One of my greatest successes this year on the plot were my cut flowers. I was inspired 2 years ago by Sarah Raven to grow some cut flowers in raised beds in my garden and I loved being able to pick them and have fresh flowers in the house. So when I got the allotment at the start of this year I knew I wanted to devote some of the plot to cut flowers. This is the first of 2 posts. This post will be about this year – my successes and failures and the next post will be about my plans for next years cutting patch.
I devoted 3 of my beds to flowers with a few other patches here and there. The beds are 1.2 metres wide and just over 6 metres long. I grew the following for cut flowers: blue cornflowers, Cosmos Dwarf Sonata Mix’, Cosmos ‘Candy Stripe’, Antirrhinum ‘Night and Day’, Calendula, Gysophila ‘Covent Garden’ Ammi majus, Dill, Rudbeckia ‘Prairie Sun’ and Rudbeckia ‘Cappucino’, Zinnia ‘Sprite Mix’, 3 types of Sweet pea, Nigella, Sunflower ‘Vanilla Ice’ and Sunflower ‘Ruby Sunset’, and some Dahlias.
I grew all of these from seeds and the vast majority were started off indoors and the transplanted out. This made for a very hectic April and May but I definitely think you get stronger and healthier plants and they flower earlier.
The Sweet peas sown at the start of March were the first to flower at the end of May and then continued to flower right through to mid September. The main bulk of my flowers were over by the 2nd week in October. So I had just over 4 months of cut flowers which I was really pleased with.
Once growing the plants didn’t need much extra care. For 2 of the beds I put in wooden stakes at the corners to a height of 45cms to which I attached a long roll of bean netting across the whole length of the bed so that the plants could grow up through the netting and it would act as a support. Because my beds are so long I put in bamboo canes at 1 metre intervals along the edges of the beds and tied the netting to the canes just to give the netting itself more support. There’s no point the netting sagging otherwise the plants will flop all over. I found this support system worked really well and I’m going to use it on the third bed next year.
Inevitably some flowers worked better than others. For example the Cosmos ‘Candy Stripe’, had longer stems and more delicate and interesting flowers than the Cosmos sonata.
The Gypsophila were lovely but created quite a straggly patch which made it difficult to pick the stems I wanted. They were also over quite quickly and would need successive sowing to really be of any use.
The Nigella I grew was a mix of whites and blues but it proved to be really disappointing. The flowers opened up and were neither one nor the other and quite a few of the flowers were stunted and deformed.
The sunflowers I grew were beautiful. The ‘Vanilla Ice’ variety are a lemony colour with smaller flowerheads and smaller more delicate stems and worked really well in arrangements. The ‘Ruby Sunset’ variety were much larger and more substantial flowers and looked amazing grouped together, about 6-7 stems in a tall vase. Very Van Gogh like. Unfortunately they were a variety that produced pollen which made quite a mess. I am reluctant to use a pollen free variety because I always try to garden with wildlife in mind but I think with a third of my plot devoted to flowers I shouldn’t feel too guilty if I do choose a pollen free variety next year.
The Rudbeckias were brilliant but I did struggle to get the ‘Cappucino’ variety to germinate and in the end ended up with only 2 plants. So all in all I was pleased with my first proper attempt at supplying myself with cut flowers throughout the summer. I learnt a lot and I hope to have a better selection of flowers over a longer period of time next year.