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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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