August 12, 2011

The cut flower series: THE LIST


I am sharing with you my list of absolutely top-notch, easy to grow, mega performing, wonderful in everyway plants to grow if you want gorgeous cut flowers from your garden.  Every last  one I have grown with minimal of fuss or bother in my garden, if there are any that need any extra care I will flag it so you know.

Hardy Annuals

Grow these in a sunny spot from seed sown in the Autumn or Spring for bucketfuls of glorious cut-and-come-again blooms. They thrive in ordinary soil so don't add lots of compost or fertilizer etc or you may get floppy plants with more foliage than flower. The more you pick the more they flower, so they give the most floral bang for your buck, (but they are all done in one year, and then you will have to plant again the following season). I have put an A next to those that I have found do really well, growing earlier and bigger, from an Autumn planting, direct in the ground where they are to flower. All of them you can also plant in the spring too, but the flowers will arrive a few weeks later and maybe less tall. If you do some and some, you get successional flowering all summer. Tres professional! I have put a D next to those that did brilliantly being sown direct in the ground, forsaking the need of all the potting malarky.

Under each section are a selection of photos to give you an idea of what they look like.

Ammi majus. Tall (up to about 4 or 5 ft in my garden) , airy white umbels on wiry stems, think cowparsely. Mine occasionally gets a little blackfly which I blast off with water. Glorious mixed in with meadowy flowers in a slightly wild looking bouquet or on its own in a jug on the kitchen table. Heaven. A D (There is a sexy cousin, Ammi Visnaga, slower growing for me but dropdead gorgeous.)

Orlaya grandifolia. A bit like a shorter ammi, but with bigger petals for a more definite, less hazy look. Wouldn't be without it. Customers adored it. A  D

Bupleurum rotundifolium 'Griffithii'. It is a mouthful to say, but it self seeds like mad so you will get it year after year and is a fantastic limey green foliage which seems to go really well with every flower I've tried. Armfuls grew this year in my patch, all selfseeded from last year's planting. A D

Calendula officianalis 'Indian Prince'. A dazzling orange, with a lovely burn't orange colour on the back of the petals. A classy marigold if that is not an oxymoron! Looks beautiful grown with cornflowers. D

Centaurea cyanus. The cornflower, in traditional skyblue or deep re/black ('Black Ball'). Everyone loves them, they grow like mad, especially from an Autumn sowing. If you keep picking it will pump out blooms all summer. A D

Nigella. Love-in-the-mist (lustinthedust as my mother calls it!), self seeds like crazy in my dry border and gravel. I think for those who find it tricky to germinate, their soil is perhaps too rich and damp. So if you want to grow it for the gorgeous white or blue flowers and lovely seedpods, then my advice would be to sprinkle the seed in your most free-draining soil in a good sunny spot. It is close to weed status in my garden, popping up everywhere, but loves the gravel best so you could try that.

Scabiosa atropurpurea, pincushion flowers is their prettier name. I love the 'Black Cat' and 'Ace of Spades' varieties for their winning dark glamour. I sowed mine in April this year and they are just coming out now. Direct sown in September would have given earlier blooms I am sure.

Cerinthe Major 'Purpurascens'. An unusual looking plant, green and dusky purple, and to me half way between a foliage and flower plant, an elegant filler in a flower arrangement.

Papaver somniferum. Opium poppies. I've got to be honest with you, although I adore the delicous looking blooms of oriental poppies, their straggly foliage and habit to sprawl all over other plants, squashing all in their path despite my effort to stake, have pushed me towards the opium poppies which remain ramrod straight and have the most glorious flowers which look fabulous in the garden (pants in a vase, they shatter within a day I find), and then lovely soft grey/green pods that look wonderful in bouquets. 'Black peony' is a lovely one. They self seed but often revert to the bright red instead of purples you may have planted the year before. Sadly unavailable to buy in the States. A D

Dill. Lovely, taller-than-me bright green feathery foliage. Sear the cut stem ends for 30 secs to stop flopping in the vase. Don't sow in the autumn as it can be a little tender and it likes poor, gritty soil so chuck in a bit of gravel if your soil is rich.

