Spring usually arrives by mid-March and the frequent sunny days provide the opportunity for an increasing range of gardening tasks. Mother’s day is the unofficial start of the gardening season. It’s a time when we all spend time to think about all of the things our mother has done for us, and many of us express our gratitude by making a fuss of them, giving gifts, flowers and cards. More cut flowers are sold in the UK for Mothers day than for Valentines Day! Due the British climate, 85% of cut flowers available in supermarkets and florists are flown in from abroad from places such as Kenya and Colombia, meaning we can have almost any flowers at any time of the year.
A vase of fresh flowers cut straight from the garden can instantly make a house feel like home, so it’s surprising that more of us don’t try growing our own seasonal cut-flowers. Louise Curley, author of The Cut Flower Patch, says: "Just as we've done with food, we need to be looking at sourcing locally-grown flowers and growing our own. Apart from the environmental cost, imported blooms mean we have lost touch with the seasons”. Growing cut flowers at home is easy if you choose the right plants. You don’t need to set aside a special area of your garden - simply mix the plants in among your borders, vegetable plot or grow some in containers outside the back door. Variety is the key to success, mix flowers with different colours, sizes, shapes, and textures. Use seasonal flowers from flowering trees and shrubs, perennials, annuals, and bulbs. Annuals are the most useful plants to use for cut flowers since they produce lots of flowers over a long season. Foliage can play an important role in arrangements, ferns, ornamental grasses, Hosta’s, Eucalyptus, Pittosporum, Fatsia and many other leaves make excellent additions to any bouquet.
Some perennials that are to be used for cut flowers, including Aster, Chrysanthemum and Phlox, can be pinched back in late spring to delay flowering. By pinching some stems, and letting others grow you’ll have more flowers over a longer season. Plant bulbs, such as gladiolus and lilies, in two-week intervals to extend their flowering season. When cutting flowers take branches from the back of shrubs and large perennials, with annuals and smaller plants try to cut just a few flowers from each plant, rather than taking all of your flowers from one plant. Sweet peas are the ultimate ‘cut and come again flower’ as cutting regularly encourages more blooms. March is the perfect month to sow annual seeds and plant perennials, so why not start your own cut flower garden.
There are many other tasks to do in the garden this month (weather permitting!). Here’s my Top 5:
- Plant out chitted early seed potatoes, shallots & onions.
- Protect newly emerging shoots from slugs and snails using slug pellets of your choice, we recommend using a product that contains Ferric Phosphate, a pet safe, water resistant pellet that degrades into fertiliser.
- As the flowers from daffodil and narcissus bulbs fade, carefully remove the flower head to prevent seed setting, leave the leaves to die down naturally.
- Lawn care: cut lawns on a high blade setting on dry days. Trim lawn edges and sow seed in bare patches.
- Lift and divide congested clumps of perennials including hardy geraniums, crocosmia, hostas, solidago and astilbe.
Rachel Sobiechowski BSc (Hons) P&R Garden Supplies, Fengate Drove, Brandon 01842 814800 www.p-rgardensupplies.co.uk