We know that growing our own cut flowers is easy, with clear benefits: thrift, bounty, show-off value. But we don't always get around to doing it, despite the encouragement of small, friendly seed companies. Maybe we've been waiting for a beautifully photographed book with sensible advice, such as The Cut Flower Patch by Louise Curley:
Photographs by Jason Ingram.
Above: What makes a good cut flower, asks Louise? Yield, for one, and vase life. Poppies usually fail on the latter, but Louise recommends the Iceland poppy (Papaver nudicaule) combined here with greater quaking grass (Briza maxima) and feverfew. A good cut flower should last for at least five days. There are exceptions, like sweet peas. They are big on yield because they benefit from constant cutting, so although they don't last there are plenty more.
Above: Treat cut flowers like a vegetable crop and grow them in a dedicated area. Louise Curley's cut flower patch is on her allotment. In this world, thare are no clashing colors: just rows of good stuff to choose among. Keep your cutting beds narrow, to avoid walking over them.
Above: A succession of hardy annuals, half-hardy annuals, and biennials will keep you in flower throughout the growing season. From L: Night-scented stock (annual), floss flower, statice, cosmos (all half-hardy), and sweet william (biennial). Bulbs are a good addition; spring bulbs come into flower early and do not take up much space. For later bulbs, grow different varieties of the same family, such as allium, for staggered blooms.
Above: The word "fillers" does not do justice to these very important foliage plants. Mimic the garden, mixing flora with plenty of greenery in the form of grasses, herbs, and yellow-green flowers. Cosmos is extra good-value because it brings its own feathery backdrop. From left: Alchemilla mollis, squirrel tail grass (Hordeum jubatum), Ammi visnaga, dill, Panicum elegans 'Frosted Explosion.'
Above: Harvest. This book uncannily leads you toward the plants which you know you already want to grow. There are planting plans, each with its own manageable shopping list: for "easy beds," "advanced beds," and a "small-space bed." The latter list suggests varieties of the following: dahlia, ammi, sweet william, sweet pea, mini narcissus, scabious, cosmos, wild carrot, and stock.
Above: In flower arranging, "simplicity is key," says Louise Curley. Besides holding water, a vase can be any shape you like: "Sometimes all that is needed is trimming the stems of your flowers to fit the vase and placing them in it."
Above: The Cut Flower Patch: Grow Your Own Cut Flowers All Year Round by Louise Curley is available from Frances Lincoln for £20. For US readers, The Cut Flower Patch is available at Amazon for $21.61. Follow Louise's tweets at @wellywomanblog. Photograph by Kendra Wilson.
Feeling ambitious? Why not grow flowers for a very big occasion: DIY: Secrets of Growing Your Own Wedding Flowers.
Looking for an insider seed source? See Brit Style: Flower Farming on Wheels.