Situation and Preparation of the Soil For Growing Cut Flowers

Although when growing flowers for general indoor decoration the aim may not be to secure specimens which will win prizes at the flower show, it is important to provide growing conditions which will enable the plants to give of their best. Well-grown plants will produce more and better blooms, and are less likely to succumb to disease or pest attack.

While it is true that there is no position in the garden for which suitable plants or shrubs cannot be found, it is necessary to consider the situation available when choosing plants which are being cultivated especially to provide cut blooms.

Fortunate is the grower who has an open, sunny, yet unexposed garden, where there are south- or south-west-facing walls. This does enable less hardy plants to be grown. Most of us find that whatever our garden is like there are some disadvantages, but with determination the difficulties can be reduced, if not entirely overcome.

Situation and Preparation of the Soil

If the situation is open and exposed, it will be possible to a large extent to overcome this drawback by planting a hedge. This need not be dull and uninteresting, for there are many hedging plants which, besides fulfilling their function as a hedge, screen or windbreak, are of service in providing greenery or berried branches, which may be cut and used in floral arrangements.

Apart from its dullness, green privet, which is so often used, has hungry roots that take the goodness from the ground for quite a large area round about. Golden privet has the advantage of bright foliage well worth cutting for use in vases.

For hedge or background select such shrubs as Cupressus lawsoniana and C. macrocarpa, although the latter is sometimes a little difficult, Thuya lobbii, box, laurel, Lonicera nitida, yew and euonymous. Yew is slow-growing, but is reliable and stately looking.

Among flowering and berrying shrubs suitable for hedging purposes, there are Berberis darwinii, B. stenophylla, Cotoneaster simonsii, Ribes sanguineum and the polyantha and grandiflora bush roses. The thornless rose, Zephyrine drouhin, which has perfumed rose-pink flowers, is also excellent for cutting. For lower-growing hedges lavender and rosemary are of value.

The fact that perennial plants, shrubs and trees will remain in position for some years, makes it imperative that the sites should be chosen with particular care and the soil well enriched before planting takes place. Once the plants are established, deep and thorough cultivation is impracticable.

It is almost useless to plant perennials on land full of couch-grass or bindweed, for their roots will run everywhere and become entwined with those of flowering plants. The cleaning should be done before planting.

Double digging

Double digging is advisable when preparing the ground for shrubs and perennials. It is important to keep the top soil near the surface and not to mix the subsoil with it, particularly in the case of shallow land. All digging should be finished some weeks before planting, so that the soil has plenty of time to settle. As ‘the ground is moved, all deep-rooting, perennial weeds, such as docks, dandelions and thistles, should be removed, for they are most difficult to get rid of later.

Deep digging ensures that when planting shrubs and trees the roots will take hold well and eventually go down very deeply, and even in comparatively poor soil they usually seem to flourish.

With shrubs, more than any other subjects, it is essential to visualise what they will be like when fully grown; this will help to avoid too close planting. Take care to select kinds which like the conditions available. If attempts are made to cultivate shrubs or trees which are naturally moisture-lovers in very dry ground, it is certain that they will never be really satisfactory. These hard-wooded plants will also appreciate an early spring mulching the first season after planting. As far as possible, winter-flowering subjects should be sited where they are not exposed to cutting winds, which might damage or discolour the blooms. Where the soil is chalky, azaleas, rhododendrons and most of the heather or erica family must be avoided.

The question of drainage must be considered, for although there are some plants which will grow in a boggy soil, their number is limited, and there are many otherwise hardy plants which will suffer or even die during the winter, if their roots remain in cold, wet soil.

On a fairly large scale, one may resort to some kind of land drains which can be inserted according to the lie of the ground. For the average garden, however, this cannot be done, and some simpler means has to be devised for preventing excessive moisture from remaining in the soil. Very often a simple sump hole, made in a suitable place and filled with stones, bricks or clinkers, will prove sufficient. Even simpler is the incorporation of coarse silver sand or clean grit into the soil when digging. For very heavy ground the working in of dry peat, well broken up, is effective, since it is so absorbent.

