue of Cornflowers scattered like jewels through a flowery meadow. I’ve been lucky enough to see them growing with golden yellow Corn Marigolds and the happy white daisies of Corn Chamomile. Sometimes there are flashes of scarlet from the papery petals of our native field Poppy too. A wildflower meadow is a truly amazing sight!

Wild Cornflowers Centaurea cyanus and Wild Poppies Papaver rhoeas

Cornflowers are popular with both people and wildlife. I love them for their early summer colour. There’s nothing quite like the clear, intense blue of Cornflowers. They bring back memories of happy times such as family picnics in the countryside, a garden visit or best of all happy days in granny’s garden. Insects love them for their flowers too. Cornflowers supply pollen and nectar for bees and lots of other beneficial insects. Once the flowers are over their seeds provide food for small mammals and birds such as Goldfinches.

Wild Cornflowers growing with Corn Marigolds Chrysanthemum segetum and Corn Chamomile Anthemis arvensis

Cornflowers are endangered! Did you know?

Before farming intensified in the UK in the 1960’s Cornflowers grew wild with crops such as wheat, barley, oats and rye. Today many farmers consider wildflowers to be weeds because they contaminate their crops. Herbicides are still widely used to eradicate them.

In the UK now, wild cornflowers are classified as endangered. Wildflower meadows they love to grow in, have declined from 264 sites in 1960, to 50 sites in 1985 and in 1998 there were just 3 sites left, one in Suffolk, one on the Isle of Wight and one in Lincolnshire. 

The good news is that Cornflowers are quick to grow, and their numbers can recover. Over the past 20 years various national bodies including the Wildlife Trust have been working to reintroduce Cornflowers across the UK. One of the best displays can be seen at College Lake in Buckinghamshire and there are lots of other sites too. I’ve seen them growing in wildflower meadows at National Trust gardens and a nearby caravan site had a large strip of mixed wildflowers including Cornflowers in the grass verge at their site entrance last summer.

You have probably seen plenty of articles and TV programmes encouraging you to grow wildflowers to provide food and habitat for wildlife. The thinking is, if all gardeners did this it would help turn the tide in the decline of bees, butterflies and other beneficial insects. That’s a great idea and such an easy thing to do to help pollinating insects. Do we need to stick to wildflowers though?

In fact both the wild Cornflowers and the ‘improved’ cultivated/man-made varieties are good for wildlife.
Both produce pollen, nectar and seeds which feed insects, small mammals and birds. So which to choose?
The choice is entirely yours.

Here’s some details about both types of Cornflowers to help you decide which is best for you.

Which Cornflowers are best?

Centaurea cyanus is our native wild Cornflower. Seeds are available from many online seed suppliers including Country Garden UK of course!  They grow to around 60cm tall and have many well branched stems with a beautiful blue flower at the top of each. Each grey/green cotton stems looks delicate but is quite sturdy. Each flower has one ring of blue ray flowers. These are lovely in wildflower meadows or even just a small wild patch in a garden growing with other delicate looking plants. If you have a wilder, more naturalistic garden or space for a mini meadow you may prefer to go down the wildflower route.

Centaurea cyanus, our native wild Cornflower.

The cultivated Cornflower is also widely available and there are several names for this blue cornflower, Centaurea ‘Double Blue’, ‘Blue Boy’ or ‘Blue Ball’. They have been enhanced by selective breeding to produce more garden worthy plants. They have the usual grey/green cotton stems but they are much taller (90cm+) so will need staking or the support of pea and been netting stretched horizontally. Flower heads are larger too. Each flower has TWO rings of ray flowers so a small group of these has much more colour and impact in the garden.

Wild Cornflower on the left, cultivated Cornflowers on the right.
Cornflower Double Blue/Blue Boy

They are also available in other colours such as pink, red, purple, black and white or a lovely mixture. These larger cultivated forms are all excellent for providing a relaxed country feel in cottage gardens. They’re great for cut flowers, for edible petals and for drying to make wedding confetti too.

Centaurea cyanus cultivars.

How to Grow Cornflowers

If you are thinking about growing Cornflowers, either our native wild form or a cultivated variety then late winter – spring is a great time to sow seeds. Sow cornflower seeds either indoors in late February/March. You can sow them in modules, one or two seeds per cell or scatter a few seeds in a wooden seed tray if you prefer not to use plastic. Sow outdoors when it’s warm enough. In the UK that’s usually from April onwards, they need temperatures of 10-16°C to germinate. Cornflowers usually take just 10 or 11 weeks to flower from a spring sowing. (You’ll find full growing details in the shop… just search for Cornflower or Centaurea)

Cornflower seedlings growing in modules.

