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

Persian Everlasting Pea

The Persian Everlasting Pea.

Lathyrus rotundifolius or persian everlasting pea on the fence at Easton Walled Gardens

Lathyrus rotundifolius

‘You’ll never sell it’ said nurseryman Tim as he delivered plants for our visitors back in the day. Sure enough, by September, when all the gifted 1 litre container plants had gone to kind homes; two scraggy looking pots were left. Lathyrus rotundifolius, also called the Persian everlasting pea, doesn’t take kindly to being restricted so we released them into the border along the pickery fence and rather forgot about them.

Next summer something remarkable happened. Beautiful twining stems rose from the ground and romped over the fence (politely leaving space for other climbers.) By July, the plant was smothered in pink flowers that contrasted beautifully with the foliage. It has been one of the most asked about plants in the garden ever since.

Lathyrus rotundifolius or persian everlasting pea at Easton Walled Gardens

Habit and provenance:

Hailing from the countries around the Black Sea and into Iran, the Persian everlasting pea grows in meadows with other leguminous plants. A member of the prettily named sub-family Papilionaceae (meaning ‘butterfly–like’), it uses tendrils to climb and support itself and growth is prolific between April and June.

The flowering stems form racemes of 3+ flowers, cream in bud and darkening as the flowers open. The flower colour is often described as brick-red, although in our experience that is the colour the camera lens sees. On our plants, the petals are a deep pink with increasing blue tones as the flower ages. There is no discernable scent but that doesn’t stop insects including bees foraging in the flower heads.

Lathyrus rotundifolius or persian everlasting pea flowering stages copyright Easton Walled Gardens

How to grow:

Lathyrus rotundifolius plants are hardy (H7 on the new RHS ratings system), herbaceous perennials. They grow best in reasonable soil in full sun or dappled shade. They need something sturdy to climb and our Im fence is the perfect vehicle. If trained the plant may make 1.5m.

Despite its aversion to small pots, Lathryus rotundifolius makes a well behaved addition to large permanently planted containers. We have some outside the shop door and they climb and flop over the edge with great charm.

persian everlasting pea in container at Easton Walled Gardens

As the top growth dies back in autumn the stems can be cut back to ground level and used on the compost heap. In the spring, bulbs such as tulips, crocuses and snowdrops fit snugly around the roots and will give you lots of colour until the pea starts to grow again.

Mary Keen describes the roots as ‘wandering’, which is about right. Propagate from Irishman’s cuttings (a piece of stem with roots on) in late spring. The seed tends not to set in northern areas and germination can be slow.

We offer pots of this pea for sale in June and early July, if you would like to reserve one please contact the office.

Top five nurseries at RHS Chelsea

Top 5 growers and their plants at RHS Chelsea

Eagles Sweet Peas

..have had a tough growing year to get enough sweet peas together but you would never know. Owner Derek Heathcote brought his usual quality display to Chelsea and added another gold medal to his collection.

New to his stand this year was Sweet Pea ‘Ballerina Blue’ described as ‘a must for exhibition and cut flowers.’ It has four large pale blue florets per stem, a good scent and has been awarded an AGM. It was good to see one of my favourite sweet peas Henry Thomas on his stand.

Swapping sweet pea stories with such an experienced grower was always going to be interesting and we nodded wisely together over his mantra: ‘It’s a good root system that produces the flowers.’

Derek Heathcote of Eagle Sweet Peas at RHS Chelsea Flower Show Richard and Heather Godard-Key from Fibrex Nurseries at RHS Chelsea Flower Show

Fibrex Nurseries

Owned by Richard and Heather Godard-Key (see above in front of their gold medal winning stand), Fibrex Nurseries is the go-to place for heritage, modern, specie and scented pelargoniums (still known colloquially as geraniums). With over 2,500 varieties in their collection, pinning down a favourite was always going to be hard but we did discuss their top three scented geraniums: ‘Attar of Roses,’ ‘Lemon Fancy’ and ‘Lady Plymouth’. Surprisingly, I learnt that regal pelargoniums are particularly good for bees.

Hardy’s Cottage Garden Plants

Rosy Hardy is one of our plant heroes and if she recommends a herbaceous perennial it’s worth listening! In 2013, Hardy’s championed Nepeta grandiflora ‘Summer Magic’ and it was featured on their stand this year. It has gone straight onto my bucket list along with this year’s introduction Antirrhinum ‘Pretty in Pink’ – This is a perennial, rust resistant snapdragon with a long flowering period. Sounds perfect to us and well worth trialling next year.

Rosie Hardy at RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2015 Antirrhinum 'Pretty in Pink'

Trewidden Nurseries

The most south westerly nursery in the country specialising in exotic plants. The Aeonium display stopped me in my tracks. Most of us are familiar with A. ‘Schwarzkopf’ – often resembling a walking stick with black succulent leaves on rosettes sticking out of the top; this plant is really only suitable for big container schemes. Trewidden are offering homebred Aeoniums ‘Du Rozzen’ ‘Merry Maiden’ and ‘Poldark’ which are far more compact for low maintenance container plantings.

Intriguing Proteas and other exotics will make this nursery well worth visiting online when it rebrands as Penberth Plants in the autumn.

Robinsons Seeds and Vegetables

Susan Robinson is part of this legendary vegetable growing family. Many of their vegetables, forced over the winter in challenging conditions, are also good for a family garden. A small tender cabbage, Hisp F1, that can be used like lettuce early in the season, featured in the front of her display. Its size makes it a good choice for supper without leaving mountains of cabbage to lurk in the fridge.

Her comment to me that ‘Fruit and veg should hover between life and death’ (under stress the plant puts all its nutrients into the edible parts) was music to my ears. There is now an excellent excuse for deprived tomato plants.

Susan Robinson at RHS Chelsea Flower Show Tomato tower at RHS Chelsea Flower Show

 

You may also like: Top 5 things we learnt at RHS Chelsea.