PLANT AND PLAN A CUTTING GARDEN
How to plant annuals, biennials and perennials for the vase
The beauty of growing your own cut flowers is that you can choose what you want to pick and arrange, rather than relying on what is available at the local florist or supermarket. And just like growing your own fruit and vegetables, it’s a lot better for the environment, with no air miles or plastic wrapping involved.
It’s possible, even in a small space, to have flowers for picking from spring right through to the first frosts. The bulbs, perennials and shrubs you already have in your garden could provide cutting material, and you can easily weave some annuals and biennials in between for extra pickings. And if you can set aside a patch of soil just for cut flowers – maybe a couple of beds in the vegetable garden or on your allotment – then all the better.
having a dedicated area means you can treat the flowers as if they were a crop, and you won’t feel like you’re spoiling your garden every time you pick some. It will also be easier to organise the space – you can plant your annuals and biennials in rows (as you would vegetables), so weeding, picking and staking will be less of a chore. Plus, you’ll be able to grow flowers that look fabulous in a vase but might not work well with your garden design – dahlias and gladioli, for example.
Plants that produce more flowers as you pick them should form the backbone of your cut-flower patch, so make sure you include plenty of hardy and half-hardy annuals. You can extend the picking season by planting extra bulbs and some biennials – the likes of sweet William and sweet rocket – which are perfect for bridging the flowery gap between bulbs and annuals.
Think about less obvious cutting material, too, such as pretty seed heads (those of nigella and opium poppies look great) and grasses – both can be used fresh in summer arrangements, and dried to give a ready supply of material for autumn and winter decorations.
Start planning now: sweet peas can be sown over the coming weeks, while the seeds of first-year-flowering perennials, like achillea, and some half-hardy annuals such as antirrhinums, need to go into the ground in late February. Order dahlias this month to ensure you get the best choice, and if you don’t have a lot of space to nurture seedlings, consider plug plants. In that way, this spring all you’ll need to do is brush up on your flower-arranging skills.
The likes of sweet peas and dianthus are ideal for the vase and will keep you in fragrant cut flowers for months