You can also sow Cornflowers in late summer to early autumn. The soil is still warm from summer and there’s usually plenty of rain too so they will germinate quickly and romp away. It’s easy to scatter the seeds where you want them to flower and just let them grow. They are Hardy Annuals. They’ll produce nice sturdy plants this autumn and flower next year from May onwards.

Just in case you’re wondering what I do… here’s the answer. I grow some wild cornflowers in the wilder areas of my garden and cultivated varieties in my cutting patch. I usually sow Cornflower seeds in autumn and spring. That gives me a longer flowering period with a succession of blooms. Autumn sown plants flower first starting in May and they are followed by the spring sown plants in July and August. It’s lovely to have plenty of flowers for cutting and lots of food in the form of nectar and seeds for our wild creatures too.

I’d love to know what you think. Do you prefer wild or cultivated flowers? Which are your favourite Cornflowers? Are you growing them in your garden, cutting garden or allotment this year?

Thanks for reading, liking and commenting. It’s great to hear from you! Love Gillian x

PS: Cornflowers are available in the shop now individually, with Ammi majus and in the Wildflower Collection.

Seeds to Sow In November

Spring is traditionally the main sowing season for many gardeners. However there are many reasons why autumn is the best time to sow flower seeds.

If you are planning to grow a lot of flowers and you know that spring will be extremely busy for you then you can get a head start now. Besides, autumn sown plants are amazingly vigorous, often larger and taller with nice long stems for cutting. Another bonus is that they’ll flower slightly earlier. So if you are itching to get cutting your home grown flowers then sow them now! There are several groups of plants to choose from.

Sweet Peas

November is Sweet Pea month. Autumn is a great time to sow Sweet Peas Lathyrus odoratus. There are several reasons to sow sweet peas now including:

1) You’ll have your pick of the varieties of Sweet Pea seeds if you order them now.

2) They will produce an excellent root system ready for planting out.

2) Autumn sown sweet peas produce the most vigorous plants and slightly earlier flowers too.

There are lots of sweet peas to choose from. You can pick individual varieties such as the tasteful, pale and interesting High Scent, Molly Rilstone and Betty Maiden. If you prefer darker and more dramatic flowers then Blue Velvet, Cupani and Beaujolais may be more up your street. If you only have the space to grow one row of Sweet Peas then it’s probably best to choose a mixture such as Just Peachy, Blue Ocean, Cocoa Mix or In the Pink.

Hardy Annuals

If you live in a very mild area of the UK you can carry on sowing some super Hardy Annual Fillers such as Ammi majus, Cerinthe major ‘Purpurascens’ and Dill, Anethum ‘Mariska’ outdoors in November. Many flowers will do well if sown now too. Poppies, Cornflowers, Californian Poppies, Scabious, Marigolds and Clarkia are some of the best. There are some seeds such as Nigella that actually need a cold spell to break their dormancy.

You will need to get your plants going before it becomes too cold for them to grow. The aim is to get your plants to produce good foliage and roots before winter, so It’s best to do this as soon as possible. You’ll always get the strongest plants with the most flowers by sowing in autumn and you’ll save precious time in spring when there are lots of other jobs to do.  If you can’t sow them outside now because it’s too cold and wet then you can sow them in an unheated greenhouse or a coldframe.

Wild Flowers

Autumn is a great time to sow Wild Flowers too. British Wild Flowers are quite hardy and will survive the worst of our winter weather as long as any newly germinated seedlings have protection from the frost. If you live in a cold and frosty part of the UK then I recommend sowing them in plugs indoors. I usually start them off on my kitchen windowsill. Once they are growing, they can cope with much lower temperatures. Move them outside to a sheltered place such as a cold frame, porch or unheated greenhouse.

Some Wild Flowers I recommend are Oxeye Daisies Leucanthemum vulgare and of course the much loved bright red British Field Poppy Papaver rhoeas. As soon as temperatures warm up in spring your wildflowers will start producing more shoots and leaves and can be planted out ready for flowering in early summer 

The Meadow Maker, Yellow rattle Rhinanthus minor is very useful too but must be sown where you want it to grow as it needs grass to grow with. For full details see Growing Information in the Wildflowers category in the Shop.

