A wildflower meadow including some glorious poppies.

Gourmet Gardener: Flower power

Growing vegetables and herbs is something I am passionate about but I also enjoy a cut flower garden. Having a readily available summer supply of beautiful flowers to harvest for a display on your kitchen table is such a treat – something we can all look forward to as we continue our lives in lockdown.

While many types of plants are grown for flowers, such as bulbs or perennials, and annuals such as sunflowers, sweet pea, zinnias or cosmos are great for cut flowers and can be changed around each year. They’re productive, easy to grow, beautiful, and can be planted in gardens or containers.

You can really tuck annual flowers wherever you have space, such as between vegetables or among your perennials and shrubs.

Cosmos

Cosmos are freely flowering annual plants that are easy to grow and reach full maturity within two months. If you’re looking for a flower that will continue to put on a show for months, cosmos are a great choice. For early blooms, you can start the seeds indoors for germination; if not, the seeds can simply be scattered around the area once the frost has passed.

The flowers sit atop long slender stems and form a cloud of colour that not only looks lovely throughout the summer but also attract bees, butterflies, and birds to your garden.

Sweet pea

Sweetly scented sweet peas never disappoint as a cut flower. Sweet pea seeds can be planted in autumn or spring. As we have missed the early sowing at this stage, you are better to hang on until March for the spring sowing. When plants are 10cm tall, pinch out the tips to encourage bushy growth.

Plant out in mid-spring and keep well watered.

Most varieties have tendrils that will climb up a support, but some sweet peas will need tying in. Start feeding sweet peas with a high potash fertiliser (such as tomato food) when flower buds appear. Regular picking encourages more flowers to form, so keep picking those blooms for the vase.

Zinnias

Zinnias are one of the easiest flowers to grow, as they grow quickly and bloom heavily. Zinnia flowers can create a massive burst of colour in your garden, so consider trying them this year. They have bright, daisy-like flowerheads on a single stem, which makes them great for use as a cut flower or as food for butterflies and bees.

Zinnias can be started from seed indoors but they do need to be transplanted while they’re young. They are sensitive to frost, so do not seed until the last frost has passed.

Sunflowers

These glorious giants serve as amazing cut flowers. There are many varieties to choose from and they can be started off in late March. I always think sunflowers make great growing projects with children as the seeds are nice and large for their little hands to plant.

A cut flower garden or corner can provide a succession of colour and joy throughout the summer months. You can decide on a colour pallet to suit your needs or home decor even, from pale delicate pastel colours to vibrant energetic tones.

As we continue to restrict our movement, the garden will once again become sanctuaries for rest, play and entertainment.

Plan now for some summer colour and let’s all hope we get a few sunny days to enjoy them outside before they can be harvested for brightening up the home.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

• Tara Kate Linnane is passionate about sustainability and growing all things edible.

Together with her husband Barry, she has embarked on a journey of designing edible spaces and getting others started on their gardening adventures. Follow their journey on Instagram @twopeas_inapolytunnel or visit thefoodscapedesignco.com to make contact for information.

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