The Cottage Smallholder

stumbling self sufficiency in a small space

Growing flowers to sell: Carnations


Photo: Hardy carnation

Photo: Hardy carnation

As you know I’m growing flowers to sell. This is never going to make me a millionaire but it’s a steady small stream of income and our garden looks amazing. I’ve been trying to up my sales at the village shop – I bought a pretty metal three tiered stand to make a tempting display of gift wrapped flowers in temporary vases – these are in fact 1 pint picnic glasses that sit neatly in the coffee cup holder of a car.

Disappointingly these are not selling as well as the flowers (gift wrapped) and displayed in a bucket! Next week I’m going to test out having a bucket and the stand. Eventually I’m going to crack this.

I’ve also had a chat with John about the flowers that he used to sell in the shop years ago.
“What types of flowers did you sell and which sold best?”
“Well I only sold one type – carnations. They were grown by a couple from Moulton.”
“Did they sell well?”
“Well yes. Carnations are popular – they are pretty and they last for ages in water.”

I’m not a big fan of carnations but I used to buy them when I didn’t have much money as they were cheaper than most flowers and could last for two or three weeks with a bit of deadheading and care. One of the problems that I have with my flowers is that they are not pumped with chemicals for a longer life. Being organic most will only last for 5-7 days with conditioning. To condition flowers sear the base of stems in boiling water for 20 seconds before being plunged into cold water – this technique can also revive flagging flowers.

Carnations could well be the answer. I could spread the net wider to include more local shops without the need to visit every two or three days to check that all was looking fresh. Also carnations are perennials so after the initial investment they would go on from year to year, and with cuttings I could gradually increase my stock. Carnations can flower on and off from Spring until the first frosts. Suddenly they seemed to be the perfect flower. The only drawback was that I would need to grow quite a few plants to keep up with demand and how much would that cost me?

Imagine my delight when I spotted That Thompson and Morgan are selling mixed hardy carnation plugs to grow on. I chose 72 plants with 12 extra free (£12.99 + p&p) and they arrived this morning looking strong and healthy. Once these babies have grown up they should give me enough blooms for a regular supply.

Incidentally T&M are now offering free postage to celebrate the launch of their new website.

I know that I could have grown these from seed but have found buying plantlets as well as sowing seeds can take the pressure off. We are already sowing hardy annuals for next year – to get earlier flowers in the Spring and Summer. These need to be kept in the greenhouse or cold frame over the winter. Last Spring was really hard work so it seemed like a good idea to spread the load a bit and if they survive the winter we will start next year with small plants rather than seedlings. Sarah Raven has a useful list of hardy annuals that you can sow in September here.

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  1. Zinnias last for ages and ages in water- the darker colours last longer than the pale ones.Suttons do a particularly gorgeous deep pink/purple/magenta colour Zinnia.
    Carnations with a scent would be bliss in an arrangement.

  2. Kooky Girl

    I think homegrown, organic carnations in various colours will make a lovely floral bouquet. I love cut flowers, they really brighten my mood and make me happy.

  3. Magic Cochin

    Hi Fiona

    Thought you might like this link:

    I’ve seen their cut flowers for sale at artisan fairs and also occasionally in Saffron Walden – the colours and combinations remind me of Liberty floral prints.


  4. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Seth

    Sorry to hear about your wife’s crash 🙁

    Just nipped over to the flower site and thank you it’s inspirational. Lots of ideas here!

    Hi Angiemay

    These are scented!!

    They are only tiny ATM but I’m really pleased that I’m growing them.

    Hi Paula

    I think that I’ll grow to love these too. I just hope that there is a good mix of colours.

  5. I actually really like carnations, especially if they are a clove-scented variety. I don’t like white ones that have been sitting in dyed water to make them blue or green or some other such garish color, but they make a nice addition to a mixed bouquet. I hope these do well for you.

  6. I think carnations are a good idea. I frequently buy them as I know they will last for at least two week… A scent is a bonus! And some of the colours are lovely! Whereas my ‘guaranteed for 7 days’ gladioli only last 4 days and while I love them, it pains me they’re beautiful for such a short time and then shed pollen everywhere!
    I think if you can manage to grow a scented variety you’ll be on to a winner…

  7. After her car crash this week the wife received a bunch of flowers through the post (special delivery)
    From kids ;they came from
    bunch consisted of aroud 12 annual &perennial
    varieties all outdoor grown ,most impressive and in perfect condition . A look at their website might give you some ideas.

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