Euphobia oblongata, amazing for bright green foliage, so pretty but watch the sap as it can burn. Scald stem ends in boiling water to seal. A D

Briza maxima or minima. Lovely annual grasses with pretty dangling flowers. I planted in pots this spring and they did brilliantly. Might try direct sowing next month to compare.

Gypsophila elegans. I know what you are thinking, but gyp is so naff, Belinda! Well try sowing this annual variety and you will be amazed and delighted! It needs a little staking if you want it fully upright, but the airy, branching stems hold really pretty, much larger florets of white flowers aloft, no ugly crispy dots going on here! I love it, and it gives bouquets a stunning natural look. Thanks to Jan and JWBlooms for putting me on to this one. I direct sowed in Spring and it has grown really well.

Sweet peas. Hard to make last for days in a vase, but so sweet smelling and pretty, it is impossible to resist. Sow in pots in the autumn if you have a coldframe or cold greenhouse or somewhere where they can get light but some protection from the worst of the winter weather. A bit of a labour of love (and mice love to nibble), so if you are a lazy, low maintenance gardener like me, so you can cheat and buy plugs from a garden centre in spring. Hanging head in shame.

Consolida ajacis, Larkspur. Like an annual delphinium but considerably smaller. A useful upright shape and pretty flower spike. Bung the seeds in the freezer for a week before you sow them, in Spring is best.
Nigella damascena
Briza maxima

Orlaya grandifolia

cornflowers and orlaya

Calendula officinalis 'Indian Prince'

poppy seedhead

white larkspur

white annual gypsophila and ammi majus

ammi and cosmos

Half Hardy Annuals

These are, frankly, unlikely to survive winter, so need to be sown when the danger of frosts have passed in the Spring. If you have a greenhouse you can start them off a bit earlier.

Zinnia. I want to love them. It is fashionable to find them charming and funky. I struggle a little with the garish hues and stiff habit, but I am a tiny minority on this issue and I grow a few anyway for those who love them. They are easy peasy to grow in pots and then plant out in May (in the UK) and pump out the blooms for months. I will love them, I will.

Cosmos. No toughie to love this plant, in all its white and pink and yellow and orange forms. Tall, branching and delightful in the garden and vase - one plant will give buckets of flowers from midsummer onwards. Really fresh and pretty and invaluable in the cutting patch, but give it lots of room if you plant the Cosmos bipinnatus varities because they do grow really big.'Antiquity', on the other hand, is really pretty but rather short for a cut flower.

Antirrhinum. Snapdragons, I love the white and deep, velvety maroon varieties best.

Aster. China asters make great cut flowers, their starry blooms mix really well with other flowers. Look for mildew resistant varieties.

Zinnia in full flounce, I rather prefer in in bud as below

Cosmos 'Antiquity'

white cosmos in the middle. with some ammi, scabious fama and thalictrum buds. Revolting claw fingers to left, please excuse!!
Cosmos sulphureus

Bulbs and corms

Whilst annuals will give unparralled volume of flowers, bulbs provide such early glamour and beauty, please include some in your cutting patch. Plant in drifts in the Autumn, and if you are planting in a dedicated cutting patch it is good to plant around the edges of the bed so you don't dig into them when you plant and clear the annuals. There are so many you could try, but these are my absolute faves:

Alliums. Unmissable mid Spring glamour. Check out the myriad varieties and choose your favourites and order. Double or triple the quantities. You will thank me in the Spring! Drumstick alliums are easily forgotton but are fabulous in mid summer. A word to the wise: buy as many as you can afford, because if you only have a few you will find it really hard to cut them and lose the amazing style they give your garden. Plant enough that you can lose a few without noticing too much - the same goes for all the bulbs really.

Tulips. Ditto. At the moment, the peony varieties are my faves, Mt Tacoma for white, Angelique for pale pink and Black Hero for purpley black. Oh and don't be without Spring Green for its fresh white and green elegance. Plant deep in November if you are in the UK. I'm being bossy about the varieties - just choose the colours and shapes you love best!

