Flowers for cutting

One of the joys of having a garden is being able to cut flowers for the home. I know that not everyone likes to take flowers from the garden but I don’t see an issue, especially if you grow a few plants specially for the purpose. A lot of these are annuals, plants that need regular deadheading to keep them in bloom so cutting some flowers not only keeps the house jolly but does the plants no harm at all.

Here are some bunches I have cut and the plants I grow for cut flowers.

Sweet peas

Sweet peas are some of the few plants I grow specifically for cut flowers, in a separate area. I find that if they are grown poorly, or in a mixed bed, you get short stems and it is difficult to take off the faded flowers. As soon as a sweet pea plant sets seeds it stops making new blooms. So there is no reason to feel bad about cutting the flowers. I grow them on canes as I would runner beans and remove every stem of flowers as soon as it is fully open. Buds do not open in water so don’t pick them until they are fully open.

Cosmos, parsley and statice

Cosmos is often recommended for cutting but I find that, unless you tolerate very short stems, you have to cut so many unopened buds with the open flower that you have to remove a lot of each plant to make a bunch. So I eke out the cosmos with fillers. I grow lots of statice every year, not just for drying for winter but to use fresh. Like cosmos, it is very easy to grow from seed and the flowers are loved by butterflies. Contrast here is provided by parsley flowers. Parsley is biennial and always runs to seed the second year and find the greenish flowers very useful for cutting.

Rudbeckia, helenium and lilies

Rudbeckias are another must for cutting. The annual rudbeckias are slow to come into bloom but by August they producing their long-lasting flowers en masse. I usually grow ‘Rustic Dwarfs’ which, at 70cm high is not as short as its name suggests. Avoid the very dwarf kinds which are useless for cutting. I like the green-eyed ‘Irish Eyes’ (above). Orange heleniums are good for cutting too and with orange lilies and peachy statice the bunch is complete.

Roses, asters and achillea

China asters (Callistephus) are not as commonly grown as they used to be. In my days at Nags Hall we always sold young plants in spring. But they are not ideal bedding plants, flowering late in summer and then not for that long. But they are spectacular and are lovely cut flowers. Achilleas are hardy perennials and easily grown from seed too. If sown in February or March, they will flower the first year by August. With a wide range of colours and the flattish heads of flowers they are useful for cutting.

Pinks, achillea and statice

Another bunch relying on statice and achillea, augmented with pinks. Some pinks (dianthus) bloom for a short period but the Allwood pinks such as ‘Doris’ have an extended flowering period meaning that if you have a few plants you can be sure of some flowers to pick from June to October.

Rudbeckia and fennel

Jobs for the week

It is time to prune wisterias. Apart from any shoots that you need to extend the size of the plant, prune all the new shoots, that grew this year, back to four leaves (that’s four leaves not four leaflets – each leaf is divided into many leaflets). This will stimulate flowering and reduce the vigour of the plant.

Keep picking those courgettes and beans. If you let them get too large on the plants it will reduce the overall crop. Keep them picked when young and tender and the plants will form more beans and courgettes.

Take cuttings of fuchsias, pelargoniums and penstemons.

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