Only grow what you love
First know what you love
In my manifesto, a plan of action for growing cut flowers, the first two directives go hand in hand.
At first glance, I could be carelessly taking two of the thirteen* where just one would do. I deliberately took up that space. Choosing what you are growing with consideration and purpose (knowing) might be the most important thing you do when growing cut flowers.
What flowers do you love? When you don’t much care for a plant, I don’t think you’ll take care of it let alone cut it. We all have flowers we utterly adore, and those that we are a bit meh about. I am not much of a fan of cleome, peonies or stocks. So I don’t grow them.
Instead I concentrate my efforts on those that I do love, that care and attention coming easily.
What you love will also go hand in hand with why or what you need to grow too. Working out the why and getting really clear on that will transform your growing plans and success.
I expect you fall into one of three types of flower grower:
Home Gardener - From balcony to multi-acre, no matter, growing for yourself, for friends and to give away.
Grower Florist - Again, scale doesn’t much matter. You might be a florist learning, researching and understanding more about the flowers you work with or wanting to grow flowers you just can’t find. Or you could grow most if not all of the product you use in your work. Adding skill and time to flower stems to create something more than its sum. Growing your palette.
Flower Farmer - Growing a quality product at scale. Focused on sales of stems, for your own work and for other florists.
Regardless of whether you grow in a back garden or on 2 acres there will undoubtably be some hard decisions to make about what you do.
So where do you start?
As a home gardener, you have that benefit of proximity to your ‘patch’, ideally visiting little and often. You can probably keep a close eye on your plants, tie in, water or pick every day as and when. Grow plants that you can’t get elsewhere very easily, or that are more fleeting such as sweet peas and poppies. I expect you have borders of shrubs and perennials also to mix with your flower growing to create interesting combinations. Choose annuals for your cutting plots that complement more ‘permanent’ planting. If you have plenty of spring perennials and bulbs, concentrate on mid to late summer annuals with dahlias in your sowing plan. Consider what flowers you’d really enjoy growing and cutting, and when. Those that really do delight you.
As a grower florist, regardless of whether you have a small or large cutting garden, since growing is only part of your work, you want to choose smart. What flowers do you really adore, will elevate your arrangements beyond your orders from the local flower farmers. It might be sweet peas and poppies together with flowers blooming at different stages. Nascent through to those on the edge. About to teeter over, too far gone but perfectly undone for a bridal bouquet. The autonomy of choosing tight rosebuds, seed heads and leaves for boutonnieres, gathered in jam jars. Pinches of flowers that are so utterly precious and perfect for the brief but you didn’t know what you were going to use until you walked the plots. And herbs, basils in flower, twirling annual climbers like cobaea, love in a puff, or dahlias cut at different stages for texture and movement. Your plots will be a treasure box of delights masquerading as a cut flower plot.
Finally, the flower farmer. Who is growing at scale. Beyond busy with sowing seeds, transplanting, growing and selling. Whose economies of scale dictate that the plot plans need reliable long flowering plants. Not those that need daily attention and huge resources to coax into flowers only to bloom in the two days you don’t cut. No, you want perennials, shrubs and repeat flowering annuals. Where you can cut in hundreds of stems, not dozens. Growing flowers in combination so that on any given week between late March and the first frosts, bouquets can be made in complementary colour combinations, scale and texture. Useful stems that can be cut by the bucket for larger scale events with foliage to make those flowers sing. Knowing which plants need the least care compared to which do. And which are worth it.
Whatever type of grower you are, you’ll want to know when you want flowers to be growing. If you don’t know, use this year to find that out. What flowers when? Grow what you love and see what works with those stems. Look at what others are growing and note combinations that delight you.
Know what you love - be it on your kitchen table, for your work or for sales and grow it for success.
*13 is a lucky number in our family with many of us born on the 13th. I’m reclaiming and trying to use 13 as often as possible rather than consider it unlucky.
13 is the number of the feminine. There are 13 moon cycles in the year, it is the number of death and rebirth (because it falls in the middle of the mood cycle), representing the balance of the old and the new. Originally, the pagan calendar had 13 months. Christianity has made 12 ‘a perfect number’.
At any time of the year, there is the old and the new in the natural world. There is no start or end when all is returned to the earth. I love this. 13 represents the divine and the natural ability to connect and work in community with love.
That’s why, if I can, I will use 13.
This is my manifesto for Growing Cut Flowers. I will be exploring this list over the next few weeks - each one helps you grow the flowers you want to. Let’s get growing together.
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I shall keep a copy of the manifesto thank you. And am aiming to have flowers for bouquets March to 1st frosts.
Love the positivity of 13!