Narcissi. I adore the gently scented, pale varieties. Pheasant's Eye and Geranium are brilliant in garden and vase. Thalia is sophisticated and very white, Silver chimes is lovely too.

Dahlias. Wish they weren't tender. I grow them anyway and cross my fingers and mulch with a thick layer over winter. The dark, chocolatey ones are my favourites at the moment although I am hankering after some white varieties. Karma varieties have good vase life, but all benefit from searing their stem ends in boiling water for 30 seconds - makes a real diffence to how long they last in a vase.

Anemone coronarias (De Caen Group). I think the faces of these flowers are breathtakingly lovely, and if you keep cutting, they keep producing flowers for several months. They like a sheltered spot and well drained soil.

Lilies. If you are prepared to do battle with red beetles. I'm not totally convinced, but if you love them, go for it.

Fritilleries. Look perfect in long grass or under trees. Not always easy to get going, but gorgeous if you have green fingers. I once saw a heartstoppingly beautiful bride's bouquet made solely from them.

Snowdrops. To make your heart sing in January. Lovely in tiny bottles and posy vases around the house.

Allium hollandicum 'purple sensation'

Allium sphaerocephalon

Tulipa 'Abu Hassan'

Tulipa 'Mt Tacoma'

Tulipa 'Queen of the Night'. Plant really deep, at least 12cm to stop it growing over lanky and bending over
Narcissi 'Geranium'

Narcissi poeticus and 'Silver Chimes' 

Anemone coronaria (De Caen Group), 'The Bride'

Bouquet including anemone blanda, alliums and peonies
There are now many variety of stunning dark dahlias as well as the more traditional colours

Other perennials

Plant them once, and year after year they give you flowers. Once picked they do not always come again during that growing season like annuals.

Roses. I can't seem to make them last long in a vase, but have to grow them because what is an English summer garden without roses? Look at the David Austin catalogue and weep.

Dianthus. Old fashioned charm, and that amazing carnation scent in an arrangement is so lovely.

Peonies. Compared to an annual they give so few blooms each year, but WHAT blooms they are! A bowl of peonies in your drawing room in June, is enough to make one feel like Nancy Mitford. For me an unmissable luxury.

Helenium 'Moerheim Beauty', stunning, floriferous variety for mid to late summer reds and oranges.

Lavender. For the scent obvs. Plant in poor soil in full sun.

Rosemary and mint. My two favourite herbs for foliage, the smell in bouquets is such a winner, I get through buckets of both.

Cotinus. For glam late summer purple foliage. Flops in early summer, lasts well when the stems have gone woody, by mid summer with us. Can grow really big, so give lots of room.

Scabiosa caucasica. Florists' dream of stunning white or pale mauve flowers on very long wiry stems. They last really well in a vase.

Japanese anemones. Late summer and early autumn white and pink beauties on conveniently long and wiry stems which hold the flowers aloft beautifully. Top plant and withstands shade brilliantly.

Echinacea and achillia. Two prairie style plants which I love in the garden and can look really good in bouquets too. Echinacea 'White Swan' has lovely reflexed white petals and looks wonderful planted with tall grasses. They both look best planted in drifts I think. So not one for the balcony gardener I guess!

Knautia macedonica. Branching stems of deepest red, velvety blooms all summer long. Cut down mid/late summer and it will bounce back for a second flush if you are lucky.

Astrantia. Gorgeous, delicate blooms in white, pink and deep red which thrive in partial shade. Neat, clump forming and bring a real elegance to an arrangement. Don't stand out in a flower bed, but so beautiful on closer inspection.

Alchemilla Mollis. Grows like a weed, and produces pretty and very useful frothy lime green flowers above the deeply cut leaves in the late spring and early summer. Will grow anywhere almost and if cut hard back in mid summer will bounce back with more leaves and a few flowers.

