Cutting out the Middleman, by Benjamin Pope

A Guide to Growing and displaying your own cut flowers.

Benjamin Pope is Head Gardener at a private garden in West Sussex.  Apart from gardening, he takes a keen interest in beekeeping, travel, art and of course displaying cut flowers from his own garden.  He has a Diploma from Wisley and is a Master of Horticulture. 

Chairman John Price and Programme Secretary Sue Wheeler with Benjamin Pope

He gave a very interesting and informative talk about the different flowers you can grow in your own garden and display.  He said one should not be afraid of breaking the mould in arranging flowers.  Different sorts of flowers can be arranged with branches, shrubs and trees to decorate your home, but it is environmentally friendly and inexpensive to use what you have in your garden.   

You can grow different specimens of flowers and shrubs in the garden to pick for your arrangements, ranging from one or two different colours to hundreds.  Putting just two-coloured flowers in a vase can be more exciting that a whole range of colours.  Combining flowers in the garden was not only a good idea to add colour to the borders but also to pick.  Ben also suggested staggering planting of flowers so that you always had flowers to pick.    

He suggested seeds were a good way of cultivating favourite flowers.  They can be collected from spent flowers; they are cheap and can be brought on easily. Division was another good way of cultivating plants and cuttings were also a good way.  When taking a cutting cover with vermiculite and if you don’t have a greenhouse, find a warm place in which the cuttings can take.

When cutting flowers, we were reminded that sharp secateurs or garden snips were needed and a clean bucket.  Bacteria can affect cut flowers, so you need to put stems of flowers into clean water.  The best time to cut flowers is first thing in the morning.  The key is to rest not rush.  After cutting put the stems in a bucket of clean water and leave for 24 hours to soak up the water.  Make sure the water is free from bacteria, foliage (which will rot) and dirt. 

Cosmos and rudbeckia are great grown from seed and are good annuals and biannual.  Perennials such as aster, Michaelmas daisy, delphiniums and crocosmia are also wonderful flowers to display.

Bulbs and tubers such as anemone, gladioli, narcissus are good flowers to arrange.  Branches and flora from shrubs and trees, leaves with small branches such as willows and witch hazel are good for accompaniments for displays, as are rose hips and seed heads of clematis, lilac and berberis.  Herbs can also be used. Sage, zinnias and dianthus.  Moroccan mint is not only a good herb to use but has a heavenly scent.

Long stemmed plants such as dahlias and rudbeckia along with crab apple, asters and scabiosas are good accompaniments with Iris, peonies. 

You can put just three colours together to make a statement.  Sweet peas, roses allium is a good combination and for larger displays you can use delphiniums, alliums and foxglove together with different grasses.

Ben talked about what can be used as vases/containers.  He said they made up half the arrangement.   A bold colour should be used for a strong arrangement.  Snowdrops along with sedums make for a classic yellow and white display and it doesn’t have to be elaborate, cowslips can be used with meadow flowers such as feverfew. 

Different types of bottles can be used for displays.  An example being Hendrix bottles or test tubes containing snowdrops, or large spirit bottles for witch hazel and you can also use different sizes of jugs.  You should think about the weight of the display and consider using wires for structure and flower frogs.  Think about the neck of the container, a small neck limits how many stems you can use whereas large neck containers are good for larger displays.  Junk shops are always a good place to find different receptacles for displays. 

More information can be found on Ben’s website