Blooming good ideas – floral top tips from the trade!

Over the years, I’ve spent a lot of time working with flowers. As some of you may know, in a ‘previous’ life I worked exclusively with pressed and dried flowers. I’ve also trained with Constance Spry (many years ago!) so I’ve picked up all sorts of tricks of the trade for fresh flowers, so I thought I’d share a few of them with you…

  • Florists use the juvenile foliage of eucalyptus which is more rounded and attractive than that found on mature plants. Grow your eucalyptus as a coppiced plant, pruning hard each year to encourage a constant supply of immature stems for cutting.
  • Although they may come into flower at the same time, never be tempted to mix tulips in a vase with daffodils. Narcissus species exude a substance that prevents your tulips (and other cut flowers) from taking up water.
  • It’s important to cut sweet peas regularly to encourage more blooms. Cut the flowers just as the lowest bloom is opening and put them in water immediately for a longer vase life. 
  • To avoid problematic pollen stains on clothes and furniture, try gently removing the stamens from lilies as they open. When cutting lily stems from the garden it’s important to leave a third of the stem intact in order to feed the bulb for the following year.
  • When growing gladiolus specifically for cutting, plant them in rows in the vegetable patch. This makes them much easier to harvest. 
  • When growing roses as cut flowers, be ruthless and remove any poorly placed flower buds that are unlikely to make good cut flowers to direct energy into the best blooms.
  • Avoid standing carnation arrangements in direct light as they will quickly fade.
  • Sunflowers are best cut with sharp secateurs early in the morning or late in the evening while temperatures are cool.
  • Gladiolus flowers will generally all reach maturity at about the same time, but if you want to prolong the cutting season then try to stagger planting at two-week intervals so that they mature at different times.
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How to keep your house full of flowers!

Stocks – pretty, long lasting and with a glorious scent!Home made or home grown is so much nicer in so many ways, and growing your own flowers is a really rewarding thing to do. I always feel shop-bought flowers are a bit of an indulgence and tend to think of them just for special occasions, but I love having flowers in the house… so what to do? Grow your own flowers specifically for cutting!

A dedicated spot
You could dot your cut-flower plants throughout your garden so they form part of an overall planting scheme but, if you have the space, it’s best to having a dedicated patch, however small. It is much easier to organise than to slot your cut-flower plants in among existing shrubs and perennials, and many annuals need some support, which is easier in a special patch.

Pretty much all cut flowers need a good amount of sunshine, so there’s no point in planning your patch in a shady spot. Shelter is also important as strong, gusty winds can do a lot of damage and they also dry everything out.

CosmosSmall is beautiful too!
Don’t be put off if you have limited space. You can still grown wonderful flowers for cutting in a few pots. Sweet peas (Lathyrus odoratus) climbing on a wigwam are a perfect example – beautiful blooms with stunning scent! Cut them regularly and they’ll keep going for ages.

Let’s get shopping…
Here’s a suggested shopping list that would be ideal for a flowerbed about 8ft (2.5m) x 4ft (1.25m). These flowers are easy to germinate from seedand you can buy some as plug plants from garden centres or by mail order. This mix of plants will give you, from late spring to mid-autumn, enough flowers to make posies and fill small vases. Doesn’t that sound wonderful? 

I have suggested the number of plants you would ideally have, but you don’t need to stick rigidly to this, it’s only a guide. Any new planting will look a bit ‘regimented’ to start with, but as the plants develop they will fill out, creating a patchwork of glorious colour.

