In the run up to our new event: Spring bouquet workshop (24 April), local grower and florist, JW Blooms, gives some top tips on growing your own…
With spring in the air, now is the perfect time to think about growing some flowers for the house. It doesn’t matter if you have enough space for a dedicated cutting patch or just a small patio, you can have flowers on the kitchen table right through to October.
You’ll need a space that’s sunny, with a bit of shelter. A windy site will stunt the flowers’ growth. If you don’t have much space, use large pots, or buckets (with drainage holes), and stand them against a sunny wall.
What to grow
For the most exciting results, concentrate on annuals.They’re easy, cheap and produce masses of
flowers. Always use fresh seed – throw out that packet you stuffed in a drawer two years ago, it’s a false economy! Chiltern Seeds, Sarah Raven and Higgledy Garden all have a fantastic range. You’ll need some hardy annuals like love-in-a-mist, cornflowers, ammi majus, the annual gypsophila ‘Covent Garden’, the beautiful scabious ‘Tall Double Mixed’ and sweet peas. They’re all dead easy to grow and will give you armfuls of flowers.
Then I’d get some half-hardy annuals like zinnias, cosmos, sunflowers, amaranthus and nicotiana. These are the plants that will take you into late summer and autumn.
When to sow
Tempting as it is, don’t sow too early. The ground needs to be warm and dry-ish. The general rule is if the ground is warm enough to sit on with a bare bottom, it’s warm enough to sow in (warn the neighbours first). Start with the annuals – early March is usually about right. They should be giving you flowers by mid-May. Half-hardy annuals need a bit more heat, so I’d hold back until late-March or April. If you’re too excited to wait, you can get going earlier by sowing them under cover – a sunny windowsill will do. Pot seedlings on once you have four “true” leaves, and make sure you harden them off gradually before planting outside from mid-May.
Caring for you plants
Stake your plants! Wind damage will make the flowers uncuttable. If you’re growing in containers, you’ll need to water daily but in the ground plants are better watered just once a week with a really good soaking. And if you remember, give the plants the odd feed once they’re in flower.
Picking your flowers
Pick, pick, pick! The more you pick, the less chance there is for a plant to set seed, which is the trigger for it to stop producing flowers. Don’t pick in the heat of the day – in the cool of the evening or early morning, the flowers are full of moisture and will last much better. And don’t forget what’s already in your garden – climbers like jasmine and clematis look amazing draped languorously over the side of a vase. Herbs and shrubs will make things look very natural and any perennials you have are also fair game.
Conditioning your flowers
Now for the magic trick. If you want your flowers to last, sear the ends in boiling water. It really makes a difference. Trim the ends of your stems and stand them in about an inch of boiling water. Hold them there for 20-30 seconds, then place the flowers in a vase of clean, room-temperature water. Stand back and admire your work!
Book your place on our Spring Bouquet workshop on 24 April, 10am – 12pm. Learn how to make a beautiful bouquet with English flowers and get top tips on growing your own.