Bare Blooms, British Flowers Week, Lancaster and Cornish, Scent in the Garden, The Cut Flower Patch
First of all, my apologies for the lack of a May ‘Scent in the Garden’ post. Chelsea Flower Show, work, Wellyman’s final exam and then a week in Dorset have intervened and meant May has disappeared in a blur.
It just so happens that this month’s scented post coincides with British Flowers Week. This is the third year this week-long celebration of British grown blooms has taken place. Britain used to be self-sufficient in cut flowers before the advent of cheap/subsidised fuel meant it was cheaper to import flowers from across the world. In recent years a greater awareness of the environmental costs of imported flowers and a growing interest in seasonality have meant there has been a resurgence in British grown blooms. Thanks largely to a growing band of incredibly hard-working and talented small-scale flower growers across the country it’s now possible to buy super fresh, seasonal flowers with a local provenance.
Scent is one of the features so often lacking in imported blooms. Cut flowers have often been bred for other qualities – longer stems, shelf-life, ability to withstand cold stores – and scent is lost in the process. Chilled storage which keeps flowers fresh as they are transported also impacts on scent. Just think about those strawberries you pick at the allotment and how you can smell them, all warmed by the sun, now think about those from the supermarket kept chilled; the contrast is quite amazing. Growing your own flowers for cutting or seeking out British grown flowers with scent is the way to bring scent indoors. And even if you’re reluctant to pick your own flowers – I know how hard it can be when you have a small garden to take a pair of flower snips to your favourite blooms – there are so many fabulous plants that will fill your garden with scent all summer long.
For me June is a fabulous month for scented plants. Sweet Williams have started to bloom on the cut flower patch. There’s an air of the old-fashioned about them, conjuring up thatch cottages and gardens festooned with honeysuckle-clad arbours. I find them tricky in the garden though as they are quite stocky plants, they don’t tend to mingle like other plants, hence me devoting space to them on the allotment. They are biennials, so sow some now for flowers next year, but don’t feel you must dig them out after they have finished flowering in late summer, I have a clump from last year which is healthy and flowering once again. They will tend to get woody over time though so sow some every year to have young plants at the ready.
Sweet rocket is another deliciously scented biennial with the purest white flowers or dusky-pink blooms. It’s a great plant for attracting moths to your garden as its scent is much stronger on an evening. Pinks have to be one of my favourite flowers. They don’t really like my soil – it’s a tad on the acid side for their liking – but I tend to get a few years from plants before they need to be replaced with new ones. I have ‘Gran’s Favourite’ and ‘Fragrant village Pinks’ in flower at the moment, lining a bed on the cut flower patch. The white-flowered ‘Memories’ is in a container – one way around not having the chalky soil they prefer. Garden worthy plants, they also make fabulous cut flowers which I’m picking in huge bunches at the moment.
Philadelphus is a plant I remember from childhood. There was one by my parents’ gate and I used to love standing there and sniffing the flowers. It’s blooms are fleeting compared to other plants, but I wouldn’t be without the mass of white, orange blossom-scented flowers taking over a corner of my front garden at the moment, the scent drifting in through an open window into my lounge.
Roses are perhaps the classic scented flower – as long as you don’t buy the imported cut flowers which never have any perfume. Currently in bloom in my garden are ‘Gertrude Jekyll’, ‘Geoff Hamilton’ and ‘A Shropshire Lad’. If you’re thinking of growing roses, now is a great time to seek out a specialist rose garden (the National Trust has some of the best rose gardens). June is their flowering peak and you can take notes of those that please your nose the most.
Red valerian (Centranthus ruber) is an underrated plant, in my opinion. It’s incredibly easy to grow. Why do underrated and easy to grow seem to go hand in hand? OK, it does have a tendency to self-seed, but it will tolerate most soil types. If you keep on deadheading it over the summer you will curb its tendency to pop up all over the garden and encourage it to flower right through into autumn. It might not be high on lists of scented plants but it does have one. Maybe not as sweet as a rose, but lovely nonetheless, and as it’s another where the scent is strongest in the evening, it’s great for moths. There’s honeysuckle too clothing the fence in the front garden and this little beauty, Tiarella ‘Creeping Cascade’. I bought it mainly for its foliage but have discovered that its pretty flower spikes are also sweetly scented.
