How to plant an­nu­als, bi­en­ni­als and peren­ni­als for the vase

Amateur Gardening - - News - Louise Cur­ley

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

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