David Austin rose, 'Graham Thomas'


flowers include scabiosa, drumstick allium, astrantia, cotinus, nigella, sedum, poppy seedhead

helenium, achillea, bupleurum, , grasses, poppy seedheads, fennel flowers

cotinus, Japanese anemones, sedum flowers, eucalyptus

alchemilla mollis about to burst into flower


There are so many more plants I could add  - I'm already fretting about the sedum, ranunculus, crocosmia, fennel, acidanthera, sweet rocket and other fanatastic flowers I have forgotton to list,  but before I get blisters on the tips of my fingers from tapping away here at my desk, I'll stop and perhaps you might add some of your favourites in the comments section so we can all learn more?? I hope this list has given you some ideas and that when September rolls around you might have go planting some new seeds or bulbs, (and try not to burst with pleasure and pride next Spring!).

Come back next Friday for some inside info on where to get your mitts on some of these gorgeous flowers - places I have bought seed, bulbs, corms and plants and have found to be helpful and reliably great quality. With apologies for non - UK readers, and a plea to you to tell me of some great suppliers in your countries that I could include in my list with a link to your blog.

EEEK - thanks so much to Tess from Driftwood's first comment on this post which reminded me I have forgotton to mention biennials, plants that flower the year after they are planted and then die, a bit like a slo-mo annual that take a couple of years to finish their circle of life! Some are cut and come again flowers like annuals and are really worth growing for cut flowers. They can be sown between May and late July to flower the following summer, so something to consider for next year maybe if you want to grow from seed. Many are available as small plants from garden centres in the spring. My current favourites are the glorious blues of Anchusa azurea, the nodding bells of Campanulas, Sweet Williams, Foxgloves (I haven't picked these though - anyone know if they last??), Eryngiums,  Sweet Rocket, Lunaria annua better known as Honesty, and Wallflowers.

I have linked this post to the Gussy Sews Inspiration Workshop Series.


  1. oh so gorgeous, a fantastic shower of colour on a grey morning. the new flower beds we just built are never going to be big enough.... xxx

    the one flower I did grow sucessfully this year was sweet williams, they lasted ages in a vase and I loved them. but I fear they are a biennieal and therefore I've messed up for next year already by not planting them yet....

  2. This has to be one of my favourite posts ever!! Thank you so much for sharing your wisdom and experience so generously. There are SO many gorgeous ideas. No doubt my bank manager will be on the phone to you complaining about all this temptation you're putting my way!!!!!


  3. What a gorgeous colour and information filled post. Really enjoyed the photos and will defintely be planting some of these beauties in my garden. Thank you. M x

  4. Fabulously timed, as I look at my new rather patchy garden with so much bare earth and wonder what to plan for it! Thank you so much....

  5. Belinda!!!! Have just had time for a cursory glance, need to hurry and get ready for work BUT this is fantastic,utterly wonderful.
    And that was a run on sentence.

    I have to repost this on my blog cause it would stink if just one person missed this list.

    xoxo jane

  6. Tess, BIENNIALS - how did I forget them, thanks for the reminder, I will add some to the list!!

    Sarah, thanks, just stay away from the Sarah Raven catalogue if you are nervous of your bank manager!!;)

    Vintage Jane, Pleasure, have fun with the planting!

    Rachel, ooohh, please post lots of before and afters so we can see your garden growing! Maybe bulbs for the Spring to make you jump for joy in March?!

  7. Oh magnum bonum
    mandum changum
    life perfectum!
    So happily overwhelmed

  8. nice posting...warm regard for you

  9. Thank you for taking the time to make up this complete list, I can almost see these in my garden as I type! I have saved this and will begin my 'list'.
    Have a great weekend!

  10. Wow!
    Fantastic post...and I am swooning over the David Austen Graham Thomas roses.
    On an aside all my Poppy heads have been eaten by the squirrels, they are voracious in their appetite.

    Hope that you enjoy the weekend.

  11. Stunning list. Well done - what a lot of work.The Allium hollandicum pic - where is that? You? Gorgeous.

  12. Edi, Salutatio!

    Mahen, thank you so much.

