British Flowers

British Flowers Week

It is British Flowers Week in the UK. An event runs from 19th-25th June 2017 and is all about celebrating British Flowers and our cut flower industry. It is also an excuse to feature some of our most gorgeous flowers for cutting on the blog.

The Cut Flower Garden or Pickery at Easton Walled Gardens
The Cut Flower Garden or Pickery at Easton Walled Gardens

Here are seven favourites from the hundreds of cut flowers we grow in our Pickery every year. Do you agree? Let us know via our facebook page, twitter or instagram where we post as @ewgardens If you would like more information on any of the flowers shown tweet us and we will do all we can to help.

Our Top 7 UK flowers for cutting:

  1. From the hardy Perennials:

Astrantia

Astrantia in the Cottage Garden at Easton Walled Gardens
Astrantia in the Cottage Garden at Easton Walled Gardens

The ‘star’ flower and the only hardy perennial on this list. Flowers in May and early June and again later if you cut it back hard. The flowers can be used for arrangements immediately or dried for winter use.

Other perennials that will give you great results for the cutting garden include Geum ‘Mrs Bradshaw” (keep cutting and it will flower almost continuously through the summer) , Coreopsis grandiflora and the perennial rudbeckias.

2. From the mass of daffodils you can choose we have picked:

Narcissus ‘Sir Winston Churchill’

Narcissus 'Sir Winston Churhchill' flourishes in short grass
Narcissus ‘Sir Winston Churchill’ flourishes in short grass

A multi-headed, easy to grow daffodil flowering in mid April. I have chosen this variety because of its beautiful cream double flowers flecked with smaller petals the colours of a peach melba. But what really makes this daffodil exceptional is its sweet scent. There is nothing cloying about the scent – it is very clean. Hard to believe a daffodil can smell this good!

Narcissus 'Sir Winston Churchill' in the courtyard
Narcissus ‘Sir Winston Churchill’ in the courtyard

3. Sweet Peas

Lathyrus odoratus

EWG 1.7.14.-40 Sweet Pea heaven at Easton Walled Gardens

The queen of the cut flower garden. It was too hard to chose a favourite from the 100 varieties we grow every year so here is a general guide: If you want really strong scent chose a grandiflora such as ‘America’, if you want really big flowers chose a modern variety such as ‘Gwendoline.’ If you want lots of garden flowers and all the scent, choose a semi-grandiflora such as ‘Albutt Blue’, ‘Watermelon’ or ‘Kingfisher.’

100 varieties of sweet peas are grown in our Pickery every year.
100 varieties of sweet peas are grown in our Pickery every year.

For more information on sweet peas click any of the links below:

Our six favourite sweet peas

Visiting our sweet peas

Growing your own sweet pea tips

Autumn sown sweet peas

4. Clary Sage

Salvia horminum

Salvia horminum or Clary Sage in the pickery at Easton Walled Gardens
Salvia horminum or Clary Sage in the pickery at Easton Walled Gardens

Overlooked by big commercial growers but exceptionally good for growing on an allotment or smallholding, this sage is a great favourite with visitors once it starts to flower in June. The colour comes from adapted leaves or bracts; the flowers themselves are tiny. Use the white form for delicate posies of white and green. I think the pink forms are harder to use but the blue adds zest to any arrangement. Once it starts to flop, cut hard back and it will spring back for another round of late colour.

Blue Clary Sage is great with sweet peas and cornflowers
Blue Clary Sage is great with sweet peas and cornflowers

5. Sunflowers

Sunflower ‘Earthwalker’

Sunflower 'Earthwalker' with fennel
Sunflower ‘Earthwalker’ with fennel

A branching, tawny sunflower that throws many superb flowerheads perfect for cutting on a grand scale. If you just love them for the garden this is an excellent variety for the back of a border and the goldfinches will love the seed heads.

