Tips For Growing Cut Flowers

Flowers are not only lovely in a garden but beautiful in the house. One of the features of our British households is surely that of being able to have bowls of flowers in the living rooms all the year round.

I want to deal with the question of growing flowers which you can feel happy about cutting at any time. Too often the husband plans a wonderful herbaceous border and is expecting to see it look at its best – only to find on coming home one evening that the flowers which should be blooming in the border and looking their best, are now adorning a bowl in the drawing room. This ‘competition’ between the garden and the house can easily be overcome if a small plot of land can be set aside purely for the purpose of growing flowers for cutting. Such a border may be large or small, depending on (a) the size of the gardens and (b) the needs of the house. It should be planted up with rows of annuals, biennials and perennials which give as long a period of flowering as possible. Those who look after their own gardens will probably concentrate on perennials, for these give the minimum of trouble. Thus the succession will probably start with doronicum, and end with Michaelmas daisies.

STANDARDIZATION

In this part of the garden the plants will be set out in serried rows. The whole idea is to grow as many flowers as possible in the minimum of space. It should be possible to bend down and cut all the flowers required without actually standing on the flower beds. The scheme I have found most successful is to have four rows 300 mm (1 ft) apart on a 1 m (3 ft) bed. This is quite possible, though it sounds peculiar, for two rows are on the extreme outside of the bed. Then you have a path 600 mm (2 ft) wide, a 1 m (3 ft) bed, and so on. The paths need not be gravel or concrete; they are usually just trodden earth. This makes it possible to dig up the whole strip of ground concerned, paths and all, later on, if it is intended to use the ground for some other purpose.

The rows should be run north and south, the beds them-selves being no wider than 2 or 2.5 m (6 or 8 ft), though in a large garden they can be extended to 6 m (20 ft) or more. The whole point of having narrow beds with paths between is to enable the womenfolk to cut the flowers in comfort without getting their feet muddy, and without having to tread in and among the plants. With beds of this width it is possible to cut every flower from the paths on either side.

Another advantage of having four short rows like this is that it is quite easy to do all the supporting of the plants needed by pushing bamboo sticks every 2 m (6 ft) or so around the outside of the bed and stretching string or ‘fillis’ as it is usually called, in between the bamboos at a height of, say, 600 mm (2 ft), 900 mm (3 ft) and 1.2 m (4 ft), and in the case of the taller plants like delphiniums and larkspurs, say at 1.5 m (5 ft) also. By having these guard surrounds the flower stems as a whole are kept sufficiently upright for cut flower purposes. It is not advisable or necessary to try and stake each plant and you cannot use pea sticks for twiggy sticks get in the way when cutting blooms quickly.

By having standardized beds like this you can cover the beds temporarily with Dutch lights at any time. These frame lights with one pane of glass only in each of them can be held in position by means of a temporary framing of timber. Many people like to cover the mid-season varieties of chrysanthemums as this makes it possible to keep out several degrees of frost in October.

PREPARATION OF THE GROUND FOR CUT FLOWERS

The same care should be taken with the preparation of the ground for the cut flower border as with the herbaceous border. When digging over the ground shallowly in the autumn, properly composted vegetable matter will be in-corporated at, say, one good bucketful per square metre. Leave the ground so that the frost can act on it. Thus it will be easier to work in the spring, and at that time organic fertilizer like fish manure or meat and bone meal will be worked in at 105 gm2 (3 oz per sq yd) plus wood ashes at 210 g/nr (6 oz per sq yd).

If it is intended to plant up perennials in the autumn, the ground cannot be left rough for any time. It will have to be firmed and forked down soon afterwards. Lime will be used in all cases, for from the cut flowers point of view there are no lime-haters. Apply it as a top dressing, but do not fork it into the land for it washes through quickly. Use hydrated lime at 140 to 175 g/rrr (4 to 5 oz per sq yd). Where lime-loving plants like scabious and gypsophila are grown, a similar dressing will be given each season.

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