The Cottage Smallholder

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Flowers for a summer gate side stand


Photo: Posy of flowers

Photo: Posy of flowers

My mum gave up driving some time ago. Now she walks or takes a taxi – there aren’t many buses in her part of Cambridge. She rang me last night to say that she had had a taxi ride with a retired commercial flower grower who had given her a list of the flowers that are popular and last well in water.

Apparently he said that you can’t grow enough Sweet Peas. Asters and Pinks are good sellers and of course Sweet Williams. I’m growing Cosmos and Zinnias as both last well in water. My mum added two of her own pet choices that keep going well – Marigolds and Cornflowers. I have perennial cornflowers in the garden and they bob up every year. The annual cornflowers are gorgeous too.

I have Marigolds and Pinks as seedlings. I hadn’t considered Sweet Williams so visited Thompson and Morgan to look for seeds. Usually Sweet Williams need to be sown in June to flower next year. T&M are offering seeds that flower within 10 weeks a compact dwarf variety Indian Carpet Mixed and Summer Sundae. I also discovered that Sweet Williams flowers are edible – T&M says “The petals add zest to ice cream, sorbets, salads, fruit salad, dessert sauces, seafood stir fries.”

The plant and seed companies are responding to these challenging times by pushing grow your own vegetables and cut flowers. I spotted that Unwins are selling 264 cutting flower plant plugs for £27.50  including Stocks, Sweet Williams, Asters and Chrysanthemums. They also have a bee friendly cut flower collection. The same amount of plants for the same price but these are antirrhinums, Penstemon, Marigolds and Dahlias. Apparently if bees feed of a wide selection of flowers their immune system improves. On the Unwins site I also discovered that Antirrhinums are a great cut flower and last well in water.

So now the list is:
Sweet Peas (very fragrant varieties are best)
Sweet Williams
Antirrhinums (snap dragons)

It’s no way definitive but it’s a start. I’d love to hear if you have any suggestions for cut flowers that last well in water.

Now the final question is. Do I invest in the plug plants or grow my own seeds? The commercial growers claim that these collections are supposed to flower from June to the first frosts. If I invest £27.50 (+ £3.95 P&P) what would the returns be like? If each plant produces just 10 flowers over a 5 month period and bunches are sold at 10p a flower the gross income would be £264.00. Suddenly the plugs seem like a good option as I’m already raising an alarming amount of vegetable seeds. It would be great to hear your opinion.

Hopefully in time similar gate side stands will be providing a bit of extra income for readers all over the world.

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  1. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Margaret

    Thanks for the advice. A friend gave me one of her plants but sadly it died.

  2. Margaret

    One word of warning about verbena bonariensis – it is a beautiful plant (I grow it in my garden) but if you leave the flowers to go to seed it will seed itself everywhere, but this does mean you will get plants for free. It is a short lived perennial. Good luck with the borders.

  3. Magic Cochin

    Here are some my Gran grew for sending to market, maybe they are worth a revival –

    Limonium (sea lavender) the variety was ‘Blue Gown’
    Statice and Helichrysum – for drying as well as fresh
    Gypsophyla – pretty white frothy sprays of tiny flowers (known as ‘Gyp’)
    There was also a similar plant with pretty little 4 petalled pink flowers she called ‘Sap’ but I can’t find the proper name !
    Lovely tall daisy flowers included ‘Pyes’ – Pyrethrums, single or doubled and all shades of red, pink and white; and Marguerites – in whites and creams.
    Larkspur – this is beautiful, in lovely soft mauves and pinks mixed with a soft green.
    And my favourites – tall old fashioned Polyanthus in wonderful subtle persian carpet colours – beautifully scented too!

    Gosh this is dredging up the memories!!!

  4. A rather late comment – do have a look at the sarah Raven cutting garden website, where she has lots of info on flowers that are good for cutting, and sells seeds and bulbs. She is madly expensive, so I tend to do lots of research on her site, and then head off to Nicky’s Nurseries, Chiltern Seeds or Suttons to buy them for half the price. I’d not be without lots of scented stocks, and Bells of Ireland and Ammi major for filler (much nicer than gyp!), and also there are lots of delphinium varieties that will flower the first year from seed if you get them going early, and just get better as the years go on. I’d always go the seed route as the range is so much wider, and save the big bucks for stocking up in the autumn on alliums (especially Purple Sensation), tulips and lovely scented narcissus.
    Hope you have fun with this project!

  5. Fiona Nevile

    Hello Peter

    Thanks for the tip. The programme was hugely inspirational.

    Hi Mandi

    Yes I think that I’ll invest in the plugs. I’m growing quite a lot of flowers from seed. As you say the veggies will be out of the greenhouse when the flowers arrive. If the flowers and veg venture takes off I may enlarge the greenhouse next year.

    Thanks for your bulb tips too.

    Hi Joanna

    Yes I agree with you a gate side stand wouldn’t work in Latvia.

    Hi Paula

    I’ve just invested in some more peonies as I love the flowers! I have quite a few flowering perennials in the garden already but need to tweak the range a bit.

    Hi Robert

    Growing your own saves lots of money but space is a problem at the moment. Thanks for dropping by.

    Hi Danette

    I loved the programme and learnt loads. Dahlias can be amazing!

    Hi Jon

    What a great result. I must check out T&M’s cutting collections.

    Hello Cookie Girl

    Yes I think that you are right. I’m going for the plugs and raising a few of my own seeds.

    Hi Lou

    Loved the idea of insects in DJs wearing bow ties! I’m going to go down the companion planting route too. A mix of flowers and veg can look stunning.

    Hello Seahorse

    Yes I think plugs until I have a bit more space.

    Hello Bib

    I was thinking about Alstromeria. Good point, as they last for ages. Thank you.

    Hi Louise H

    I’m growing calendular from seed. I hadn’t heard of Cleome and have just checked it out – it looks perfect as it has a very long flowering period. Thanks.

  6. Two of my favourite flowers which last well in water are Cleome -(watch the prickly stems when picking!)- fantastic with a rose or two and the humble but wonderfully vibrant orange Calendular -they bow their heads when initially cut but after an hour or two face upwards and last for days – really something when teamed with chocolate cosmos or blue sweet peas – or eaten in a salad so multipurpose as well.

    I’m off to the greenie to sow my cleome in a minute. Spring is a’comin!

  7. I’m very fond of Alstromeria – pretty, and lots of colour variety, and they last for ages in a vase. (Then they drop all their petals all over the carpet all at the same time when you eventually move the vase, but that’s another story). I used to grown them in my old garden and apart from needing a bit of support they were truly trouble free.

  8. Plugs every time (tho it was my first time gardening last year). They were largely a success and yes, they do allow veg growing in the greenhouse before the plugs arrive

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