Following hot on the heels of the millions of us now growing our own food are gardeners growing their own cut flowers
The popularity of growing your own flowers is hardly surprising when the range in so many supermarkets and florists is so small, and with questionable carbon footprint. Here is expert plantsman Graham Rice's choice of ten Award of Garden Merit-winning plants that are both easy to grow and excellent for cutting.
H1 - H7 indicated the new hardiness ratings
Full details of hardiness ratings (510kB pdf)
All hardy perennial achilleas are good for cutting, fresh or dried, and now come in a rich range of colours from white through to pinks and yellows and bright red and burgundy tones. ‘Credo’ is taller so has longer stems than many, opens yellow and fades gracefully to cream; some, especially the darker colours, fade less harmoniously. 1.2m (4ft). H7.
The flowers of this classic border filler are as valuable in the vase as they are in the border. The chartreuse colouring of the tiny flowers, opening in clouds for many weeks, clash with nothing and harmonise with everything. Be sure to deadhead any you don’t cut, to prolong the display. 45cm (18in). H7.
The best astrantias not only come in lovely colours, pastel and dark, but the intriguing shape of their flowerheads repays the close inspection that cut flowers always receive. ‘Roma’ is especially prolific and also sterile, so the flowers last unusually well; their rich pink colouring is lovely with old roses. 60cm (2ft). H7.
You can buy chrysanthemums every day of the year but for subtlety of colouring you should grow your own. The Pennine, Spartan and Enbee Wedding series can all be grown as garden perennials and come in a very wide range of colours, colour combinations and flower forms. Some, including ‘Spartan Canary’, have subtle orange overtones in the centre. 75cm (2ft6in). H4.
The vibrant, deep red flowers of ‘Lucifer’, standing up along the arching sprays, last very well in water as well as in the garden. The stems can also be left uncut until the seed pods form to make interesting dried winter stems, and I’ve even seen them sprayed gold for Christmas. 1.2m (4ft). H5.
Dahlias come in such vast variety that it’s impossible for even the finest florists to stock all those that appeal. But they’re so easy to grow, and tubers and rooted cuttings are easily available by mail order, that we can all grow those we especially enjoy - like ‘Honka’, with its rolled petals creating starry single flowers. 60cm (2ft). H3.
Echinaceas are the hardy perennials that last longest when cut, and the dramatic colour and shape of the prolific ‘Ruby Giant’ makes it a cutting garden essential. With bold, honeyed orange centres surrounded by long pink petals, the 10cm (4in) flowers are carried on branched heads. ‘Ruby Giant’ is also much tougher and easier to grow than modern hybrids. 85cm (2ft 9in). H7.
This is a little bit of a cheat. ‘Rosa Perle’ is a vigorous and extraordinarily prolific perennial relation of the sweet pea which is invaluable when mixed with the real thing. Although unscented, the soft pink flowers last far longer than those of annual sweet peas and come with up to fifteen flowers per stem. 2m (6ft 6in). H7.
This classic cut flower annual, with its sky blue flowers and inflated seed pods which are easily dried, can be allowed to self sow through beds and borders. Better still, sow it in short rows in late summer to flower the following year – the resulting plants will be far more prolific than spring-sown plants. 60cm (2ft). H7.
Strangely unfashionable, but beautifully coloured, prolific and long lasting, the large, lavender blue flowers open on long stems in July and August above greyish foliage. Needs sun and a well-drained soil and is much appreciated by bees and butterflies. Best cut before the central florets open. Young plants are the most prolific so divide regularly. 45cm (18in). H4.