Real men grow flowers….
This growing season, I took the decision to supplement my fruit and veg by growing flowers for cutting. In this blog I’ll take you through the experiences of my flower season and throw in the odd serviceable tip along the way, to improve your flower power next year.
Simple flowers for a simple man…
I’m a simple creature, I have very limited knowledge of growing flowers. However as my mother is a ‘world stage’ floral artist and has competed at Chelsea Flower Show, I was hoping to call upon any flower genes I may be lucky enough to possess….
In real terms I didn’t know what I was doing so decided on 3 basic stages of growing..
Stage one: some easy to grow bulbs; Daffodils and Tulips to be exact.
Stage two: the more adventurous seed to vase challenge of growing fragrant Sweet Peas.
And finally stage three: a favourite seen on Instagram pages; Dahlias
Daffodils and Tulips, It really is that easy!
Having decided upon my goals the expedition into the world of flowers began in early October, Daffodils and Tulips proved to be as easy as it comes.
For those true beginners, these are grown from bulbs, you simply dig a hole about 5 inches deep pop in a bulb and replace the soil. Bingo.
It really is that easy, by spring these bulbs had developed long thin green leaves and when the flower gods decided the time was right… an explosion of early colour.
Throughout spring and into early summer they brightened up my home with splashes of yellow daffs, while the tulips provided a mix of bright colours.
Sweet peas; Mother Natures answer to the glade plug in!
Like the successful bulbs, growing my Sweet Peas started long before Magic started playing the same 20 Christmas songs over and over.
I planted my overwinter seeds indoors on a sunny windowsill in October (readers of my debut blog will understand why the polytunnel wasn’t an option).
Individual seeds were pushed into damp soil in a seed tray. Left to germinate, they took about two weeks in the cool temperatures and short days to break the surface of the soil. They soon became long and a little leggy searching for light.
I’d read that ‘pinching them out’ was a top tip to deal with leggy Sweet Peas. So when 2 sets of leaves had formed i cut off the tops. True to ‘Mr Google’s’ word they bushed out, producing one or two new stems from the base of each plant.
After the last frosts had gone I planted the Sweet Peas out.
Sweet Peas are avid climbers and require support to grow. I stuck them at the base of bean frame I had used the season before. The simple bamboo structure was more than enough support for these delicate plants.
Over the coming months I was provided with hundreds (and I mean hundreds!) of the most fragrant flowers! My living room has never smelt so lovely!
My top tip for Sweet Peas is don’t stop cutting the flowers; My Sweet pea season was cut short (pun intended) when I went on holiday for 2 weeks. Unfortunately when you stop cutting, the plant stops producing flowers and turns it’s energy to producing seed pods. Next year I will invite all my fellow Allotment holders to help themselves to the flowers to try and prevent losing them too early again!
Diversity of the Dahlia….
For the Dahlia first timers amongst us, Dahlias grow from tubers in the heart of the great British summer and leave us at the first sign of frost in the autumn.
To get a head start with these temperature sensitive beauties I borrowed my mums conservatory in late spring.
Planting each tuber in an individual pot with peat free compost, I left them to bathe in the warmth keeping the soil moist but not wet.
I planted upwards of 15 deferent varieties, the diversity of the Dahlia is amazing with hundreds (I’m guessing) of different varieties.
They are available everywhere, from pound stretcher to the classiest of garden centres.
When all fear of overnight frost had disappeared from my consciousness I planted the Dahlias into a raised bed on my allotment.
With the all too familiar English summer weather, a combination of joyful heat and the inevitable rain the Dahlias exploded into life! From subtle pink and white to the dark red of the aptly named ‘Arabian night’ the Dahlias quickly became my biggest success of the season.
Like my Sweet Peas they provided ample flowers all summer to brighten up the homes of friends and family as well as my own.
The vastly differing varieties meaning no two vases ever looked the same.
The only thing I will do different next year is ensure I better space and stake the plants when they are young, I did lose a few flower heads to lack of support.
My raised bed at times was hard to work with as the spacing was tight, making cutting the flower heads a challenge.
I will forever more, be a flower grower….
I’m delighted with my first efforts to grow cut flowers, was it easy? Yes! was I lucky to have such success? Probably!
However aside from the obvious benefits I’ve talked about, these flowers in amongst my fruit and vegetables acted as a summer retreat for pollinators in Essex. I have no doubt that planting flowers aided my efforts in a successful crop of edible goodies.
I will forever more be a flower grower as the joy they brought to my outdoor and indoor space this summer far outweighed the minimal effort they took to to grow.
Who knows, next year I might even try something more adventurous!