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Growing Flowers for the House

Growing Flowers for the House

The first of this year’s “Great Oaks” gardening club talks was due to take place last Saturday but obviously owing to the closure of the Old Railway this wasn’t possible.

One of the topics for the meeting was “Growing Flowers for the House” which we have published on the Blog in the hope that it will be of interest to our many gardeners.

Keith, who gives the talks, is also very happy to try to answer any gardening questions which you may have . Please feel free to ask these by leaving a message in the “leave a reply” box.

Keith will also post a series of, hopefully, useful gardening tips over the next few weeks so that we can all get the most from our gardens at this difficult time. The first will look at seed sowing with the view to growing flowering plants for the summer to replace the bedding plants which will probably not be available.

When most people refer to the cutting of flowers for the house they are usually thinking of an actual cutting garden, often part of the vegetable plot. If  lots of flowers are required for the house and the space is available this is an excellent idea. However, if space is at a premium flowers can still be produced for the house by choosing plants which look good and last well after cutting and using them within the general planting scheme. These flowers fall into one of two groups- annuals and perennials.

Annuals for cutting.

Below are some annuals which appear in Sarah Raven’s catalogue and which she recommends for cutting.

Cosmos- the white “Purity” and the pinks such as “Pinkie”, “Fizzy Rose Picotee”

Ammi majus- lacy white flowers like a delicate cow parsley

Antirrhinum majus “White Giant” and the pinks of the “Chantilly” group

Nicotiana alata “Lime Green”

Orlaya grandiflora- mini white handkerchiefs on delicate umbellifer flower heads

Calendula officinalis

Centaurea cyanus- Wild Cornflower

Zinnia elegans “Giant Dahlia Mixed”

Herbaceous Perennials for cutting.

Alstromeria, Aquilegia, Aster, Astantia, Centaurea, Dahlia,  Dicentra, Erigeron, Gypsophila, Helenium, Monarda, Phlox, Rudbeckia, Scabiosa, Stokesia, Veronica.

Flowers in the cutting garden of our local National Trust property at Llanarcharon near Aberaeron.

Calendula, Cerinthe, Helichrysum, Chrysanthemum, Cleome, Coreopsis, Cosmos, Dahlia, Salvia viridis (annual Clary),  Helianthus (Sunflower), Aster and Rudbeckia.

Harvesting the flowers.

For flower arrangements, however simple, to last the flowers need to be in the best condition possible when cut which means for most blooms allowing them to reach a mid-point stage of maturity before cutting. At this stage plant materials are advanced enough to survive without further nutrition from the plant. So for example:-

Cut roses and carnations when the flowers are just beginning to unfurl

Cut tall spires such as larkspur, delphiniums, gladioli, Canterbury Bells and Orchids when they are showing only the full beauty of the lower florets.

When necessary flowers can, of course, be cut when in full bloom but will, as a result have a much shorter vase-life.

Planning harvesting times is also important in prolonging the vase-life of flowers. It is important to:-

Avoid cutting flowers and foliage in the heat of the sun when they are most stressed.

Always try to get cut stems into water as soon as possible by carrying water with you or at least having it nearby.

After cutting flowers and foliage will benefit from “conditioning”.

Strip off any leaves which might come below the water line as these would sour the water and reduce vase-life.

Using sharp secateurs or scissors recut the stem ends at a sharp angle to give the largest possible area to soak up moisture.

With hollow or fleshy stems such as daffodils and delphiniums make the cuts under water to prevent the formation of air locks which inhibit water uptake.

Stand all stems in cool, but not ice-cold, water for at least a couple of hours.

Wrap bunches of flowers which have a tendency to droop such as tulips and ranunculus in newspaper and stand them up to their necks in water.

Following their reviving drink snip off any damaged leaves and remove all leaves from flowers such as spray chrysanthemums which do not have the staying power of the blooms.

Also pick off any damaged outer petals or whole blooms which are past their best.

Longevity of the cut stems can also be influenced by factors such as heat and light.

Cut flowers can be held back for a few days by keeping them in cool water  in a cool, dark place or even in small quantities in the fridge.

To open flowers more quickly place them in warm water in a warm place for a few hours.

Spraying fresh flowers with a fine mist of cool water at least once a day, more often in hot weather, and sheltering them from direct heat or sunlight will also make them last longer.

All flowers will gradually fade but this process can be postponed a little by removing them from the arrangement and re-cutting the stem ends.

Some flower species are naturally only short-lived and can be replaced when past their best by new flowers to make the arrangement as a whole last longer.

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