Grow Your Own Bouquet
‘Bread feeds the body, indeed, but flowers feed also the soul.’ The Koran
The revival of growing your own fruits, vegetables and herbs seems to gather strength every year. It now also includes cut flowers to dress your home. More and more people are starting to keep a cutting patch in their garden or allotment to grow flowers. Gone are the days of boring structured bouquets with very plastic looking flowers that have no scent. Bouquets with personality and romance are very fashionable now. How wonderfully decadent to have flowers in the house through the seasons by growing your own bouquet. This trend has stretched to bridal bouquets and buttonholes too. Floristry has now become a world that everyone can take part in and have a go. Floristry and wreath making workshops by florists like McQueens are in high demand. There are also more books than ever on floristry.
Floristry is big business. There are cut flower plantations in various parts of the world that supply the UK floral industry. But let’s just think about the carbon footprint, the natural landscape that has been cleared to create these plantations and also like fruit and veg being grown to fit onto the dutch trollies for transport and the space in the shops. Is it then not better to buy locally grown flowers or even better to grow your own? Ours bees and insects are struggling to survive. By creating your own you are providing them with nectar and pollen to survive.
Credit: Stephen Walker for McQueens
An opulent arrangement that has dressed the mantlepiece above the fire and the hearth. Peonies, Dahlias and Roses are the show-stoppers supported by stems of draped ivy, ferns, rose stems and various other fauna.
Site your cutting border in a sunny location. Cut flowers tend to have long stems. The plants may need staking so avoid windy locations. Prepare the border well, adding lots of organic matter.
Make sure you provide yourself pathways between your cutting rows. A simple way to do this is by laying and pegging down permeable horticultural fabric. This suppresses weeds but allows water to pass through it.
Apply a liquid fertilizer once a month during the growing season as specified on the packaging, to get a higher yield of flowers. Growing plants in rows will make it easier to carry out weeding, staking and picking. Select plants suitable for your site. Take note of your soil conditions and it’s pH level, do you have a sunny or shady site and is it very windy? Choose a selection of plants that provides you with a good cutting mix through the seasons. Include plants that provide interesting foliage.
Climbers can provide interesting stems. Honeysuckle and Jasmine can be draped through the floral creation and provide scent. Twiggy branches of trees and tall shrubs can also provide interesting verticals in an arrangement. Think about the structure and colour palette of your arrangements. Remember scent can add impact in an arrangement and does not just have to come through flowers. You can use herbs such as mint, lavender, rosemary and oregano. Think outside the box. Some edibles produce lovely flowers and foliage. Look at globe artichokes, flowers of carrots, scotch bonnet chillies, redbor kale, fennel, flowers of leeks, quinoa, dill, chives, bolting broccoli and peas.
Wreath making workshops have become increasingly popular. It is a great form of social activity, wonderful way to learn a new creative skill and add something of seasonal interest to your home made by your own hands.
Think thrillers, fillers and spillers. Thrillers are those flowers that are going to add the wow factor into your bouquet. Fillers play a supporting role. These can be flowers or sprigs and stems of foliage. Spillers are those that give the frothy look of luxury to a bouquet as they drape out and over the container.
Choose colours that work well together in your floral arrangements. If you don’t have enough space in the garden for a dedicated cutting patch, you could always grow your cut flower plants as part of your garden scheme. Remember the more you cut the more blooms the plant will produce. However, if you are cutting regularly, you must also feed regularly. A wise word on watering – if your plot is large a leaky hose system on automatic irrigation is the best, if you have a small garden this can be done with a hose pipe or a watering can. However, remember that spraying the plants with water can damage the petals and the foliage so it is best to water them at the base of the plants
Seeds are an inexpensive way to grow a variety of flowers for cutting. They also give you the opportunity to try out different varieties from year to year. Good varieties to try are Cosmos ‘Purity’ or ‘Candy Stripe’, Ammi Majus, Orlya grandiflora, Tithonia rotundifolia ‘Torch’, Sweet Pea, Nigella ‘Midnight’ or ‘Miss Jekyll’, Antirrhinum ‘Night & Day’ or ‘Twinny Apple Blossom’ and Cleome ‘Pink Queen’. There is now a good range of sunflowers and poppies to try as well.
Bulbs are great for cut flowers. Choose bulbs that come up at different times of the year. Some bulbs like tulips and hyacinths are best renewed every year. Bulbs can also be grown in containers so you may want to save the space in your cutting border for other plants. Try the following bulbs, Narcissus ‘Paper Whites’, ‘Dutch Master’ or ‘Petrel’, Alliums ‘Purple Sensation’, ‘Mount Everest’ or ‘Nutans’, Lilium ‘Manitoba Morning’, Lilies ‘Star Gazer’, ‘Martagon’ or ‘Tiger var splendens’, eremurus ‘Romance’ or ‘Cleopatra’. If you like scent tuberose is a must have. Tulips ‘Mount Tacoma’, ‘Apricot Beauty’, ‘Menton’ and ‘La Belle Epoque’ make a beautiful combo both in the garden and in a vase. Dahlias are back on trend and make great cut flowers. Some of my favourites are ‘Arabian Night’, ‘Crème de Cassis’, ‘Hillcrest Royal’ and ‘Chat Noir’.
If you are going to create a cutting border why not invest in a course to learn the skills of storing, creating and caring for your arrangements. There are some great courses on offer. Some are listed at the end of this blog.
Herbaceous perennials have more outlay initially, but they come back year after year if maintained well. Choose plants that give you a long flowering season. Good varieties to try are Astrantia major Shaggy, Astrantia ‘Hadspen Blood’, Astrantia ‘Roma’, Agastache ‘Black Adder’, Rudbeckia ‘Goldstrum’ or ‘Maxima’, Helianthus ‘Lemon Queen’ or ‘Vanilla Ice’, Peony ‘Sarah Bernhardt’, Gaura lindheimeri ‘The Bride’ or ‘Rosy Jane’, Helenium ‘Moerheim’s Beauty’ or ‘Ruby Charm’, Echinacea ‘Vintage Wine’ or ‘Magnus’, Veronicastrum ‘Lavendelturm’ or ‘Fascination’ and Veronica ‘Redfox’ or ‘Twilight’.
Foliage and stems help to show your flowers off. Do not forget to add some choice foliage plants into your cutting borders. These can be ferns, shrubs, grasses, perennials or seeds. Try sprigs of Rosemary to give scent, large leaves of Fatsia and Canna give a more tropical feel whilst ferns make good fillers. Coleus leaves are very colourful but use sparingly to give the best effect. Cornus ‘Midwinter Fire’ has flame coloured stems and look dramatic dotted in amongst an arrangement.
Climbers can provide a bit of opulence to a floral installation and some will even give scent. Honeysuckle and jasmine can work really well. Climbing roses such Paul’s Himalayan Musk or Bobbie James. Clematis and climbing hydrangea (Hydrangea anomala petiolaris) can also be incorporated into arrangements.
Floristry Workshops and Courses
The Covent Garden Academy of Flowers
Moyses Stevens Flower School
Philippa Craddock Flower School
This is a stunning example of using unusual plants. The framework has been created using branches of a magnolia. The suspended ceiling installation incorporates airplants (Tillandsia), apples, blooms of bananas and helechonias.