Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Cut Flowers


 I love to see an attractive garden with a show of flowers in some part in every month of the year. This is quite possible with a wee bit of knowledge of plants and some careful planning. However the garden is part of the home so many of the flowers end up in a vase, table decoration or grown in a pot for a colourful windowsill.
This is where I am often very unpopular as many people feel that flowers are for picking. They certainly do brighten up the home, but at the expense of my outdoor displays, so I have always set aside a part of my garden or allotment specifically to grow cut flower for the house. This saves the loss to my outdoor flower beds.
The range of plants suitable for cut flowers is immense and can cover every month in the year. Suitable flowers can be tall like gladioli for a bold impressive vase or small like pansies for a table decoration in a small bowl using oasis to keep them moist. The vase or bowl is often enhanced with some greenery using foliage from plants not necessarily linked to the cut flower.

Flowers by the season

Spring belongs to the flowering bulbs of daffodils, narcissus, tulips and iris.
In summer there is plenty to choose from with roses, carnations, gladioli, sweet peas, dahlias, lilies and chrysanthemums.
Autumn cut flowers include the later chrysanthemums that may need some protection, Michaelmas daisies, and again roses that just keep flowering if they can get a bit of warm sunshine.
In winter we might begin to struggle a bit for a wide range, but shrubs such as Viburnum fragrans can help us out for table decorations, and some plants such as perpetual carnations given some greenhouse conditions will fill the gap. A good table decoration for Christmas can be made with a few red carnations in oasis surrounded with yellow jasmine. Freesias are very welcome in winter, but need a glasshouse for protection. Late blooming chrysanthemums can be grown in pots or wire baskets outdoors then brought inside under glass to complete their flowering up till Christmas.

Herbaceous and annuals

Many herbaceous plants are tall and strong and will last well when used for cut flower. Flag iris are my favourite as the flowers are bright, bold and scented. Pyrethrum and Doronicums are for the early season and phlox, Japanese anemone and michaelmas daisies for late summer.
Good annual plants grown from seeds include snapdragons, larkspur, helichrysum, cornflower, sweet William and the scented stocks.

Bulbs and corms

Daffodils, narcissus and tulips can usually be found a spot out of the way under some shrubs or even under a fruiting bramble. Their seasons work well together. I grow my alliums and lilies under the shrubs of my coloured stemmed winter border and my Azalea beds where they all live in a happy association.
Many Daffodil and tulip bulbs start off in pots in late summer to be forced outdoors then brought under glass to complete their flowering. If the pots are small they are fine indoors, but sometimes the flowers are cut if the pots are too big.
Freesias can either be used as pot grown or cut flower started as seed or small bulbs. They will need a glasshouse but the blooms make excellent cut flowers with a heady scent.


Roses have a long season with National Trust a deep red with perfectly formed heads, but unfortunately no scent. Ingrid Bergman, another red, is vigorous, produces many flowers and is scented. Margaret Merril is a white with pink blush and scented, as is Pure Bliss a pale pink rose. Golden Celebration is a good yellow strong grower with scent. 
Chrysanthemums have a wide range of colours available and may be grown as sprays or as single blooms on a stem. Sprays are easy to grow and require no disbudding, but decorative, incurves and reflex blooms need summer disbudding to leave the centre bud to develop into a large flower. I grow mine in a two foot wide bed and support the flowers with six inch mesh fencing wire held firm between four posts. As the plants grow the wire is raised up the end posts. You can plant out the bed as one plant in each six inch square mesh and grow the flower on one stem
without stopping the main shoot. This will make it flower earlier than one which is stopped and branched.
are long lasting and many have a deep clove scent. Grow them in a bed or single row and support the flowers with canes. Border carnations and pinks are grown outdoors for summer flowering, but perpetual flowering carnations can be flowered all year round in a glasshouse.
are excellent as a cut flower but take up a lot of space. If you grow them for a garden display there is usually plenty of flowers for a good show and cut flowers. There is a wide range of colours and types though

decoratives and cactus are best for cut flower.
are great value and very easy to grow. I add a few new colours every year, but save the corms from year to year. After autumn cleaning of lifted corms I select out all the biggest bulbils and sow them in a broad row to grow into new corms. Many flower in their second year.
Sweet Peas
are very versatile. They can be grown up a six foot net, on a tall fence or traditionally in a double row supported with six foot canes. For a garden display they are best grown from seed in autumn or early spring, tipped after two to four leaves then after planting out left to grow unchecked. For larger blooms for cut flower grow then on a single stem tied to a cane and pinch out all tendrils and sideshoots. Sweet peas grow best a well prepared double dug trench, manured in both spits. Give a dressing of fertiliser before planting and more feeding in mid summer.
Always cut off all seed pods as they sap the strength of the plant at the expense of flowers.


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