    Sherri, have fun making your list!

    Hostess, cheeky blighters!

    Marie, hi, yes all the pics are from our patch, there are lots of pics of the house on my blog, it is a early 18th century English side-aisle barn on a plot a bit short of an acre.

  13. What a wonderful list!!! And such beautiful photos!!! Makes me excited to try out some new varieties next year...

    I grew Amaranthus 'Intense Purple,' and also Red Orach this year- two edibles that make gorgeous additions to arrangements. The Orach is a relative of spinach (I think) and we ate the leaves in salads, then let the plants go to seed, and I use the seed spikes in arrangements- very pretty deep reddish-purple color and great texture. Same with the amaranth- fabulous rich color and texture, and grow SO TALL- well over my boyfriend's head and he is over 6ft.!!!

    Thanks for compiling such a fantastic list- very inspiring!!!

  14. B looms a plenty us she gives
    E very city girls wants to rusticate you see
    L iving innocently
    I n the exersise of simply green
    N o one could dream of a nicer plot
    D renched in her long list
    A nemonely bowingly

  15. Dear Belinda,

    This post must have cost you so much time, but it is just what I needed. Thank you for the inspiration, the ideas and the advice! I will print it out and put it in between my favourite garden book!

    Have a lovely weekend!

    Madelief x

  16. Such a great post Belinda and the bouquets are really beautiful, I love both the cowparsley's and will be sowing those in my garden for sure, I'm going back now to re-read and jot down in my note book.. :) x

  17. ABSOLUTELY STUNNING! All I can do is swoon over your beautiful photographs though, as I do not have the space (or enough sun) in my garden to attempt anything on the scale I'd need to, to be able to grow my own cut flowers. Your bouquets are so exquisite, I WISH I lived close enough to be a regular customer!

  18. Goodness me it must have taken you an age to write that post - the bouquets are beautiful and there are plenty of ideas for me to try next year.

  19. firecracker of a post. what is that little seed head first picture at 2 o'clock is it a nigella? gorgeous

  20. Wow Belinda, you have worked so hard and unselfishly. Thankyou! I definitely want to grow Alliums for next year. I have cut Foxgloves, but they don't last too long in a vase, but are awfully pretty when mixed in with other flowers. I love Ranunculas and Night-Scented Stock, but haven't had too much luck growing either. You will definitely get into heaven for your kindness to humanity! Have a great weekend, love Linda x

  21. What a great post. I'm definately growing more flowers next year in our veg' plot. I especially love Narcissi in the spring for cheering the house up after the long winter, I'm off to find some of those "Geranium" ones. They look lovely.

  22. It made 'my heart sing' to read this wonderful list and see your photos. I want to rush out and gather armfuls of flowers and put them in lovely old jugs all over my house....
    I WILL do some proper planting next year.
    Jane x

  23. Wow, what a list, brilliant. Glad to see i'm not missing anything, but I must trust my seeds more, I spend hours potting on, so this year I'm going to try a lot more direct sowing in autumn! Thanks for the advice.

    I would add borage, both blue and white, to the annuals, buy it once and you never need to again for all the self sowing it does.

    Also for perennials I would add veronica, white lysimachia(spreads like crazy) and phlox.

    oh,oh,oh adding to the herbs, you must try oregano, I can't get enough of it, so pretty when just starting to flower and lasts really well.

    I'll stop now, just a tad excitable about planning the new season!

  24. Belinda, I am blown away at all the lovely flowers THAT I HAVE NEVER HEARD OF!!! My wish list for ordering seeds will be hundreds of dollars. Am definitely planning a "patch" as you say, but am wondering how large now. Have already ordered alliums on your suggestion, as well as astrantia so I have been paying some attention!

    Can't wait for next week!

  25. Wildstyle Designs, brilliant suggestions, I will be looking into them, thanks!

    Anon, v poetic, thank you!!

    Madelief, so glad you think it might be useful.x

    Deb, I have found the ammi majus and orlaya easier than the ammi visnaga, but the latter is a stunner!

