Monday, 7 August 2017

Cut flower bed

It's nice to have vases of flowers about the house; they gladden the heart. We quite often buy a bunch of flowers for this very reason but now we have our own ready supply. The reason for this is that I have introduced a dedicated cut flower bed into one of the vegetable plots, something I've been meaning to do for a while. 

It is salutary to note that 90% of cut flowers bought in the UK are imported, mainly from the Netherlands. This is an astonishing figure given we are reputedly a nation of gardeners. But we are also a people who like convenience. For us at our smallholding, it's gratifying to be able to grow your own flowers for the house and, as with vegetables, trying to be self-sufficient for as much of the year as possible.

One reason for establishing a dedicated cut flower bed is that I always feel uneasy picking blooms from established flower borders in case it detracts from the look of the border. And it would because I would notice it. In practical terms plant borders would not be able to sustain regular cropping in the same way a cutting bed can do.

I began preparations last winter. First I covered with black plastic a newly dug over area which had also been manured. I aimed to start in the spring with as weed free a soil as possible. Some time needs to be spent researching the plants that are going to fill the bed. It will be an ongoing task to find attractive flowers that are also suitable for cutting and to refine the cutting plant list. 

Most plants were seed grown half hardy and hardy annuals which is a relatively cheap way of producing lots of plants. However, in order to stretch the cutting season for as long as possible, other plant groups were used. Narcissus and tulip bulbs for early and later spring flowers. Some perennials were included as more permanent plantings. The plant list for my inaugural year comprised:-
Sun flowers

Part of the cut flower bed

Simple arrangements have most appeal 

Next year I will add more perennials, some summer flowering bulbs and review the selected cultivars. For example, I have grown a couple of different sun flower cultivars but one grew far taller than what the seed packet indicated and was too gargantuan for any vase of realistic proportions. 

As far as managing the the cut flower bed is concerned, each of the cultivars are grown in 20' rows. They can be planted quite close together within the row, but it is helpful to ensure that each row is sufficiently spaced to allow for weeding and preventing one row overshadowing another. Regular weeding is required. Some support might be necessary, not so much for individual plants but rather like the need to use stakes and string to support a row of broad beans. Watering was required, particularly during the hot dry spell in late spring and early summer and also bearing in mind our sandy soil. I used pelleted chicken manure as an initial feed when planting out but have not needed to carry out additional feeding as the plants have all flowered prolifically. Of course regular picking helps to promote continuous flowering, and that's exactly what they are there for.


  1. Alstromeria are brilliant to grow for cut flowers, I used to grow them to sell. They are perennials,spread well and have flowers that stand and last ages.

  2. Thanks Sue. That will be on the list for next year.

  3. Zinnias are available in many heights & forms (as shown in RHS Wisleys current trial beds), are cheap seeds to buy, popular with bees, and always remind me of childhood as they were 'my' plants to look after - I still grow a row on my allotment each year :)
    Dahlias are also very cheap & easy to grow from seed, with many bee-friendly dwarf varieties available as well as fancy types. They flower the same year as sowing & will produce a tuber to keep for future years.

    1. Thanks for the suggestions; much appreciated.