Flowers from the Farm returns to the show with their hugely popular flower school
A staggering 86% of the cut flowers sold in the UK come from abroad and have a carbon footprint up to 20 times higher than a home-grown bouquet.
That surprising statistic is one of the reasons why Flowers from the Farm was created. A membership association of almost 1,000 independent artisan growers, its members are passionate about seasonal blooms and want to promote British grown flowers to help us all reduce our impact on the environment.
Amber Partner from Howe Farm Flowers is one of the artisan growers of Flowers from the Farm. We asked her how you can fill your home with British-grown blooms throughout the seasons, and here she shares her secrets on growing beautiful cut flowers.
What are your top plants for cut flowers?
There are too many to choose from! In general, you can’t go wrong with annuals, which you can cut often. Cosmos, zinnias and the king of the annuals, dahlias, will all provide you with flowers until the first frosts and benefit by being cut regularly. It is also great to have some clump-forming perennials in the garden for cutting too. My number one favourite is Phlox paniculata. An established plant will give you several blooms for cutting, you can find it in a variety of colours and the scent is just divine.
What are the benefits of growing your own cut flowers?
One of the best things is choosing varieties you cannot find in supermarkets or most florist shops. Growing your own is a real celebration of British flowers and all the beautiful varieties available to us by growing from seed. It is also amazing to bring scent back to cut flowers. People have forgotten how glorious flowers smell and when you grow your own you are reintroducing your senses to the magic that is a beautiful bloom.
Is it possible to grow flowers for the house all year round?
Generally speaking, with careful planning, you can have flowers from March to November, with December, January and February being a celebration of beautiful foliage and treasures you may have dried during your growing season. That said, it is amazing what flowers you can find when you start to look in the winter months. Hellebores for example, when cut at the seed stage, make a beautiful and dainty cut flower, if somewhat short stemmed.
What should those with a small garden or limited space be growing for the house?
I would focus on succession planting and not to be afraid to replace plants when they have finished producing. Start with tulips in the spring, harvesting the whole bulb and throwing it away after the flower has been brought indoors. Replace it with your hardy annuals you sowed in autumn and replace these with annuals you sowed in the spring. By choosing hardy annual varieties that are heavy bloomers and later in the season annuals that are cut-and-come-again, you can harvest a surprising amount of flowers in a very small space.
“People have forgotten how glorious flowers smell”
Do you have any top tips for amateur flower growers?
The best way to learn is by doing. One can learn a lot by reading books but you won’t know what works best for you and your growing space until you have had a few successes and failures. Also, grow what you love! If you don’t fancy a certain flower, don’t feel pressure to grow it.
What are Flowers from the Farm doing at RHS Hampton Court Palace Garden Festival?
This year at Hampton Court we’re very excited to return with our Flower School, which aims to educate visitors about us and encourage more people to support their local flower farmer. Outside the marquee, we’ve created a mini flower farm of growers’ favourite summer cut flowers ready for picking. There’s also two demonstrations each day – one by a celebrity florist and the other by one of our farmer-florists. Our demos show how to make a variety of beautiful arrangements, using sustainable floristry techniques. We’re also running quick workshops to teach our visitors how to make buttonholes and mini posy corsages and we’re hosting a new ‘Flower Farmers’ Question Time’ segment.
How do people buy locally grown flowers, or make sure that the flowers they are buying are as sustainable as possible?
The best way to find locally grown flowers is by visiting the Flowers From the Farm website. Just pop in your postcode and view a map with all the flower farms close to you. By clicking on a members profile you can see who they sell to and find out a bit more about how they grow. Also, ask your local florist if they sell any British flowers. Many of them support their local flower farms and want to increase the awareness of how brilliant British flowers are.
Top fragrant flowers all year round
Spring flowers for scent
- Narcissi – so easy, so cheap and so glorious in spring. Some narcissi have an overpowering scent (such as paper whites) but the later ones can have a delicate, beautiful scent. ‘Quail’ is a beautiful deep yellow, or ‘Chinita’ is a tall lemon, pheasants eye type, ‘Pueblo’ for a small, dainty creamy white. Spread the season with different varieties – from early Feb to May, when the beautiful, refined old pheasant's eye, Narcissus poeticus, is the last to flower.
- Wallflowers bring a soft, old-fashioned kind of scent. Gentle and reassuring, never over-powering
Summer flowers for scent
- Sweet peas – can be flowering from May to September outside in the UK, if the weather is kind. They’re cheap, pretty easy going, and the scent is unbeatable both in the garden and in the house.
- Herbs – whether for their scented foliage or their flowers, most herbs, especially the mediterranean ones, really come into their own in summer. Oregano and marjoram are favourites for flowers, usually in purple, lilac or white, they can be tall or short, much loved by bees, and taste good too!
Autumn flowers for scent
- Scented pelargoniums – although these are perennials and will be scented all year, they are especially appreciated in autumn when the foliage can be cut for flower arrangements, or bring the pots inside for the winter.
- Roses – if you choose repeat-flowering roses, they will often still be flowering well into autumn. Not always the most perfect blooms, often damaged by wind, rain and frost – but bring a stem inside a warm house and you’ll still get that lovely rose scent, reminiscent of summer days.
Winter flowers for scent
- Winter box (Sarcococca) is an understated little evergreen, which will cope in shade, and has small, dainty white flowers through winter, with a sweet, drifting scent. It can be hard to pinpoint – especially if the plant is hiddenaway under shrubs, as it often is.
- Hyacinths – a strong, rich scent. Sometimes too strong and cloying in a warm house, but put some bulbs in the garden or a cold greenhouse, and you’ll enjoy it all the more.
For more tips and advice visit the Flowers From the Farm
blog or come and join the Flower School at RHS Hampton Court.
You might also be interested in...