  • Sweetpeas – a heavenly scent and easy to grow in tubs for anyone with limited space.Dahlia ‘Karma Choc’ x 1
  • Cosmos bipinnatus ‘Candy Stripe’ x 2
  • Ammi visnaga x 2
  • Biennial stocks (Matthiola) x 6 – replace with dahlias in early summer.
  • Sweet pea (Lathyrus odoratus) x 12
  • Daucus carota ‘Black Knight’ x 2
  • Dianthus barbatus x 4
  • Scabiosa atropurpurea ‘Black Cat’ x 2
  • Narcissus ‘Tête-à-tête’ x 30 – plant these around the edge of the bed

 

 

 

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Thinking about Easter

It’s not long now until Easter – it must be about as late as it can be this year – with Easter Sunday falling on April 20th. I have so many possibilities for making Easter cards but I think Jayne Netley Mayhew’s animals will be my inspiration for cards this year.  Both of these designs use the decoupage in her spring collection and they make wonderful Easter cards.

The little row of ducklings always makes me smile, the decoupage is quite easy to cut out and you can put a plain card around it or something a little more decorative as we have here. The Grand Nestability die makes a good card shape and with some simple embellishments it’s a simple card to make.

The Easter bunny card is a little more complex but still easy for a beginner. The decoupage is simple and the backing paper has just been pleated which, once you have got into a rhythm, is quite quick and very effective.

These two decoupage designs come with Easter greetings on the sheet if you wish to use them, but there’s plenty more inspiration in the rest of the Spring decoupage pack – you can have a look through them here.

Happy spring cardmaking! 

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Self-confessed Hellebore fanatic!

I know you must be fed up with me extolling the virtues of the Hellebore – but it is my favourite flower… It’s my blog, so I get to talk about Hellebores!

I thought you might like to see this pretty double specimen that has just come out in the garden. I must have 20 or more different varieties now and as you can see by the pictures, box loads of new ones have just arrived… oops did I buy that many?

It’s amazing the range of colours, shapes and sizes that they come in – from brilliant white through palest pink to dark purple that’s almost black. I even have a plant that sports creamy, verging on yellow, flowers so there really is a huge range from which to choose.

They are well-behaved perennials that just sit in the flowerbed and need no special treatment and I am always so thrilled to see a big display of flowers at this time of year when the rest of the garden is looking so bleak. You can even cut some of the ones on longer stems and enjoy them in the kitchen or around the house too.

And, if you want to make a really pretty table decoration for a special occasion or a dinner party, take an attractive, shallow bowl, fill with water and then cut the blooms off with no stem and float them face up, on the water, so that they float like tiny water lilies – very attractive! 

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Valentine Cupcakes

If you fancy making your Valentine a treat – or just want to make a treat, Valentine or not – these are heavenly cupcakes. They are rich and smooth and oh so yummy, you’ll love them!

Valentine Cakes:

  • 5oz/140g plain flour
  • 1oz/30g unsweetened cocoa powder
  • ½ teaspoon of bicarb of soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 2 ¼ oz/60g unsalted butter
  • 8oz/225g granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon Baileys liqueur (or use strong black coffee)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 5 ½ fl oz/160ml buttermilk

For the filling and frosting:

  • 300g dark chocolate
  • 300ml double cream

 Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 1680C/350F/Gas 4 and pop some paper cases in a muffin/fairy cake tray
  2. Sift the flour, cocoa, bicarb and salt into a bowl and set aside
  3. Use an electric mixer and beat the butter and sugar until blended then add the eggs, one at a time until all is blended.
  4. Add the Baileys (or coffee) and vanilla and beat for another couple of minutes. On a low speed incorporate half the flour mix. Now add the buttermilk. Finally add the other half of the flour and blend till smooth.
  5. Using an ice-cream scoop or a tablespoon fill each paper case and then bake for 20-25 minutes. Remove and place on a wire rack until cool.
  6. Melt the chocolate for the frosting/filling over a pan of hot water. Do not overheat. Mix with the double cream gently but thoroughly. Then using scissors snip a cross in the top of the cupcake and open the cake slightly and fill with some of the chocolate ganache. Then using a spatula spread more ganache on top swirling it slightly. Decorate with a couple of hearts as in the picture or perhaps a slivered almond or any other decoration that you have to hand!

 

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