Late summer in the Pickery at Easton Walled Gardens
Late summer in the Pickery at Easton Walled Gardens

6. Zinnia

Large headed rather than bedding zinnias are best for cutting. They come in mixes such as Early Wonder, Giant Scabious mix and the individual colours can be found in the Benary series.

Red Zinnia at Easton Walled Gardens

Zinnias last for ages in water and can be used to bring an exotic flavour to your arrangements. We sow in May and harvest from mid august until the first hard frosts. Increasingly we use these strong flowers to combine with soft grasses.

Pennisetum bedded with Zinnias has created a fascinating combination that visitors love.
Pennisetum bedded out with Zinnias has created a fascinating combination that visitors love.

7. Dahlias

Dahlia ‘Honka Red’

Dahlias 'Tutu' and 'Honka Red'
Dahlias ‘Tutu’ and ‘Honka Red’

This is a fabulous, long flowering dahlia for striking arrangements. The tubers last well over winter when lifted and provide a continuous flow of flowers from August to October. The red is particularly good with the yellows and orange hues of autumn.

Dahlias in the Pickery
Dahlias in the Pickery

Garden Shows

Garden Shows and Show Gardens

It’s the garden shows season and the Royal Horticultural Society, North of England Horticultural Society, Gardeners World and Gardens Illustrated are all holding shows in England. In Scotland, Rural Projects stage Gardening Scotland in early June.

Picture by Mark Waugh / RHS
Picture by Mark Waugh / RHS

Throughout the season, organisers make a real effort to keep the emphasis on horticulture. Lifestyle, food and craft shopping are an essential feature for many visitors but the heart of every show relies, for its integrity, on our independent nurseries: Hartside Nurseries at Harrogate or Dysons Salvias at RHS Hampton Court Flower Show for instance.

RHS Chatsworth

This year there is a new show: The RHS Chatsworth Flower Show sponsored by Wedgwood.

Picture by Mark Waugh / RHS
Picture by Mark Waugh / RHS

For many tourist attractions, our gardens included, Chatsworth sets the gold standard for tourists and visitors seeking an excellent customer experience. I love porcelain and bone china and, of course, I am potty about plants so this was a dream combination for me.

Wedgwood tearoom at RHS Chatsworth
Wedgwood tearoom at RHS Chatsworth

Despite the teething problems (traffic, dealing with the extremes of british weather and untested structures,) this new show ought to become a firm fixture in the show calendar. It was a sell out, the setting was unbeatable and some big names featured in the exhibitors and show garden areas.

Trends in Show Gardens

The trend seen at RHS Chelsea continued at Chatsworth; stylised recreations of pastures, uplands and shady copses were everywhere. This is great news for us as it is a style of gardening that we embrace. It’s wild gardening in the best sense. It is floral, creates complex tapestries that take a while to look at and take in and, crucially, it also encourages the small things to thrive in the garden.

Picture by Mark Waugh / RHS
Jo Thompson’s beautiful garden at RHS Chatsworth. Picture by Mark Waugh / RHS

‘Natural gardens’ like these create a peaceful atmosphere, increased birdsong and, with so much wild activity, they encourage the visitor or gardener to feel they are part of something and not merely an observer. Chemicals, in most cases, become unnecessary. It’s not a low maintenance option and hand weeding is essential from early spring until mid july. It’s good to see the RHS and garden designers helping to explain to some garden visitors that wild flowers are not ‘weeds’.

June in the Cedar Meadow at Easton Walled Gardens
June in the Cedar Meadow at Easton Walled Gardens
Dahlias and grasses in the cutflower garden or Pickery at Easton Walled Gardens
Dahlias and grasses in the cutflower garden or Pickery at Easton Walled Gardens
The rose meadow at Easton Walled Gardens
Rose meadows at Easton Walled Gardens

How to grow snowdrops

The Basics

EWG Snowdrops 23.2.12 (69) snowdrops showing bulb

Snowdrops grow from a bulb. They have a small white flower (almost always just one to a stem) and strappy green leaves. They grow to 4″-8″ high.

