The Fruits of My Labour

It’s the height of summer now and my allotment is in full bloom. Several years ago I decided to dedicate a patch of ground to growing my own cut flowers. I was bored with the choice of flowers on offer at the supermarket and florists, I was no longer happy about buying imported blooms and the environmental impact of growing and transporting them, and I thought it would be fun to give growing my own a try. At first I squeezed a few beds into my garden where I grew cornflowers, cosmos and sweet peas to pick for my home. It wasn’t long though before I was hooked. When I took on my allotment I had great plans that a small section of it would be packed full of flowers for picking throughout the summer. Now, three years later, I have learned which varieties last well once cut, which flowers are the cut-and-come-again equivalent of salad crops and discovered a whole host of plants with attractive seed heads which are perfect for autumn and winter decoration.

The benefits of growing cut flowers in a dedicated spot are numerous. Most of us are reluctant to pick flowers from the garden, not wanting to spoil the effect we’ve worked so hard to achieve. Whether your cut flower patch is on your allotment or in a part of your garden you can pick away without any guilt, and there are always plenty of flowers left for the bees, butterflies and hoverflies to enjoy. It’s easy to pick and look after your cut flowers if they’re grown as a crop as stakes and netting can be used to prevent damage from summer storms, and access to flowers for picking doesn’t require tip-toeing through your borders to get to your favourite blooms.

I grow pretty much everything on my cut flower patch from seed. A few perennials have snuck in there but all the other plants are started off from seeds or bought in as plug plants and nurtured in my greenhouse or on my windowsills. It’s hard to imagine when I look at my plot teeming with colourful blooms and wildlife that only 4 months ago it was a patch of bare earth and all of this came from those tiny seeds I sowed back in spring. From March until mid-May my greenhouse is full of hardy and half-hardy annuals at various stages of growth. Scabious, ammi, antirrhinums, ageratum and sunflowers are all perfect cut flower plants. Bulbs too provide great cut flowers. I try to find space in my greenhouse for large pots so I can start off dahlias, ranunculus and freesias before planting them outside when the weather has warmed up.

Keeping on top of all these plants and coping with the vagaries of the weather means spring is a frantic time but looking at my cut flower patch now, in July, smelling the delicious sweet peas and picking buckets of home-grown flowers makes all the effort worthwhile.