Grow a Cut Flower Garden for Homegrown Bouquets

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Tips on how to grow a cut flower garden, including how to layout your garden, amending soil, and flowers to choose for scented and long-lasting bouquets

Tips on growing a cut flower garden from gardener and florist Helena Willcocks. Includes how to lay out your garden, amending soil, and why you should be growing Chocolate cosmos #cutflowergarden #growcutflowers #flowers #growweddingflowers

I absolutely love growing flowers, arranging them, and just being on my plot surrounded by them. Everyone needs flowers in their life. That’s why, as a florist and allotment gardener, I’m sharing my tips for growing them with you. I remember feeling very overwhelmed when I first started my cut flower garden. If you’re just starting out, you might feel the same. There was so much to do, and every time I went up there, it just felt like the jobs were never-ending. Over time, I’ve learned to love this aspect of gardening. Especially when it comes to growing cut flowers.

My first foray into the world of gardening began with vegetables, but I soon discovered a love for growing and arranging flowers. After working for others in the floristry world, I was shocked by the huge quantities that are brought in from all over the world in such an unethical way. These once-natural and organic blooms are cut, plunged into chemicals, and often flown thousands of miles before we actually see them. So much so that it is difficult to find anything that even has a scent anymore. This just didn’t make sense to me.

Plant Cut Flowers in Rows

When it comes to growing cut flowers, you have to get out of the mindset of planting for an ornamental garden. It will obviously still look pretty, but your main aim isn’t for visual aesthetics but for maximum yield. You want to plant everything a little closer together and in straight lines of one variety. That way, you will have a very clear idea of what you have growing, and most importantly, the flowers will be easier to harvest.

Tips on how to grow a cut flower garden including how to layout your garden, amending soil, and flowers to choose for scented and long-lasting bouquets #gardeningtips #flowerfarm #flowergarden
Plant cut flowers in rows like you would vegetables

Most Cut Flowers Prefer Rich Soil

Then you want to think about your soil. If you want your flowers to be at their best, you have to make their growing conditions just right. I feed my beds with lots of rich manure and compost at the start of every season and again in the winter when the bulbs go in. On my North London plot, I have very heavy clay soil. That means I have to feed my beds with lots of organic matter; otherwise, my plants would be very sad indeed.

Tips on how to grow a cut flower garden including how to layout your garden, amending soil, and flowers to choose for scented and long-lasting bouquets #gardeningtips #flowerfarm #flowergarden
Grow a cut flower garden to have homegrown bouquets from spring to autumn

Grow cut flowers for your situation

Another thing to think about is which flowers are right for you and your space. For example, if you only have your plot or garden for a short time may be annuals are the best thing for you. They are easy to grow and very rewarding. You can sow lots of them direct and many of them produce flowers all summer long.

Tips on how to grow a cut flower garden including how to layout your garden, amending soil, and flowers to choose for scented and long-lasting bouquets #gardeningtips #flowerfarm #flowergarden
One of the best ways to grow cut flowers is in an English Cottage Garden style

If you know you will be somewhere more permanently, you can think about investing in shrubs and perennials. These will take much longer to establish but, in the long run, will be very useful. Ideally, if you have space, it is ideal to plant a variety of both.

Flower Garden Inspiration

Tips on how to grow a cut flower garden including how to layout your garden, amending soil, and flowers to choose for scented and long-lasting bouquets #gardeningtips #flowerfarm #flowergarden
Queen Anne’s Lace and Red Spike Amaranthus with sunflowers in the background

Must-have cut flowers

On my plot, I have five beds for annuals and five for perennials & shrubs. These annuals are a must for a cut flower garden:

  • Cosmos
  • Queen Anne’s Lace
  • Amaranthus
  • Nigellas
  • Cornflowers
  • Sweet peas
  • Zinnias
  • Sunflowers
Tips on how to grow a cut flower garden including how to layout your garden, amending soil, and flowers to choose for scented and long-lasting bouquets #gardeningtips #flowerfarm #flowergarden
Ideally, you’ll want to grow a mixture of both annuals and perennials and have blooms from early spring to autumn.

Perennials and Shrubs for a Cut Flower Garden

  • Roses
  • Dahlias
  • Echinacea
  • Chocolate cosmos
  • Peonies
  • Verbena
  • Achillea
  • Mint
  • Rosemary
  • Fennel
  • Smokebush
  • Spirea
  • Ferns
  • Eucalyptus
Tips on how to grow a cut flower garden including how to layout your garden, amending soil, and flowers to choose for scented and long-lasting bouquets #gardeningtips #flowerfarm #flowergarden
Grow cosmos for late summer to autumn cut flowers. They flower a long time and look stunning in floral arrangements.

