Fresh from the gar­den

Carolyn Dun­ster is on a mis­sion to get Lon­don­ers to grow a cut­ting gar­den

Evening Standard - West End Final Extra - ES Homes and Property - - Outdoors - Pat­tie Bar­ron

AT her Is­ling­ton home, Carolyn Dun­ster’s front gar­den is filled with laven­der and roses, while her tiny back gar­den is a cot­tage-gar­den pro­fu­sion of flow­ers and fo­liage. They serve her well, be­cause she is a be­spoke florist as well as a plant­ing de­signer. Her sage-green pot­ting shed is where she creates be­spoke bou­quets and handtied bunches picked from her gar­den, sup­ple­ment­ing them out of sea­son with dawn raids on the New Covent Gar­den Flower Mar­ket.

“I’m on a mis­sion to get ev­ery­one grow­ing their own cut flow­ers,” says Dun­ster, who presses the point in her book, Ur­ban Flow­ers: Cre­at­ing Abun­dance In A Small City Gar­den. “It’s so easy. Just buy a few seed pack­ets and get sow­ing. Through trial and er­ror, you’ll find what works best. You don’t need a big gar­den. Most flow­ers I grow are fine in pots, crates and win­dow­boxes.”

Dun­ster be­longs to the ran­dom school of gar­den­ing, be­cause she cov­ered most of her back gar­den with gravel, so that ev­ery­thing would self-seed and pop up ev­ery­where, which it does, es­pe­cially the fox­gloves. Aside from half-hardy an­nu­als, which she starts about now in shel­tered trays, she sows hardy an­nu­als by push­ing aside a bit of gravel, scat­ter­ing the seed and push­ing back the gravel. “Ger­mi­na­tion is quick be­cause the gravel keeps the ground warmer. I fit a lot in be­cause I space the seeds more closely than rec­om­mended.”

Her stal­warts in­clude Black Beauty opium pop­pies, which she grows for their showy seed­heads, clary sage, corn­flow­ers and ice-green nico­tiana. Cos­mos is renowned for pump­ing out flow­ers all sum­mer, and Dun­ster’s choice is bright pink An­tiq­uity. For im­pact, she grows the huge al­lium Globe­mas­ter and dis­plays them solo. Roses she grows in deep pots. “My favourite is Blush Noisette, which has small, fra­grant, pale pink pom­pom heads. It’s im­por­tant to use com­pact va­ri­eties in small spa­ces, so fol­low the breed­ers’ ad­vice.” Fo­liage is more im­por­tant than flow­ers. “You al­ways need much more fo­liage than you think you’ll need. A lot of green in a bou­quet makes the com­po­si­tion look nat­u­ral.” Her leaf list is acid- green Euphor­bia ob­lon­gata, which needs stems seared in boil­ing wa­ter to stop the sap ir­ri­tat­ing skin, ev­er­green ferns, Al­chemilla mol­lis and florists’ favourite, Bu­pleu­rum ro­tun­di­folium, which even has a lit­tle green flower. She also uses herbs in hand-ties: “The best for fra­grance are mar­jo­ram, flow­er­ing mint, lemon balm and rose­mary.”

If you grow your own, you can grow the best. In­stead of gyp, Dun­ster sows the bi­en­nial car­rot Dau­cus carota Pur­ple Kisses, a dainty, pinky-pur­ple form of cow pars­ley. She also sows Cerinthe ma­jor Pur­puras­cens, which has ex­otic navy and vi­o­let flow­ers.

She says the peren­ni­als to buy are as­tran­tia, to weave through an­nu­als, San­guisorba tenuifo­lia Pink Ele­phant, which has per­fect lit­tle but­ton heads for dry­ing, tall, pale pink Li­naria Canon J Went, which works well with the pin­cush­ion heads of scabi­ous and corn­flow­ers, and Ver­bena bonar­ien­sis, which makes a state­ment in a tall glass vase. All the salvias work well for cut­ting, but her favourite for mixed bou­quets is deep pur­ple Salvia nemorosa Ost­fries­land. Al­though pe­onies have a fleet­ing beauty, Dun­ster in­cludes them be­cause she says, quite rightly, that when they’re in bloom, they’re mes­meris­ing. The two she grows are pale pink Sarah Bern­hardt and deeper pink Karl Rosen­field.

Like her pe­ony choices, Dun­ster sticks to tonal, rather than con­trast­ing, colour schemes. She plants tonally, too, so that she teams peren­nial As­tran­tias Ruby Wed­ding and Ruby Cloud to­gether; Nigella da­m­a­s­cena in clas­sic love-in-amist blue with pur­ple-stamened white African bride; claret corn­flower Jordy with deeper Black Ball; scabi­ous Sil­ver Pink with Black Cat.

“I weave plant­ing in com­ple­men­tary tones, as I might ar­range them in a handtied bunch,” she says. “In a small space, where you don’t have the lux­ury of a cut­ting patch, it makes sense to paint your pic­ture in the ground first.”


For out­door events this month, visit home­sand­prop­

Gar­den prob­lems? Email our RHS ex­pert at ex­pert­gar­deningad­vice@

in her gar­den, Carolyn uses ev­ery inch of space to grow and dis­play her favourite plants

No wasted space:

Flower wheel: ad­ja­cent colours make the most har­mo­nious com­bi­na­tions

Green scene: tin cans are up­cy­cled to hold nico­tiana, cos­mos and

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