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The Top 5 cut flowers to grow in a UK garden

Bringing your garden in to your house is one of the pleasures of having a both. Stunning displays can brighten a dark corner where a houseplant wouldn't thrive, look striking on your kitchen island or give a pop of colour to side tables and bathroom windowsills. Whether you use jam jars or crystal vases, the choice of vessels are endless and with a choice of seasonal flowers, foliage and grasses at your fingertips, your home will look beautiful and elevate your interiors to another level. If you are thinking of growing for your wedding, well aren't you something else? The pride you'll feel is fantastic and of course, you'll save a fortune in to the bargain. Here's 10 easy and long lasting flowers you might want to consider....

  1. Zinnias

Zinnias are gorgeous hardy or half hardy annuals which are well known for their very showy, sometimes gaudy colours and this is often the reason you don't see them grown frequently in UK gardens. Such intense colours are often not welcome in the classic cottage garden and seem to offend our penchant for pale and delicate tones. But look again and you will find that Zinnias have been hiding a secret, with paler varieties available in a more relaxed palate.

For elegant displays from July to the first frosts, choose the creamy double blooms of "Benary's Giant White", or the vintage feel of "Oklahoma Ivory", an ideal bloom for table centres at a relaxed, outdoor wedding. If subtle colour is what you crave, the chartreuse green of "Envy" makes a fantastic partner with the almost fuzzy "Polar bear", and when a dusky coral is required then the "Dahlia-flowered coral beauty" is an immaculate choice, giving you colour without the eye strain.

L-R Zinnia 'Dahlia-flowered coral beauty', Zinnia 'Polar bear', Zinnia 'Envy', Zinnia 'Benary's Giant White', Zinnia 'Oklahoma Ivory'.

Growing Tip: Pinch out the growing tip as you plant your Zinnia out after the first frosts. This encourages bushy growth. And, watch out for your watering, as Zinnia don't like being too wet and can be prone to mould and mildew in humid conditions.

2. Sunflowers

The humble sunflower often gets a bit of a bad rep. It's probably the first flower we ever grow as it features heavily in children's growing projects, and there is a reason for this; they are really easy to grow. There is no shame in picking cut flowers that are a doddle to produce, especially if you need quantity for your house throughout the season or you are decorating an event. Sunflowers also last a very long time in the vase so you can be confident of a good show for weeks.

Of course, there are the classic giant yellow varieties which fill the fields of France in June and they are unarguably lovely, however we can certainly look into the library of Helianthus and do much better than that.

There are sunflowers in every colour you might want and their flowering can span June through to the first frosts.

The dark forms of Helianthus are intriguing and delightful, from a deep coloured 'Claret' to the alluring 'Ms Mars' with her rich centre fading out to plum though pink in an extraordinary ombre, the dark coloured varieties are certainly worth considering. The two mentioned above will flower from June to October, providing 4 months of solid flowering and lasting up to 2 weeks in the vase if kept well watered.

Most Helianthus are annual so require a small amount of work at the beginning of the season however there is one exception, the delightful perennial sunflower, 'Year on Year'.

A back of the border variety, this beauty will tower up to 2m tall and produce lots of golden, daisy-like flowers which require picking to prolong flowering. The flower heads are not as large as a traditional yellow sunflower and are more akin to a dahlia in size, making them perfect for bright flower girl bouquet or in a vase in a sunlit morning room.

More usual Helianthus come in shades of lime green, pale pink and even sepia tones with 'Jade Green' and 'Procut Plum' being two standout examples. The glow of 'Jade Green' in a mid border position provides a sunny foil for purple plants like 'Verbena bonariensis' or 'Salvia caradonna' and look stunning in a large posy on the dining room table.

'Procut plum' or the other hand is a delicate and more modest beauty, utterly alluring as a cut flower in single variety displays to ensure that this varieties classic characters aren't lost among any other, more showy blooms. Its petals are a soft pink, fading to papyrus and its centre is ringed with jewels of yellow and emerald green. It is pure elegance.

L-R Helianthus 'Ms Mars', Helianthus 'Year on Year', Helianthus 'Procut plum', Helianthus 'Claret', Helianthus 'Jade Green'.

Growing Tip: Add some well rotted manure or rich garden compost before planting out your sunflowers, they are hungry plants and rich soil will ensure masses of beautiful blooms and strong and healthy plants.

3. Dahlias

When I first started out in horticulture and began attending shows and fairs, Dahlias would always catch my eye. Statuesque, diverse and bold, they seemed completely out of my reach. The idea of tubers, dug up every season, stored in boxes of sand and coaxed back to being every year was just too much for this newbie, but so strong was their pull that I took the plunge, and now years later I am hooked on Dahlias.

What was the worst that could happen? I told myself, and indeed I found out that they aren't unreachably complex and time consuming as perhaps we are led to believe. In fact, for a small amount of effort and care they provide so much pleasure and are certainly one of the most hard working flowers you can grow.

Dahlias are a super border flower in your garden yet as a cut flower they are essential and have been a bridal classic for years as well as being a long lasting edition to displays in your home.

My first Dahlia, and still probably the best known for wedding posies and table centres, is Dahlia 'Cafe au Lait'. Falling in to the Decorative category of Dahlia, it is pillowy and romantic flowers, cream coloured with as the name suggests, a hint of milky coffee, sometimes touched with pink on early flowers.

Continuing the romantic theme, the pure white of the Waterlily type Dahlia, 'Eternal Snow' is a must for those who crave a cleaner, more simple flower, and when cut and arranged with a soft pink rose such as 'Queen of Sweden' it sugary innocence is charming and of course ideal for dressing room arrangements or large wedding displays.

For a more colourful addition, two striking and alternative types of Dahlia are 'Wine eyed Jill' from the Ball category, grown for its dark eye at the centre, like a splash of Burgundy has pooled and seeped to the surrounding petals. Jomanda from the Pom Pom category is also a splendid, lollipop headed bloom in juicy, vibrant burnt orange. These blooms cut in the autumn, before the first frost and placed with seasonal colours of muted orange, cream and brown in an entrance hall or porch make a stylish and edgy display.

Dahlias fall in to many different groups to help us understand and arrange them where we need them to be, however sometimes a Dahlia comes along that is so unique, no group quite does it justice. Dahlia 'Hollyhill Spiderwoman', with its amusing name and strikingly strange appearance is one such flower. Its wild looks and candy colour makes it an eye catching addition to the garden and really fun pop of colour and form to cut arrangements with pom pom dahlias and bright spires of antirrhinum it is a wonderful and tropical sight.

L-R Dahlia 'Jomanda', Dahlia 'Cafe au Lait', Dahlia 'Wine Eyed Jill', Dahlia 'Hollyhill Spiderwoman', Dahlia 'Eternal Snow'.

Growing Tip: Always plant dahlia tubers just below the surface as they don't like being too deep and support with canes or hoops before the plants get too big to avoid drooping.

4. Hydrangeas

What could be easier or more valuable than having a show stopping perennial in your garden that also provides months of long lasting cut flowers?

Once established, Hydrangeas are low maintainence and high reward plants, you do need to wait a couple fo seasons before it is happy and sizeable enough to start cutting the flower heads, but your patience will pay off. What's a couple a seasons in the garden anyway? Exactly.

One of the most well know and widely grown Hydrangea is 'Annabelle'. Known by her classic white pom pom heads and neat habit, she looks very comfortable in a cottage garden or formal border and provides many blooms waiting to be picked for large hallway displays or on your kitchen island. Armfuls gathered from the garden to adorn a large outdoor dining table are very chic indeed.

'Annabelle' can be large lady, requiring a 2.5 m space and the same again for height when fully established, although not all Hydrangeas are quite so substantial. In fact 'Annabelle' has a smaller, blushing sister in 'Annabelle Pink'. This smaller variety will only ask 1.5m of your garden and the same in height and arguably works harder for her space. 'Annabelle Pink' flowers for an impressive 6 months, twice the time of the original white 'Annabelle'.

You don't lose stature either with 'Annabelle Pink' as her flowers can be as impressive if not as neatly formed as her formal sister.

Traditionally of course, most of us think about Hydrangeas as providing us with the bluest of blue colours, a real rarity in the garden, and although not always to everyones taste, they are eye catching and lovely in a vase.

A time honoured wedding flower favourite is 'You and me together', a stately blue, double flowered Hydrangea which on its own in arrangements makes a bold statement, or paired with white 'Annabelle' gives a charming Delft pottery feel to a clean colour scheme.