When you start growing snowdrops, the two forms you are most likely to come across are Galanthus nivalis (the single snowdrop – with just 3 interior petals) and Galanthus nivalis f. pleniflorus ‘Flore Pleno’ (the double snowdrop -packed with interior petals.) If you see snowdrops flowering in January, with big leaves and flowers, they are probably a species called Galanthus elwesii.

EWG Snowdrops 23.2.12 (7) galanthus nivalis
Galanthus nivalis. The common snowdrop.
EWG Snowdrops 23.2.12 (18) growing snowdrops double snowdrop galanthus flore pleno
Galanthus nivalis f. floreplenus ‘Flore Pleno’. The double snowdrop

The majority of snowdrops flower in February. This is when you will see them in churchyards, on the side of the road or nestling under hedges. They have become semi-naturalised in the UK spreading out from gardens and even rubbish dumps (where a bulb has been thrown out.)

It’s worth considering growing snowdrops for their scent. In order to attract the few insects on the wing in February, the flowers need to send a very strong signal that they are here, so they are scented. The common snowdrop, Galanthus nivalis, has a honey scent that is delicious on a sunny day; you can cut the flowers and put them in a posy vase to appreciate them in a warm house. We offer a beautifully wrapped bunch of these snowdrops in our online shop.

When and where to buy snowdrops

Traditionally you should order your bulbs ‘in the green’ for delivery in March. This means they arrive after the plant has flowered but while the leaves are still green.

Snowdrops by post

Mail order companies will deliver hundreds of the common varieties for amazing value or you can order just one bulb and pay hundreds of pounds.We sell a small range from the gardens in our online shop.

The RHS regional shows and specialist snowdrop events are excellent places to find and order unusual snowdrop bulbs.

Visit gardens in February, including those open just for snowdrops, where you will find a range of spring bulbs for sale. Wikipedia offers a good place to start looking for snowdrop gardens to visit.

EWG 18.2.16-6 (1) snowdrop visit to Easton Walled Gardens

Positioning your bulbs

Snowdrops will flower under hedges, in short grass, in containers and in flower beds. Anywhere not too dry and where the winter light catches them; they will flower. Think about where you have seen snowdrops growing in other gardens or in the countryside. This will give you an idea as to the kind of soil, aspect and other conditions that they need to grow. In a small garden, plant them under a twiggy shrub.

Looking after your snowdrops

Plant your snowdrops in good friable soil and add plenty of sand or grit to help with drainage if you garden on a clay (sticky) soil. Plant them deeply, allowing only the green part of the leaves to show above ground.

The leaves are important as they will be out from January to April and will gather energy from the sun to take back into the bulb for next year’s flowers. This means that, after flowering, you need to leave the leaves alone. They will wither and die back by May and the bulb will now just sit and do nothing until Autumn when the process starts again.

You can plant summer flowering perennials in the empty space; the bulbs won’t mind. They are very relaxed about the roots of other plants and may even grow through them in the spring.

Once you have one or two bulbs, they will start to form more bulbs underground. By lifting (ie digging up) the bulbs in the spring (after they have flowered but while the leaves are still green) and splitting them into individual bulbs and replanting separately, you will never have to buy another snowdrop!

Feeding and aftercare

If snowdrops are happy, very little care is needed. One of the best conditioners for the soil and your snowdrops is the leaf litter that falls from the trees above every year. In containers, you can imitate this by scraping off the top few centimetres and applying a new layer of compost.

easton walled gardens-17-2-13-6 growing snowdrops in containers

If your soil is hungry, you can help to boost your snowdrops’ performance by applying a slow release fertiliser in autumn and gently forking it in to the soil. Obviously, once the shoots appear this is much harder to do. Splitting the bulbs to prevent congestion will also improve the number of flowers in a clump.

Using snowdrops with other plants

Our garden is full of ideas for using snowdrops in containers or large drifts. See my blog post here on snowdrop planting combinations.