I’ve always been a practical gal, so when I got my first garden, I spent most of my time growing tomatoes and herbs for the kitchen. It’s only recently that I’ve developed a love of fresh flowers and took the plunge when it came to growing my own. Here’s what I’ve learned so far!
Until very recently, foliage and flowering shrubs were my go-to, but that all changed when I got a brochure for Sarah Raven’s glorious range of flowers and plants. I prefer to grow my plants in pots, so I’d always dismissed the idea of growing anything new in my already mature and established garden. But it turns out that some of the loveliest flowers actually grow really well in pots – and in fact, thrive in them!
In spring, I love to grow sweetpeas. They’re so prolific, they smell amazing, and they look gorgeous in a simple vase. Because I don’t have a greenhouse, I always order seedlings because they get a much better headstart for me than ones I grow from seeds.
One of the things I adore about Sarah Raven’s site and brochures is that everything is colour co-ordinated and the company also puts together collections so you can have a ready-made colour matched bouquet planted in the ground and ready to go! I always go for the Harlequin mix, which includes the varieties Lord Nelson (deep purple navy), Matucana (bicoloured magenta and purple), and Prince Edward of York (pictured above – a subtle combo of hot pink wings and a paler pink nose).
Growing them is easy, but you need a lot of soil and huge pots if you’re going to grow them that way – make sure the roots get really deep. My tip is to go to your local recycling centre (aka, the dump) and find some old pots that have been thrown away. You can buy them really cheaply – and compost too! I got three enormous pots for £5 for all of them – the same ones are still on sale at the garden centre for £20 each! You then need long bamboo stakes to tie them against – then just watch them grow, and always pinch out the curly tendrils to encourage growth.
Once my sweetpeas are gone, I tear them out and replace them with dahlias! Dahlias are so much fun to grow and they’re so rewarding – and because the blooms are so delicate, you’ll rarely see them offered in shops as part of commercial bouquets!
My favourite dahlia to grow is the one pictured at the very top of this post – it’s called American Dawn, and it has a hot pinky-purple centre with a bold apricot edge. Many dahlias transform once they’re cut and in a vase, and this one actually levels out to a more uniform colour – another reason I suspect that the flower isn’t as popular commercially.
Foliage is an often overlooked aspect of a good bouquet (and my mum is the best at making mixed bouquets! I’m still learning!). I like to add a few leaves of my castor oil plant (above) to a bouquet – they last a lot longer than flowers so you can pick a few leaves and use them again and again. The dinnerplant dahlia in the picture above is called Islander, and it looks so incredibly tropical it’s hard to believe it was grown in an English garden! I purchased the tuber as part of a set called Rubens Dahlia Collection which also includes some glorious dahlias like Small World (all the pale pompom dahlias in my photos are Small World) and the blousy Cafe au Lait – which I’m still waiting for!
I already had some Euphorbia Oblongata growing in my garden which I highly recommend for more foliage – but also, don’t overlook the humble hydrangea! Acid green and pale white hydrangeas are my favourite, and they look so gorgeous with a few pink or coral dahlias dotted in!
(Here’s another gardening secret – sounds obvious but… Miracle Grow really does work! Buy a liquid or powder fertiliser and follow the instructions. Trust me, your plants will thank you!)
With dahlias, growing them from tubers is the best way to ensure a healthy, sturdy plant – and you can dig the tubers up, dry them out, and plant them again the next year too!
Apart from the flowers, the next most important part is… the vase! Dahlias and sweetpeas have relatively short stems, so I have a range of squat vases to show them off properly. The worst thing you can do is swamp a bouquet with a vase that’s too big. Make sure you buy some with a narrow opening (this is especially important for sweetpeas, because their stems are so tiny) – it bunches the flowers together and makes the arrangement look so much nicer!
My glass vases are from Bloomon (you can get a free large vase with your first order if you use my link here) – check under Extras for the mini vase collection. My white vase was from Ikea ages ago: check their new range here.
Next year, I’ll be planting some tulips to get started on my bouquets even earlier in the year! See Sarah Raven’s gorgeous collection here. I can’t wait! Which ones would you buy…?