In part one of this blog post, we looked at what to consider when selecting a site for your cut flower beds. If you’ve not already read part one, please do as it includes basic considerations when starting out.
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Of course, what every cut flower enthusiast enjoys most in the planning stage is selecting which flowers to grow, so let’s get started….
Choose a variety of flowers: different colours, shapes, and sizes for variety in your bouquets or arrangements. You’ll also want to include a mix of perennial, biennial and annual plants. Herbs are also invaluable for bringing scent as well as flowers and rich greens into the mix. Pollinators love them too!
For commercial plots, we recommend dedicating at least 50% of your plot to perennials. These are the flowers and flowering shrubs that will come back year after year and be the backbone of your cut flower business. If you’re going to plant perennials, they need to go in a spot where you’ll be happy to have them for several years. Biennials are sown one year for flowering the year after so need a semi-permanent position. Annuals, as the name suggests, grow, flower, set seed and die all in one year.
Whatever your reasons for growing, it’s worth researching (even asking neighbours) which flowers are suitable for your local climate and growing season.
Plant for succession
We touched on this briefly in part one: Early spring will bring you bulbs including tulips and hyacinths, plus early bloomers such as Hesperis (sweet rocket). In high summer you’ll be spoilt for cutting choice with annuals like sweet peas, cosmos, antirrhinum and Nigella giving their all. But you may have a lull in May and early June – this is where biennials come to the fore. Choose the flowers you love but once you’ve made that initial selection, look at flowering times and see what gaps you have and what you could add to the mix to fill this. Think about the autumn too – dahlias, chrysanthamums and Xerochrysum (Strawflowers) can see you right through to November when the frosts arrive.
Keep the pollinators happy
Most people are now aware of the vital role that pollinators play in biodiversity. In my eyes, a happy, healthy plot is one that sees lots of bees, butterflies and other pollinators buzzing around on a sunny day. Here are some suggestions from the RHS of pollinating flowers to include in your patch. Flowers that give out scent at night such as Jasmine and Nicotiana may also attract moths. If you’d like to encourage more moths to your garden, here’s some ideas of what to plant.
Spacing and Layout
Pay attention to the spacing requirements for each type of flower to ensure they have enough room to grow without crowding each other. Crowded plants can be more susceptible to disease and pests. Conversely, if you have tall flowering plants such as delphiniums, they’ll need staking as they get taller but planting them closer together will help them stand tall as a group.
Soil preparation is crucial. Remove weeds, rocks, and debris from the area before planting. Unless you have the perfect loamy, well-drained soil, you’ll probably need to add organic matter like compost or well-rotted manure to improve soil structure. Part one of this post referred to raised beds which are generally used to implement the ‘no dig’ method of growing. For an overview of how to set up a no-dig bed, see this blog post.
Consider using mulch to help conserve moisture, suppress weeds, and maintain even soil temperatures. Mulches can be organic matter such as leaf mould, compost or wood chip or artificial such as a semi-permeable membrane. More on mulches here.
Pest and Disease Management
You’ll need to be vigilant for signs of pests and diseases and take appropriate measures to control them. Use biological or cultural control where possible. For ideas and a bit of the biology behind biological control, have a listen to my podcast chat with Tessa Cobley of Ladybird Plantcare.
Planning Seasonal Care
Plan for seasonal tasks like feeding, pruning, and dividing perennials as needed to keep your cut flower plot healthy and productive.
Equipment and Tools
Invest in the necessary gardening tools such as pruners, forks and spades, shears and gloves to make maintenance easier. Sharp, clean tools are much more efficient, safer for the user and less likely to spread plant disease so it’s really worth taking the time to clean tools after use and sharpen them as needed.
Don’t forget to enjoy your cut flower plot! Spend time tending to your patch, watch it bloom, and reap the rewards by creating beautiful flower arrangements.
Remember that planning and maintaining a cut flower plot can be a learning process, so don’t be discouraged by initial setbacks. Gardening is a skill that improves with experience, and the joy of having fresh, homegrown flowers is well worth the effort.
If you’d like to join a group of like-minded flower growers, The Best Bunch is your cut flower family on the web. As well as group discussions and online Q&As and workshops, we host guest speakers and have negotiated offers from over 30 suppliers to give you savings as you cultivate your cutting patch. All the information and a link to join The Best Bunch is here.