Hardy Perennials

There are some perennial flowers that you can sow in November. They are easy to grow and produce flowers year after year.  The beauty of perennials is that they are fast growing, give you lots of flowers for cutting and your garden wildlife will love them too. Perennials produce plenty of food (seeds) and places to hide and overwinter (hollow stems and seed heads) for your garden wildlife.

I recommend the beautiful blue Globe Thistle Echinops ritro and Sea Holly Eryngium alpinum, plus Rose Campion Lychnis coronaria which comes in either tasteful white or bright magenta pink. Don’t forget you can grow Perennial Sweet Peas Lathyrus latifolius from seed too. There’s a more limited range of colours than annual Sweet Peas. They come in white, pale pink and a much deeper pink/red colour. They are also available in individual colours or as a mixed packet of seeds.

A word of caution Please don’t sow Half Hardy Annuals now. (Cosmos, Dahlias, Sunflowers and Zinnias… see Half Hardy Annuals category in the shop for a full list) They are tender plants used to the sunnier climate in places like Mexico and will not survive the cold wet weather here in the UK.

So there’s just a taste of some lovely plants you can sow in autumn. I hope it helped you to decide what you’d like to grow for 2020. Wishing you a very happy and flower filled month. Love Gillian 🙂

Flower Seeds to Sow in September

Growing flowers for cutting in your garden or allotment is becoming very popular now. Some say it’s because we are concerned about the air miles and cost to the environment that flying in flowers from places like Africa and South America brings. There’s concern about the repeated use of pesticides too which linger on the flowers we ship in. There’s no doubt that it feels good to buy locally grown flowers and even grow them ourselves in our own gardens. We know that they’ve been grown without harmful chemicals and there’s a much wider range to choose from, including deliciously scented blooms.

Concern about the environment and wildlife is real, but I think it goes much deeper than that. I believe that growing flowers is linked to our urge to be creative. Creativity is something that everyone has. It may have been squished to the very bottom of your very long ‘to do’ list but it’s there all the same. Have you always promised yourself that one day you’ll grow a beautiful garden, learn to paint or simply take time to make things? That’s evidence of your creative urge. If you’re not allowing yourself to do what you really want to do, then you might feel sad or frustrated and that’s not a great feeling. So perhaps now is the time to put that right!

On Friday on Gardeners World, Frances Tophill visited Helena Willcocks a Florist and Flower Grower at her allotment in London. It was a short clip, but they did manage to fit in a super quick tour of some of her flower beds and a spot of flower arranging too. It was beautiful and inspiring, but what shone out of the TV more than anything else was how both Frances and Helena were enjoying themselves to the full. There’s no doubt that there’s something absolutely amazing about growing and arranging your own flowers. If you missed it you can watch it on the BBC iPlayer Episode 25

Here’s Helena with a huge bunch of Ammi majus and a one of her beautiful flower arrangements. If you click the photo you can see her Instagram feed.

HelenaWillcocks @theallotmentflorist

If you’ve always wanted to have a go at growing your own flowers, then September is a great time to start. Stick to Hardy Annuals to start so you don’t need any expensive equipment. Simply prepare the ground (remove weeds then work the soil to a fine tilth) then sow the seeds where you want them to flower next year.
All the following seeds are completely hardy and very easy to grow.

Hardy Annual Fillers to Sow in September

Hardy Annual Fillers
Row 1 Ammi majus, Anethum Mariska and Orlaya grandiflora
Row 2 Cerinthe major ‘Purpurascens, Nigella (distinctive seedheads) and Ammi visnaga
Row 3 Daucus carota, Bupleurum and Nigella

Hardy Annual Flowers to Sow in September


Row 1 Scabiosa atropurpurea Button flowers in tasteful shades of white, pink and soft blue plus bright red and almost black too.
Row 2 Larkspur produce tall spires of blooms in pink, white and blue shades. Calendula officinalis Marigolds are often the first to flower in my garden and are loved by bees and butterflies.
Row 3 Clarkia, Salvia and Centaurea.
Clarkia is beautiful, fast and very cold tolerant. Every bud will open in the vase. Salvia viridis comes in white, blue, pink and mixed and is exceptionally long flowering. Centuarea cyanus. Cornflowers grow in a range of colours and are particularly lovely with Ammi

Eschscholzia californica. Californian Poppies are low growing and brilliant for wildlife and posies. Sow them with Gypsophila for a stunning combination.

Eschscholzia californica with Gypsophila

Papaver somniferum: Papery Poppy flowers are plentiful and followed by fat seed pods. I love the darkly dramatic Papaver ‘Lauren’s Grape’ (below) and if you want seeds for bread baking then Papaver ‘Maanzaad is the one to grow.