Then there is the question of enriching the ground. Farmyard manure is ideal, but since it is so difficult to obtain in quantity other material often has to be used. Good compost is invaluable, as is poultry manure which has been stacked in layers with soil and peat. Bone meal and hoof and horn manure are of great benefit as feeding agents and they release their feeding qualities slowly, over a long period, and in a way which the roots can use. Whatever is omitted, peat should be dug in, for its bulk does give the land just what it needs and it breaks down so well, forming a rich humus content.

Where it is decided to use lime, particularly on heavy and sour soils, it should not be applied at the same time as manure.

If we observe the rule that it is essential to build up the soil and give it such treatment as will keep it in good condition, we shall find we are richly repaid with the results secured.

Colour planting is a matter of choice, and this should be made with regard to cutting requirements and according to soil and ‘situation. The height will largely be governed by the other nearby subjects. It is best to choose plants or shrubs which will fit into the general surroundings. White-flowered plants or grey-leaved subjects can be used as links between the colour groupings.

Where entire borders or beds are being started, a planting plan is essential. This will ensure that plants are put in the appropriate places and that individual plants have the particular conditions they may require. A plan will help, too, in placing the plants in their right positions regarding height, although it is a good idea to place rather taller subjects in front of early-flowering plants, such as trollius, doronicum, irises and lupins, so that the later-flowering, taller subjects screen those which have bloomed and afterwards begin to look unsightly.

Very little soil preparation is needed for annuals, since most have a comparatively small root system and occupy the ground for a short time. With little more than ordinary digging, it is possible to obtain reasonably good results from such showy subjects as clarkia, calendula and godetia. It is wise, however, to turn over the soil deeply and to incorporate plenty of humus-forming material. Anything such as peat or compost is most useful to annuals, since it ensures that the soil is moisture retentive, and should there be periods of dry weather the plants will remain in good condition. It is lack of moisture which so often causes annuals to produce one spindly growth and then run to seed, or which prevents them from looking their best. Annuals sometimes fall into disrepute because they make little growth, and what growth there is, is limp and sickly looking. In most cases this is due to drought at some period, particularly in the early stages.

It is not wise to continue to water annuals or any other plants in the open ground, since this encourages the roots to develop near the surface. With plenty of organic matter in the soil, the roots can obtain the moisture they require. A light mulching of peat or leaf mould in the early spring will also help.

Biennials are usually put into their final quarters from late September onwards. By that time they should have a good root system. If planting is done during showery weather or when the soil is really moist, the plants will soon gain a hold. Since biennials are often planted in beds near walls and fences where the soil is dry and often poor, plenty of decayed leaves, peat, seaweed and manure are very valuable additions and should be well dug in some weeks before the plants go in. If the ground is on the acid side, a dressing of hydrated lime will do much to right matters.

It is fortunate that there are hardy perennial plants to suit every kind of soil, situation and aspect we are likely to find in this country. This means that a great variety of plants will grow happily in our gardens and we are not bound to stick to the older sorts. Many of these are very good, but new introductions offer us a wider choice of height, shape and colour. Furthermore, we have discovered that many plants once thought of as possible to grow only under certain conditions will often thrive in quite different circumstances. The size of flowers has been increased of recent years, although for floral decoration this is not always an advantage.

In the actual planting of perennials the first step is to get the soil into the right condition, so that it can be moved without pulling it up in lumps. Make holes, preferably with a trowel or spade, which are big enough to allow the roots to spread out fully. Work fine soil between and around the roots, firming it well so that they are in close contact. Place the roots just a little deeper than the previous soil mark, as indicated on the plants. This allows for some subsequent soil sinkage. Do not leave the plants lying exposed on the surface long before they are put in the soil, otherwise they will dry out. Keep them covered with damp moss or cloth, thus retaining moisture. See that the soil remains firm round the roots. Once they are established, a top dressing of peat compost or strawy manure will conserve moisture and prevent drying out.

Sorry, comments are closed for this post.