As a keen gardener I love the infinite colours, scents and shapes of flowers in all their forms, and have always enjoyed designing harmonious blends of colour in planting schemes, concentrating mainly on perennials and small shrubs. I started growing flowers specifically for cutting many years ago, giving bunches away as gifts and selling on a small scale at the local WI Market. I soon discovered how much people appreciate a bunch of home grown flowers, and with their informal, relaxed beauty they look lovely anywhere, from a humble vase or jam jar to the flowers for a church wedding, and are far nicer than the rigid stems of chrysanthemums and carnations which were standard fare only a few years ago.
We’re all more aware of the environmental impact of our purchases now, and seasonal home-grown flowers are miles better, literally, than Dutch imports and air-freighted blooms from Columbia. Of course you can’t buy English roses in December, but why not enjoy them when they’re in season in June, and get creative with holly and ivy instead! The joy of growing home produce is its seasonality, and the anticipation of each watching each flower unfold, or each vegetable come to maturity in its own good time.
I came across Sarah Raven’s inspirational book “The Cutting Garden” in the 1990s and have tried out many of her recommended plants over the years, growing most of them from seed at a couple of pounds a packet. I learned by trial and error which varieties suit my garden soil, and how to grow and condition the flowers. Lacking any formal floristry training I muddled along, trying to put together acceptable flower arrangements in the local church and picking up tips from the helpful ladies at the WI market.
After a break of several years I started growing bunches of flowers again in 2019, the summer before joining ACD Environmental, and discovered that the local post office is very keen to stock my flowers, so I sold them through July and August last year, and my modest earnings paid for more stock plants and seeds for this year. Luckily the 2020 seed order had already arrived before Covid-19 struck in mid-March and we were locked down, so I was able to get on with sowing and planting. The question of whether we should be growing food (instead of flowers) bothered me for a couple of weeks, but the thought of those beautiful flowers helped make my mind up!
Gardening is great for mental health and I’m very lucky to have a garden. Getting out in the fresh air, enjoying the bird song, nurturing plants and noticing the small changes every day helped me deal with the anxiety of the pandemic. The first suitable flowers came through in mid-May when we were being urged to only visit the shops for essential goods, so I made up a few bunches, put a board outside my house, and sold them from the gate for the charity Age UK.
One of my greatest pleasures over the past two summers has been wandering round the garden after work, picking quantities of flowers into buckets, and then sorting them into bunches the next morning after they’ve had a long cool drink of water. I think the best bouquets include a good balance of large flowers like dahlias, some foliage, and small “filler” flowers like oregano, statice, cornflowers and achilleas, in co-ordinating colours. A range of flower shapes adds interest, so I mix spikes, flat heads, round daisy-shapes and sprays of tiny buds; there’s so much choice at this time of year as my photos show.
If you’d like to buy British grown cut flowers direct from the grower there’s an excellent organisation called Flowers from the Farm which will help you to find your nearest flower farmer. https://www.flowersfromthefarm.co.uk/