Papaver somniferum Laurens Grape

If you watched the clip of Helena and Frances, as well as all the lovely Hardy Annuals you may have noticed beds full of Half Hardy Annuals such as Cosmos, Zinnias and Dahlias. These are all brilliant for late summer colour because they are perennials in their native countries (Mexico and South America) and they will just go on and on flowering here until they are blasted by frost. In some very sheltered gardens, you’ll have flowers from June until November or even December if you are lucky.

Half Hardy Annuals will not survive our wet and cold winter weather. Eventually all UK gardens will have frost, driving rain and bitingly cold winds which will polish them off. Can you tell I’m not looking forward to winter one little bit? You can sow them indoors now if you have a heated greenhouse and a sheltered garden but I’d only suggest that for slow growing Antirrhinum (Snap Dragons) as all the others are much faster to grow.

Sow Antirrhinum under cover to get it off to a great start

It’s usually best to wait until the gentle warm days of spring to sow Half Hardy Annuals. They are very quick to germinate and grow so in just a few weeks you’ll soon have lots of beautiful blooms. And YES, you can grow Dahlias from seed which is brilliant if you want a lot of flowers for cutting to sell in mixed bunches.

Half Hardy Annuals to Sow Next Year inc Dahlias, Rudbeckia and Cosmos

If you want to make sure you get specific Half Hardy Annuals for next summer, you can buy the seeds now and store them in a cool dry place over autumn and winter. Sow them indoors in March and April if you have a greenhouse, if not just wait until May when the soil has warmed up then sow them directly where you want them to flower. Couldn’t be easier!

Of course, you don’t have to grow your own flowers. You can buy them locally and there’s nothing quite like fresh scented flowers in the house. You’ll find British growers at your local market and there are florists all over the UK like Helena growing flowers for sale and for special events.

Which are your favourite flowers?

Are you growing your own flowers for cutting?

Wishing you a very happy and flowery September. Love Gillian

How to Grow Wallflowers

Wallflowers are some of our most popular spring flowering plants. They are part of a group of plants we call Hardy Biennials, which means they grow and develop this year then flower next year. If you’d love masses of early flowers in your garden for wildlife, for cut flowers and beautiful plants to accompany your spring bulbs, then Wallflowers could be ideal for you.

I’m a great fan of planning ahead and making things easy in the garden. Sowing this summer will really pay off. Just sow a couple of packets of Wallflower seeds now for flowering next spring and you’ll be rewarded with lots of beautiful flowers and your local wildlife will thank you for it too! Wallflowers provide an early source of food for beneficial insects and many have the RHS Plants for Pollinators award too.

Wallflower seed is available in single colours such as White, Primrose, Orange and Red so it’s easy to select your favourite then plan a spring colour scheme for your containers, borders or entire garden. The photo below shows Primrose Dame and Fireking Wallflowers,

This year I’ve grown a mix of Sunset Wallflowers for the first time. They are quite lovely. For months in spring I had healthy, bushy plants with tall flower spikes and the most beautiful scented flowers. The seed is more expensive than most Wallflower seeds, but they are so amazing and worth that little extra, I think. Sunset Wallflowers are F1 Hybrids which produce top quality plants. Their flowers have variations of colour like a sunset, so they are really attractive. I’m growing them again for next spring as they were particularly lovely with our tulips and daffodils.

Wallflower ‘F1 Sunset Mixed’

This lovely new Wallflower produces clusters of scented flowers on strong stems. Each flower head is made up of many individual flowers which gives them a most attractive appearance. Blooms are produced early in the year at the same time as Tulips flower from March to the end of May. The Sunset Mix Wallflowers include a range of colours from rich purple and red, primrose, white and apricot to bronze and glorious rich orange flowers. They are jolly useful in the garden, in container or in a border with Tulips and other spring blooms and they’re lovely as a cut flower too. What’s more the RHS recommend Sunset Wallflowers as Perfect for Pollinators.

Grow a row of these in the cutting patch, as bedding plants or in bold groups in a mixed border in full sun for best results. Sunset Wallflowers cost a little more than other Wallflowers, but they are extremely easy to grow and very prolific giving you lots of flowers for not much time or effort!

