Cut Flowers from the Garden – a little something for British Flowers Week
Credit: Thomas Broom
To celebrate British Flowers Week, Thomas Broom, Petersham Nurseries’ Horticultural Manager, who is passionate about plant provenance and a strong campaigner for British-grown flowers and cutting gardens, encourages us to make the most of home-grown cut flowers.
There is a little revolution happening in this green and pleasant land… In the past few months there has been an increased interest in British-grown flowers. Consumers are becoming more aware of the provenance of cut flowers and more people want to support local growers and artisan florists – rather than buy something which is out of season and has been flown half way round the globe before reaching the kitchen table. The sale of cut flowers in the UK amounts to 2.2 billion annually. However 90% of these sales are currently of imported flowers; this means that there is still a long way to go before the UK cut flower industry is restored to the thriving business it once was.
This week marks British Flowers Week (#BritishFlowersWeek), which was started by New Covent Garden in 2013. It was designed to celebrate the best of British growers and more importantly, to highlight to florists the kind of flowers, that growers can make available. Many suppliers at the market are beginning to stock more British material, and many growers are now supplying florists on a weekly basis by mail order. There is also the emergence of the artisan grower/ florists, who through the power of social media and web marketing are supplying the public with bouquets throughout the UK.
Petersham Nurseries has always been dedicated to seasonality and local sourcing, stocking as many UK grown plants as possible. Floral displays are made up of plants grown on site, and these are supplemented with additional foliage and flora from predominately British growers.
The Cutting Garden was established in 2007 by Lucy Boyd, Petersham Nurseries’ Head Gardener and Culinary Director. The aim was to provide enough flowers to dress the restaurant and to use around the nursery, and to sell the remaining surplus blooms to customers. The Cutting Garden was also designed to be an inspiration for visitors, demonstrating which cut flowers to grow throughout the seasons.
In February, the Cutting Garden is a carpet of Crocus, followed by Narcissus and Hyacinths, with a triumphant flush of Tulips in April/May.
After the danger of frost has passed (11th May, a date established by Lucy!), glasshouse-grown Dahlias, Cosmos, Scabious, sweet peas and other delights, which have been tended through the winter months, are introduced into the garden.
Throughout the summer the fruits of all these labours can be enjoyed, with an abundance of flowers and seed-heads to be picked, until the first frost.
The cycle begins again with the planting of spring bulbs, and in the meantime, glasshouse-raised bulbs and a generous supply of winter flowering shrubs and plants in the Petersham House Garden are the flower-arranging staples.
Over the past couple of years the Cutting Garden has been developed and extended to accommodate more perennials, roses and unusual varieties of flowers which are not readily available, with the expert help of Rosie Bines from Petersham House Garden.
By adding more structure to the plot, more flowering climbers have been grown including: Cobaea scandens (Cup and Saucer Vine), climbing old-fashioned roses and of course a flourish of sweet peas “I firmly believe you can never have enough of these, “says Tom.
By introducing more herbaceous perennials, the time has been saved that would have been spent sowing hardy annuals, and the Nurseries are now using what might typically be found in a garden border. This year foxgloves, Sanguisorba, day lilies and Crocosmia have been introduced, in addition to bergamot, Heuchera and the tall spires of Filipendula and Veronicastrum, which were added last year.
Roses were first introduced to the Cutting Garden last year and this spring several more have been added. The first Rose, was a tall climber Pierre de Ronsard – which flowers profusely in May/June and then another flush in autumn. R. Constance Spry, R Reine des Violettes with David Austin’s Abraham Darby and Falstaff were planted subsequently. They are now flowering in amongst a sea of chartreuse green Alchemilla mollis and white borage.
Edible flowers are also being grown. These not only make fantastic fillers for bouquets and arrangements, but provide the chefs with a range of flowers to scatter and incorporate within dishes throughout the year. These include borage (white and blue), Malope, Nasturtium and Nigella. In winter, Violas and Pansies are used, and the occasional glasshouse-grown Scented Pelargonium.
Tom concludes by saying:
“As a florist and gardener, the marriage of the garden and vase is so important to me. I feel it gives my displays and designs a little extra, a more natural movement and texture, which I cannot achieve with the perfectly formed flowers from afar. What we have growing in the garden may not last as long, but it provides us with the joy of capturing that moment in time, and celebrating the season. In the same vein, what our UK growers provide us with is: seasonality, a product that is not mass-produced, and flowers that have been grown with passion and devotion.”
With supermarkets offering a large range of British cut flowers throughout the year and more florists stocking British flowers on a weekly basis, it’s time to think about supporting the British cut-flower industry and perhaps to consider developing your own cutting garden or container too.
For more information on courses for growing your own Cut Flowers, please go to www.petershamnurseries.com/events
To find a network of growers within the UK, please visit:
For more information about British Flowers Week visit: