Be creative and save money by growing your own flowers for cutting

Harvesting flowers that you have grown yourself is much more rewarding than buying a bunch from the supermarket. Together with another apprentice, I’ve just finished harvesting the last of the tulips that we have grown for cut flowers here at RHS Garden Harlow Carr, and it’s been really satisfying. Ideally, harvest your flowers early morning or in the evening, cutting at the base of the stem with a diagonal cut and place immediately in a bucket of water to keep the stems fresh. I chose to put together 5 - 6 stems of the same colour per bunch as they were bold, striking colours. One of the benefits to growing your own is having the freedom to be creative with your colour choices and design of your arrangement.

Growing from seed is the cheapest way to grow your own cut flowers; I have mostly chosen annuals for the cut flower patch. For an impressive bunch you need to include the right amount of foliage, fillers and some bold colours. I have chosen to grow some dahlias from tubers to create impact for my bouquets. Dahlias are reliable plants and if you over winter them correctly you can reuse them each year. The foliage you choose for your bouquet doesn’t necessarily need to be grown in your cut flower patch; get creative and look around the garden to see what else you can use. Foliage can be anything from grasses, ferns, hostas and evergreen shrubs. I am growing some Panicum ‘Frosted Explosion’ (grass) and some Blupleurum rotundifolium (Hare’s Ear) as some of my annual foliage plants.

I grew my annuals from seed earlier in the year in a heated glasshouse, successional sowing them every two weeks in order to stagger when the flowers are ready for cutting. I have started to plant them out into the beds in offset rows in order to fit more plants in. I would normally follow correct spacing for planting out, but when it comes to cut flowers I tend to plant them closer than recommended for two reasons: so they self-support as they grow, and because the plants will not reach maturity as you cut the stems when the buds are just about to open. If you were planting out your annuals in a border, you would let them reach maturity and bloom fully. I find having a cut flower patch is quite similar to growing vegetables as you treat the plants like a crop and harvest them. It is similarly labour intensive.

If you don’t have a dedicated cut flower garden – and let’s face it, most of us don’t - try finding plants that have multiple uses. You may want to make the most of your garden throughout the seasons so do some research into the annual flowers you usually grow. Look for flowers that you can “cut and come again”. Some may also be suitable for drying: hang onto seed pods which can look lovely dried out in an autumn display.

Jobs for the Week

• Feed and water plants in containers and baskets.

• Continue earthing-up potatoes in the vegetable patch.

• Keep weeding flower beds to reduce competition for nutrients.

• Feed and weed your lawn to look ready for the summer.

• Remove duckweed and blanket weed from ponds, leave at the side overnight to allow pond life to return.


Until 30 May: Bath House Gallery – Ceramics & Glass Showcase

Raku, slab and thrown pottery work is on show throughout May with a wide range of glass items. Practical and decorative work will make this a must-see event. Normal garden admission.

Tuesdays in May, 11am: Harlow Carr Garden Tours

Find out more about the most northerly RHS garden on a tour with the Friends of RHS Harlow Carr every Tuesday. A donation of £2 is suggested.

Saturday 26 & Sunday 27 May: Children’s Gardening Weekend

See Mr Bloom from CBBC perform live on Saturday to launch this new weekend event. Kids big and small can take part in a range of activities designed to inspire the gardeners of the future to grow from 11am to 3pm. Make your own Thumbelina-style rock garden, learn about bees with the Harrogate & Ripon Beekeepers, enjoy a creative writing workshop, pot up your own sweet peas and decorate an ‘In the Night Garden’ pot to take home. Normal garden admission.

26 May - 3 June: ‘Get, Set, Grow’ May Half Term Family Fun

Youngsters are being encouraged to get, set, grow at Harlow Carr during half term. Enjoy a daily garden trail, storytelling with the Garden Detectives, indoor crafts and each day a chance to theme your own pot and plant up a pumpkin seed. Normal garden admission.

As the UK’s leading gardening charity, the proceeds taken from events and tickets sales at all RHS gardens help to fund the many activities undertaken by the RHS to promote horticulture and help gardeners. For further information on all the above events please call 01423 565418.

RHS Garden Harlow Carr, Crag Lane (off the B6162 Otley Road), Beckwithshaw, Harrogate HG3 1QB (if using Sat Nav use postcode HG3 1UE). Gardens open every day of the year, except Christmas Day, from 9.30am until 6pm (or 4pm Nov-Feb inclusive). Last entry 1 hour before closing. RHS Members (+ 1 Family guest) Free; Prices (excluding Gift Aid): Adult: £11.50; Child 5-16: £5.750, Under 5s: Free; Family: £29. Groups (10+): £9.50 Gardens: 01423 565418. Shop and Plant Centre: 01423 724666. Bettys Café Tea Rooms 01423 505604.

RHS Membership

Join the RHS at Harlow Carr and you’ll receive many exclusive benefits including: a monthly copy of ‘The Garden’ magazine; free entry (with a family guest) to RHS Gardens: Harlow Carr, Wisley, Rosemoor and Hyde Hall; free access to over 130 RHS recommended gardens throughout the UK at selected periods; free gardening advice; privileged tickets to world famous flower shows and much more. Call for more information.