All this scent means it’s a veritable feast for my nostrils. And they all make great vase material. If you’re a reluctant flower picker I urge you this week to celebrate British flowers, to take your flower snips into the garden and to just pick a few stems. Even if you simply plonk them in an old jam jar and put them on the kitchen windowsill I can guarantee they’ll make you smile.
In honour of British Flowers Week I’ve joined forces with two lovely ladies to offer 3 fantastic gifts. Chloe Plester of Bare Blooms and the British Flower Collective grows beautiful flowers in the garden of her home in North Oxfordshire and is offering one of her gorgeous bouquets. Sian Cornish of the online haberdashery Lancaster and Cornish uses flowers and foliage from the countryside around her Cornish home to hand-dye bamboo silk ribbons. They’re perfect for tying a bouquet, decorating a vase or embellishing a gift and she’s giving away 3 ribbons. Alongside these will be a signed copy of my book The Cut Flower Patch.
For more details on how to enter (UK entries only, sorry!) take a look at the following links.
or take a look at my Instagram page. Good luck!
Sorry I’m not eligible to enter the competition, since I’m not in the UK. A lovely post – I can smell your garden from right across the Irish Sea. Just one tiny quibble – I’m glad you made it clear that when you said valerian you meant centranthus but I’ve come across quite a few people recently who thought centranthus was the same thing as true valerian and were trying to use it medicinally and getting upset when it didn’t work, so I’m on a mission to try and stop people using that name for the wrong plant
Hi Kathryn. Sorry the giveaway couldn’t be open for further afield. That’s why the Latin is important. I use herbal medicine and wish the Latin was included on packaging and information more – it’s so often missed off. It would be a good way of educating people as to what they are taking. I’ve written in the past here about why Latin is important but so many gardeners just don’t like using it. I think the world of herbal medicine suffers from the same problems. 😉
Now Sweet Williams are a flower that remind me of my childhood! I keep meaning to grow them, but have never managed it so far. Even though I know they’re biennial, I always miss their sowing time. You’ve introduced me to some plants that I never knew were scented. I planted our Red Valerian because I’d admired them growing around cottage doors and gardens (even though we don’t have a cottage!). Tonight, I’ll be having a sniff before I go in the house!
As for my Scent post, the photos are taken and I’m compiling as we speak!
Now’s the perfect time to get sowing your sweet Williams and other biennials. take a look at the link in the post for some other ideas. I’m a huge fan of biennials and it’s such a pity they get forgotten about. 😉 Red valerian reminds me of Cornwall. I’ve seen it growing in sand dunes. Looking forward to your post. Sorry I haven’t been over to your blog for a while I need a few more hours each day. 😉
A most enjoyable post and lovely pictures. xx
Thank you! Glad you liked it. Hope you are enjoying the sun. Have a good weekend. xx
What a lovely post, you’re right, scent is fantastic right now. I have some stocks by my back door and I can smell them every time the door is opened. I’m a huge fan of British flowers, it’s so good that more growers are able to produce them. I love the rose A Shropshire Lad, it looks absolutely beautiful. A great tip about going round NT gardens to see what is wonderful at the moment. CJ xx
Thank you! Yes, June is a great time for scent. There’s a fabulous NT rose garden in Hampshire that I keep meaning to go to. Maybe I should try and go soon. Lou Xx
As we´re getting so much rain at present I don´t have any problems with cutting my roses and other flowers to bring inside. Normally I´m very hesitant to do so, but as they get ruined anyway, they might as well cheer us up in here 🙂 When you wrote about the problems with importing flowers last year, I was a bit sceptical, especially because of all the jobs it creates in many countries, in the meantime I have learnt more, and am questioning the whole business a lot more. One eyeopener was reading about the big impact it´s having on birdlife in Ethiopia, where large rivers and lakes are being dried out with so much water being diverted to grow flowers.