Grow a Variety of Cosmos

There are a lot of flowers that are still blooming on the plot, even now in September. The cosmos are in their element and just seem to keep on flowering. People tend to go for the standard Purity variety, but there are so many more to choose from. I grew ten different varieties this season, and I am bowled over by the results. These are my favourites: candy stripe, daydream, seashells, cupcake, double click cranberries & double click rose. Also, Cosmos sulphureus ‘Bright Lights’ is a beautiful little orange variety.

Tips on how to grow a cut flower garden including how to layout your garden, amending soil, and flowers to choose for scented and long-lasting bouquets #gardeningtips #flowerfarm #flowergarden
Save money on an upcoming wedding by growing your own cut flowers

Chocolate Cosmos as Cut Flowers

If there’s one cut flower I’d recommend for you, it would be chocolate cosmos. They’re one of my absolute favourite flowers to grow, and they are still looking glorious at this time of year. I tend to plant them in March, and I often find them in Wilkinson’s [a British supermarket] for a really great price. There’s no need to pay a fortune for them. They come as bare roots, and I’ve yet to have any unsuccessful plants. They are perennial, but sadly, mine never make it through the winter, even in mild London on a very sheltered plot. I may try lifting them this year and bringing them indoors.

Tips on how to grow a cut flower garden including how to layout your garden, amending soil, and flowers to choose for scented and long-lasting bouquets #gardeningtips #flowerfarm #flowergarden
Chocolate cosmos add contrast and intense colour to bouquets

Chocolate cosmos are wonderful for floristry as they have a lovely long stem, a very long flowering season, and hardly need any maintenance at all. Just a bit of a feed through the summer and lots of water. The colour and scent are stunning, too. They’re almost black when they first flower, but over time, it morphs into a stunning deep red. They’re useful in summer arrangements since they add contrast and depth, especially if you’re using pastels. Best of all, they smell like chocolate, which becomes more noticeable towards the end of the day.

Plan now for next year’s cut flower garden

Now is also the time to start thinking about spring bulbs. We plant hundreds on the plot so it takes a lot of organising and planning to make the most of the space. As I’m growing cut flowers, I don’t plant things like crocuses or snakehead fritillary. I save these for my garden. In Autumn, you want to plant narcissi and tulips that will flower from January to March. Other flowers like ranunculus and anemones are planted in the Spring.

Tips on how to grow a cut flower garden including how to layout your garden, amending soil, and flowers to choose for scented and long-lasting bouquets #gardeningtips #flowerfarm #flowergarden

As we find ourselves reluctantly heading into the colder months, just remember that there is always something we can do for the cut flower garden. Whether it’s planting indoor paperwhites for a glorious scent to fill the house, ordering seed catalogues in January, working the soil, or planning out next year’s garden. But for now, enjoy this last bit of warmth and make the most of your outside space. The plot still looks glorious, and I plan to soak up every minute of it.

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8 Comments

  1. I battle sun or the lack of, I don’t get sun all day. and deer. Not sure what I can grow that the deer won’t eat for breakfast.

    1. If you have a problem with deer eating your plants, probably the only solution is an enclosed garden area. There are few things that they won’t eat!

  2. Kate Herting says:

    Hello Helena, thank you for writing this article! Very informative and you gave a great list of suggested flowers. For you cut garden flowers, do you grow all in the ground or do some prefer raised beds? And what is your practice for weed control? Weeds are my biggest enemy and I hate using chemicals since I have pets and I just would rather not use them.

    Thank you,
    Kate

  3. I didn’t think this was possible here in our short season, even shorter this year, but I’m going to try. I have had some success with outdoor winter sowing this year and that has been encouraging, especially since I can’t seem to get the hang of grow lights, heat pads, etc. indoors. Two more wonderful books on the subject is a new one by Floret Flower Farm (in WA), Cut Flower Garden and Cool Flowers (as in cool season) by another flower farmer on the east coast, Lisa Mason Ziegler.

  4. Really nice flowers and stunning photos! This is very inspirational.

    1. Greaatt! I'll check it out.

      I really want to start a small gardenbut the problem is Im living in Dubai. Do you have any idea what flowers grow best in a hot place?

      1. Charlene, I would google ‘drought-tolerant’ plants. Often succulents are good and they flower, too. Maybe Sedum, Buddlea seem to grow everywhere, the Mediterranean plants like lavender, rosemary (has little mauve flowers) are good. Some of the Australian natives. Good luck.

    2. What an interesting place to grow a cut flower patch! Unfortunately I have no experience in growing in desert-like conditions. What I would do if I were you is to talk to the locals and see what they're growing. You might even be able to buy some plants or seeds off them.