8 Easy-peasy cut flowers to grow now
Garden broadcaster Toby Buckland picks a pocketful of posies that anyone - yes, even you with the dead house plants - can grow.
Since we’re all stuck at home and semi-retired, Muddy has dug deep – well, actually we just asked Mr Muddy Devon, aka TV gardener Toby Buckland – for tips on what we should be growing to prettify our jugs and vases. Over to you Mr B…
Cut flowers love sunshine, socially-distanced space to grow, and fertile soil (if weeds grows in it, you know it’s good enough for them). Plant where you won’t feel guilty picking them, either in empty space among shrubs or if you fancy the Dig for Victory look, in productive rows. Gather just as buds are bursting so they open in your house, not outdoors, and don’t dilly-dally getting them into water. Make sure it’s a clean vessel for optimum vase-life.
My pick is a mixture of annuals from seed, (which will drop seed and do it all again for next year ie self-sow), bulbs, perennials and shrubs which are permanent, so nice and easy. I’ve also avoided you anything you can’t plant now or shy or slow to flower. Spring is good for planting and sowing, so go for it now, and if you get into it, in autumn plant daffs, tulips and hellebores to extend your cutting season.
Why: Slugs don’t eat them (much).
Choose: The wild one, Digitalis purpurea, which comes in white or purple, or go for something with better breeding, like freckled ‘Pam’s Choice’ or Excelsior Hybrids in bonbon shades.
Remember to: Buy as a plant for flowers this summer, or sow seed now for next. Cut the stem at the base while the flowers at the top are still in bud. Leave a flower stem or two to self-sow for more next year.
Why: The best perfume.
Choose: Long and repeat-flowering varieties, like the David Austin New English roses, such as silver-pink ‘Gertrude Jekyll’ and custard-yellow ‘Graham Stuart Thomas’.
Remember to: Cut your flower just above a bud (the little nobble on the stem) ideally one on that faces out from the middle to keep a nice shaped bush (and who doesn’t want one of those). It also stops those ugly dead bits of stem where you cut.
Why: You can make like Martha Stewart and sprinkle the petals on cakes and posh salads.
Choose: Marmalade-coloured ‘Indian Prince’ or colourful Fiesta seed mixes for ready-made arrangements. Not to be confused with the other marigold, Tagetes which is what you find in naff park displays.
Remember to: Sow seed straight into border, keep watered if it’s dry and when seedlings are small do daily patrols to get rid of slugs and snails until they’re big enough to cope with a bit of nibbling.
Why: Blooms in the second-half of summer when everything else is going brown.
Choose: Condensed milk-coloured ‘Cafe au Lait’, the black velvet Chat Noir if you want to be on trend, or any with ‘Bishop’ in the name for dark foliage and slimmer shapes.
Remember to: Snap up tubers if you spot them in the bulb section of the gardens centre or more likely, as potted plants now. Protect from slugs when small and support stems with bamboo canes when large.
Why: Just. So. Easy.
Choose: I love snow-white ‘Purity’ and the frilly-petalled ‘Picotee’.
Remember to: Scatter seed straight from the packet into watered, weeded soil and water seedlings if dry. Keep picking to keep the flowers coming right until the frosts come along and spoil them.
Why: Nothing like a sunflower to cheer you up.
Choose: Not the tall, single-flowered variety kids grow, but the multi-headed types like ‘Claret’ or ‘Velvet Queen’.
Remember to: Sow direct or five to a 12cm pot, then plant out when it’s less like slug fodder. Take off some of the lower leaves after you pick as they suck out the moisture and make them fade faster. Put the seedhead on the bird table.
Why: The size: you only need three to fill a vase.
Choose: My fave is the smoky ‘Blue Mountain’. Pheasant Acre do delectable Chelsea-flower show winning ones, like mahogany ‘San Siro’ (pictured).
Remember to: Buy as corms (a flat type of bulb), and plant a handful every few weeks to spread out the crops until mid-July for cuttings until September. Plant deeper than it says on the packet, 10cm deep so they don’t need staking and can be left in the ground over winter.
Why: Scent and a lot of flower-power over weeks and weeks.
Choose: For amazing scent but short stems – Lathryus ‘Painted Lady’ or Matucana. For long stems and bigger vases, Spencer varieties and Heritage Mixed. Sarah Raven curates gorgeous sweet pea collections.
Remember to: Grow it up a support, like a trellis or wigwam. Its tendrils will do the climbing so you don’t need to tie it on. Water well if it’s hot and dry, and pick like mad otherwise the plant goes mildewy and stops flowering.
Want more, more, more? Get your garden questions sorted on Toby’s weekly Sunday morning phone-in on BBC Radio Devon and BBC Sounds or hot-foot it to his annual two-day garden festival at Powderham Castle, near Exeter on 17 and 18 July 2020.