Genus & Variety: Cheiranthus cheiri (was Erysimum cheiri)  F1 Sunset Mixed
Plant Type:  Hardy Biennial
Height & Spread: 40cm ( 16 inches ) tall x 30cm (12 inches) spread

How to Sow and Grow Wallflowers from Seed

  • Sow Seeds: Sow Wallflower seeds outdoors in a well-prepared seedbed when the soil is warm from the end of May/June to August. Alternatively sow in modules either indoors or outdoors but be careful to keep shaded and temperatures low. Wallflowers will not germinate well in heat. Keep seed trays moist and shaded. Germinates in 7-14 days at 15°C-18°C. Grow on then plant out six weeks later in August/early September. 
  • Thin/Plant Out:  Transplant to flowering position in autumn allowing plenty of space for the foliage and roots to develop before winter sets in. Allow a minimum of 30cm per plant.
  • Conditions Required: Wallflowers love moist but well drained soil. They prefer a site with plenty of sunshine and can also grow well in dappled shade. Sunset Mixed Wallflowers are great for containers too. Feed and water regularly to keep flower production going. 
  • Flower Production: Sow Wallflowers this summer for flowering next spring. Like many biennials, Wallflowers bloom early in the year, usually from March onwards. They are great for filling the gap before hardy annuals and perennials come into flower in June. Clusters of scented blooms are produced for up to three months until the end of May.
  • Picking: Cut flowers regularly and deadhead to make sure that your plants continue to produce new blooms. When cutting, strip the lower leaves, sear stem ends in boiling water for 20 seconds and place the cut flowers into a tall bucket of clean water. Allow to rest overnight before arranging. Wallflowers often last up to 10 days as a cut flower.
  • Planting Combinations: If you have the space, I suggest you grow plenty of lovely Wallflowers. You can never have too many! Wallflowers grow particularly well with Tulips, Daffodils and other spring flowering bulbs either in flower beds, borders or in large containers

Hot Weather Notes

One really important point to note from the Sowing and Growing Information above is that Wallflowers do not germinate well when it’s hot. As it’s hot all over the UK this week (25°C-35°C) and wallflowers prefer much cooler conditions (15°C-18°C) I recommend waiting until temperatures return to normal next week before sowing your Wallflower seeds.

Sow Direct or Sow in Modules/Seed Trays?

I usually hedge my bets by sowing directly into the ground AND sowing in trays or modules. We have plenty of wild creatures here including voles and mice, blackbirds and Mallard ducks which may damage or disturb tender young seedlings. We love all the wildlife… but I really love having plenty of home-grown plants too!  Positioning seed trays in a shady spot outdoors such as in the gap between rows of Sweet Peas or at the base of tall annuals such as Cosmos means that the seeds can develop and grow undisturbed AND it’s more likely that I’ll remember to water them too!

Are you growing Wallflowers from seed this summer?
Which is your favourite variety or colour… I’d love to know.

Happy Gardening! Gillian 🙂

How to grow Lychnis coronaria

Lychnis coronaria is often called Rose Campion. This is one of our most beautiful and popular summer flowering garden plants and it’s easy to grow from seed. It’s a perennial plant producing tall silvery stems topped by deep pink flowers. Each plant grows to 60-90cm (2-3 feet) tall and spreads to around 50cm (18 inches). 

Continue reading How to grow Lychnis coronaria

Seeds to Sow in January

I’ve started to think about what I’d like to grow this year. Naturally I’ll be growing plants for our bees and butterflies and I also like to grow flowers specifically for cutting.

I love to have fresh flowers indoors and of course I love to receive flowers as a gift…

Continue reading Seeds to Sow in January

How to grow Hornbeam

It’s was a frosty morning here in Lancashire, North West England. Despite the cold I was tempted outside to have a look at the garden and of course to take some pictures of frosted plants. As expected there were lots of frosted seedheads and the duck pond was completely frozen over. At the edge of the pond a some of the plants were lit up by the early morning sunshine.

Continue reading How to grow Hornbeam

Duck inspired plan for 2019

It was a frosty start this morning in our Lancashire garden with wildlife tumbling in from the fields for their breakfast as usual. I nipped out in my dressing gown and wellies to take a few photos of these wild ducks. They pop in every morning for a light snack of corn followed by the all you can eat buffet in the borders consisting mainly of fat black slugs and juicy pale snails.

Continue reading Duck inspired plan for 2019

3 Reasons to Grow Sweet Peas in Autumn

Let’s get straight to the point… Autumn sown Sweet Peas produce

  1. Stronger plants with a good root system
  2. Healthier plants with better disease resistance
  3. Masses of scented flowers for cutting

There’s no reason to wait until spring as long as you have a small covered area to protect them from the worst of the winter weather.

Continue reading 3 Reasons to Grow Sweet Peas in Autumn