This Hydrangea also doesn't require huge amounts of space in your garden and can be grown in a 1x1m space or in a good sized pot, so there really is a Hydrangea for every garden.

Never one to totally bow down to tradition, we are totally smitten with Hydrangea 'Magical Jade'. A vivid, lime, or I suppose jade, green mophead with white streaked petals and serrated edges all turned up to the sky like resting butterflies. The foliage is a dark green in contrast t the flowers and much different to the traditional Hydrangea leaf, providing interesting and exquisite foliage for your arrangements. Paired with dark purple orchids this Hydrangea makes a brooding and dramatic display.

L-R Hydrangea 'Magical Jade', Hydrangea 'You and me together', Hydrangea 'Annabelle Pink', Hydrangea 'Annabelle'.

Cutting Tip: Hydrangeas need some special care when they are being used for cuttings, but with these tips you can keep them looking lovely in the vase. Cut Hydrangeas need to be very moist so soak the cut flowers and stem in cool water in your sink or bath for at least 15 minutes and up to 12 hours, leaving them soaking overnight will do them no harm. Because Hydrangeas lose moisture quickly and need to be kept moist, it is a good idea to cut the stems in the early morning when they are at their most turgid.

Hydrangeas are also very hungry so do be sure to use flower food in you vase water and top up the water frequently once your arrangement is in place. A light mist a few times a day on the blooms will also be gratefully received.

5. Sweet Peas

Surely, what could be more simple and more pleasurable than a beautiful posy of one of the most quintessential English cottage garden flowers; the Sweet pea?

These pretty annuals are incredibly easy to grow and certainly win the prize for the most fragrant. The summer perfume of Sweet peas on the breeze, either floating through your garden or greeting you as you walk in to a room is a sweet scented tonic.

Long stems carry delicate, tissue paper flowers as colourful as children's kites, fluttering in the air above them. And what colours! - a shade for every mood, every room, and every theme. Bright white and cream with hints of pink will scent a wedding marquee until dawn, bold oranges and pinks will brighten a dressing table or office desk and dark, almost black blooms will look dramatic in displays with orange single bloomed dahlias such as 'Bishop of Llandaff' or the soft grey foliage of Senecio 'Angel wings' or Brachyglottis.

Alluring and easy to grow, Sweet peas can be trained up fences, walls or over archways and obelisks. These self climbing plants will attach themselves well through spent trees and shrubs and look charming weaving up old stumps. And with a flowering period of June to September, what's not to adore?

For a romantic feel, try 'Lavender Bridesmaid', a white delight, airbrushed with pink and tinged with the faintest lavender. As part of bridal bouquets or wedding arrangements it is ideal and a small posy tied with velvet lavender ribbon it is adorable as a flower girl posy.

If you need to make a statement or want to inject colour in to your midsummer cut flower displays then 'Prince of Orange' is the go to pea. Vigourous and brightly coloured, the flowers are somewhere between a pale orange and coral pink and are just exquisite arranged with a head of white Hydrangea and brighter pink sweet peas such as King Edward VII. Sitting on smaller stems than 'Prince of Orange' but much more floriferous, the pink is deep and varied with each flower sporting different shades.

A true bi-coloured Sweep pea with an ombre of lilac, violet and mauve which is fascinating to see and arrange is 'Erewhon'. One of the most highly scented Sweet peas, it is so welcoming grown up a garden archway and placed in small vases around your outdoor living space.

Along a different colour theme all together, why not try the more theatrical 'Almost Black'? Long stems support brooding velvet petals of deep purple, indeed almost black from a distance, which look wonderful in a garden with a more tropical foliage, and makes a great partner with 'Angel Wings' foliage in an indoor display.

L-R Sweet Pea 'Prince of Orange', Sweet Pea 'Lavender bridesmaid', Sweet Pea 'Almost Black', Sweet Pea 'Erewhon', Sweet Pea 'King Edward VII'.

Growing Tip: The best way to harvest Sweet peas is to pick them all at once, completely strip the plant of its flowering stems and this will encourage another flush of flowers. If you don't pick your peas they will set seed and your flowering season will be very short indeed.

#cut flowers #hydrangeas #sunflowers #dahlias #zinnias #floral design #bouquets #posies

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