    Dee, wish you did live closer - we could take our hounds for walks and come back for a cuppa in the garden!

    Elaine, it was a bit of a whopper post! Glad you enjoyed!

    Lotte, it is a nigella seedhead, they are fab - first light green and v fresh looking and then wild and stripey, I love using them. If I lived nearby I could have supplied you with hundreds!

    Linda, thanks for the foxglove info. My stocks get a bit pock marked by bugs after a while and I must say ranunculus are stunning but mine only had a short window of glory before going a bit mangey. I fear they maybe ones to grow under cover? So, I am in accord with your woes!

    Serendipity - go for it, those narcissi are lovely!

    Jane, absolutely my pleasure, I can hear the excitement in your voice! x

    Karen, fantastic suggestion, will try them all! Infact have just planted a few stocks - wierd time to but they were on offer!

    Webb, eeek, I am feeling some responsibility here! Your alliums will love baking in the sun and the astrantia do well in partial shade. If you are planting them in a cutting patch, I think it works really well keeping them to the edges or at least away from the annuals so they don't get damaged when you sow and then later dig up the annuals? Annoying digging up lovingly planted bulbs by mistake! xx

  26. Brilliant post with gorgeous photos have now inspired me to plant some Alliums... as many as I can afford so I won't mind cutting them for the house!
    Julie x

  27. What a fantastic post with beautiful pictures. You have surely spent time on this one and it is great!
    Especially all the white flowers look so nice, the bouquets with white and plum colored flowers too.
    Thank you for this beautiful post.

  28. I knew this was gonna be a good one from the opening picture. The Astrantia, the Nigella, the drumstick alliums, so many things I love. Stunning pictures, great plant list. Have forwarded to some gals I know who are interested in growing flowers for cutting. (Discovered your blog through Jane at SmallbutCharming.)

  29. Thank you Belinda for a fantastic post and for the time you must have put into it - the photos are gorgeous.

    I tried my hand at a cutting garden this year in one of my raised beds. I sowed different variety of cosmos and they just keep coming! Love-in-a-mist spring up everywhere in the gravel and I've had some success with fragrant stocks.

    Invaluable advice and pointers here and I look forward to next Friday's edition in your cutting garden series.


  30. Belinda, these truly are lovely. I have just spent several hours looking at (and for) sources of seeds and can find most of what I think I want. But I do have questions about Astrantia. It seems a bit difficult to find in the US, but I also found notes that it does better in "cool summers" when the night time temp drops before 70 degrees (I think that's about 20c - Americans don't do well with Celsius, you know.) I also found that it grows well in "full sun", or in "part sun", or in "full shade". What is your experience with these two variables? I really love it and want to try it, but have some reservations following the failure of my ranunculus this year. thanks. webb

  31. After re-reading my first comment, I went back and looked at my nursery order and see that yes, I really did order three Astrantias, and than you already said "partial shade". I have a couple of borders that will fill that bill, altho I am still concerned about overnight temps.

    Am clearing out an area in full sun for cutting flowers to start this fall, but am now planning an additional bed that gets only morning sun - 6 hours. Mitchell has already agreed to it - hoorah! no more comments this week!

  32. So ummm, if you could just get that printed up in a wee leaflet for me, I don't think I'll ever need another plant book again! This is fabulous.

    From your blog's newest fan!

  33. Calling by from Post of the Month Club, what a lovely post. I used to grow masses of some these flowers when we lived in the UK.

  34. Wow, thank you for putting all this together so completely! Good news, bad news - we live in a rental, so no need to invest in putting a garden in. I can just enjoy yours :) So many of your flowers are new to me. Loved every word of your post!

  35. Hello. Not sure if you still monitor this post but this was exactly what ive been looking for to get some new ideas for my cutting patch so thanks! Also I have cut lots of Foxgloves and found they have a very good vase life. Still looking practically the same after a week. Starting to look a bit sad as they head over 10 days. I think it's about picking them at the right stage :)