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Category Archives: Spring

Grow your own

There has been huge interest in home-grown and British cut flowers over the past few years and this is going from strength to strength, gardeners are buying flower seed to grow flowers in their gardens or allotments and florists are starting to see a demand for locally grown British flowers.

The trend is for soft, old fashioned and scented flowers, loosely arranged using whatever is in season – both for weddings as well as for use at home and it is possible to grow these flowers yourself and enjoy them for months on end. I started growing my own cut flowers a couple of years ago and nothing lifts my spirits more than a jug of home-grown flowers on my kitchen table.

As a child, when I stayed with my great-aunt, she would always pick some roses, lavender and rosemary and sweet peas to make a little arrangement for me to keep by my bed and the heady scent would help me to drift off to sleep. I wanted to recreate this in my own garden and allotment and began by growing a few varieties of scented roses as well as sweet peas.

Choose a long flowering scented variety of rose, there are many to choose from. Prior Park Garden Centre stocks a huge range of wonderful roses, including a few of my favourite. Rosa Shropshire Lad cuts well and has a gorgeous fragrance and Rosa New Dawn – a climber, which also cuts well and flowers for ages. Shrub or climbing roses make a great addition to the summer garden and the bonus being that you can keep picking the longer flowering varieties over the summer.

Sweet peas are also easy enough to grow and can be incorporated into a mixed border, grown in containers or included in your vegetable patch. They are great for attracting insects and increase pollination and their scent is incredible. Try Lathyrus ‘Matacuna’ or L. ‘Black Knight’ or L ‘Lord Nelson’. Although you will have missed the boat this year, you can sow these in autumn for an early flowering next year.

If you have space, and you do not need masses, try growing some cut flowers from seed. There are still some flowers that can be sown now, including Foxgloves, Centaurea cynus ‘Polka Dot Mixed’, Cosmos, Zinnia and many more. There is also another window in the autumn when a great deal of seed can be sown.

Cut flowers from the allotmentI was surprised by the glorious glamour of Malope Trifida ‘Vulcan’ that I first grew on my allotment a few years ago. This beautiful plant appeared from nowhere. I had sown the seed expecting that not much would happen as the weather was consistently awful and yet it grew and grew giving me a show of silky bright pink almost Hibiscus shaped flowers, which I cut for bouquets and vases.

My favourites include Centaurea cyanus, Calendula officianalis and Nigella damascena. These will flower repeatedly and can be grown in containers or in the ground. If you have a greenhouse or sunny windowsill you can also start these off indoors earlier, which is what I normally do. Nigella gets sown directly into the ground in rows and then after one year of flowering it will seed itself everywhere and do the job for you. Scatter the seed on gravel gardens or drives and it will thrive without needing any attention.

Cornflowers are a must-have of cut flowers and the bright blue blends so beautifully with the sunny orange of Calendula. You can make a September sowing as well as a spring sowing, outside in April when the soil has warmed up. Sow them in rows about a foot apart to give them space to grow. They do not mind a less than brilliant soil, they seem to thrive without many nutrients, so rake the soil to a fine tilth and sow thinly, a little goes a long way. Thin them out after they start germinating in about three weeks and they will reward you with masses of long stemmed flowers.

Calendula or Calendula officianalis is another favourite of mine. Easily mistaken for a Marigold, it is easy to grow and highly productive. You can pick these over and over again and they keep on growing. It has been used as a medicinal plant for centuries and even if you are not that keen on the colour orange, these flowers will surely change your mind. Sow your first batch this September for an early flowering next year into modules or seed trays. You can do a further sowing under glass in April or directly into the ground in rows later on. They love full sun and will self-seed freely.

Now is a great time to start planning your cutting garden for your wedding flowers or simply just to enjoy throughout the rest of the summer and early autumn.

Magnificent Magnolias

One of my favourite moments in the year is when the Magnolias start to flower. Along with wisteria, Magnolias herald the new season of sunny warm days and having been modestly hidden in the garden for months, they suddenly show themselves everywhere with their amazing pinky white cup and star shaped blooms. Magnolias are unimaginably…

Creepy Crawlies

The war being waged between gardeners and slugs and snails is a never-ending one.  I have been known to obsessively go out after dark during the summer months with a torch and bucket and pick the critters off my plants, much to the amusement of my family. They are then swiftly dispatched in the lane…

The buzz on bees

It is well documented how much trouble our bees are in. Their decline is extremely worrying and they really need our help. This week I have been talking to Louis Hodgkin of the Bath Beekeepers Association about this very serious situation. All bees are suffering for three main reasons, disease, the widespread use of pesticides…

In the shade

Often the trickiest area in most gardens is the bit where it is shady or dry, or both.  Whether shaded by trees and shrubs or buildings, garages or sheds, most people wring their hands in despair when it comes to knowing what to do with these often dark and forlorn corners of the garden. However,…

Snowdrop Time

There are occasional moments in February, when the gloomy grey skies lift and a sparkling sunny blue sky is revealed and early spring sunshine brings some temporary warmth to otherwise freezing days.  These are the best times to get out and go for a walk and after weeks of being safely tucked away indoors with…