I have recently read two reviews of your book, one Danish, one German, and they were both very positive, found the book helpful and both wrote that it was a huge plus that you obviously have first-hand experience with what you write about and are not just repeating what others have written before.
Hi Helle, Sorry to hear you the weather isn’t very good. Roses don’t like rain! The flower trade is a tricky one. Some large companies are doing more to tackle the environmental issues and are doing more to provide better working conditions for their employees, so I suppose it is a bit of a blanket statement to say all imported flowers are bad. I think the problem is that flowers aren’t a necessity. If they were growing food either for their country or for export that would be better than using scarce resources for non-essential goods for Western countries. I know the large flower farms in Kenya have had a huge impact of lakes and wildlife there. Like most things there’s no easy answer. 😉
Thank you for letting me know about the reviews. It’s good to hear people like the book and are finding it useful. Hope you have a lovely weekend. 🙂
So glad to see the meme as it has proved very inspiring! Centranthus is perhaps one plant I should consider here; I’ve always loved sweet William but never grown it… who knows why…! I’ve added my post – a totally different take on June, which is hardly the season for abundance in this region! – here it is: http://smallsunnygarden.blogspot.com/2015/06/garden-fragrance-june.html
Hi Amy thanks for joining in with the meme. I’m just off to read your post.
Thanks for your encouragement and suggestions for growing scented plants. I have had good success with the sweet williams I sowed last year and overwintered, but also kept some bought plants from last year which still had life in them and they are absolutely stunning – I shall keep them another year and monitor them to see how soon they get woody.
I’ve had other sweet Williams that have looked very woody by the end of the first year but others not, so perhaps it just depends on the plant. It’s worth trying though. 🙂
Just posted my June offering!
Excellent! Looking forward to reading it. 🙂
Scent carries me faster than my eyes…faster than my thoughts…it takes me there…
It certainly does!
I love Sweet Williams too. I have one called Sooty, which is so dark it is almost black. I love your Shropshire Lad. I am a bit late this month, but I am joining in with this lovely meme https://thebloominggarden.wordpress.com/2015/06/23/scent-in-the-june-garden/
I’ve grown Sooty too. It’s such a fabulous colour. It seems to have been a good year so far for roses. Shropshire Lad has never looked so good. Thanks for joining in. Just going to take a look at your post. 🙂
So sorry I can’t enter the giveaway, I would love your book! I agree Scent is very important in the garden and in the vase. I never buy roses, I do buy peonies though. They may have been chilled but they smell heavenly!
Hi Pauline, I’m sorry we couldn’t extend the giveaway but the flowers wouldn’t have survived a longer trip. I’m not sure if you can get my book in Holland. You can order it from here though and they deliver worldwide. 😉 I love peonies but don’t have the space to grow any at the moment. They’d probably be first on my list of flowers to grow when I get a bit more space. 🙂
Sorry I just realised I missed out the link http://www.bookdepository.com/Cut-Flower-Patch-Louise-Curley/9780711234758 😉
Thanks for a most enjoyable and informative post. I had not realised that tiarella is scented so off to have a sniff. I must also go and check whether our philadelphus has opened – it’s tucked away a bit and last time I looked it was still in bud. A ‘Shropshire Lad’ looks a cracker. I hope that Wellyman’s final exam went well. You can both breath a sigh of relief. My June post is up now :
Hi Anna, Thank you! The scent of tiarella is such a surprise. The flowers are quite tiny and I guess it’s not one of those plants you expect to be scented. I go round sniffing most plants now just in case I come across another surprise. 😉 Fingers crossed for the exam. Thank you for asking. He should find out his results in a few weeks. It’s amazing the difference it makes having an extra pair of hands available now for all that watering. 😉 Thank you for joining in.