Lockdown Projects: a mini cutting flower garden

I really thought 2020 was going to be a year where all my detailed plans for weddings would pay off, but my wall planner quickly became a mess of cancelled plans, scribbles and arrows as we worked with resilient couples to rearrange their spring and summer weddings. I expect most of you reading this have had to adapt quickly as the year has thrown several curveballs our way.

The couples who booked us to be their wedding florists ths year have been real troopers, managing the unertainty of the times with kindness and understanding. We’ve rearranged all their events with minimum fuss.

But, it does feel strange to have more time on my hands during the spring and summer, which are usually hectic seasons as the IPR studio fills with freelancers and flowers. So, I have given myself a few ‘lockdown projects’, and by way of documenting these unprecedented times (how many times have we said that this year?) I have recorded one of them here.

phlox flowers

A mini cutting flower garden

For a long time, I have wanted to grow flowers in my garden to supplement the blooms that we buy from wholesalers. Since January is generally a quiet month for my work, I took the time to think more seriously about what would grow well. This was obviously pre-lockdown; little did I know I would get to enjoy them all myself rather than using them for events!

Ivy Pip & Rose is run from my home studio and the garden is a communal space. Since I’ve lived most of my adult life in flats without gardens, I have some catching up to do when it comes to gardening knowledge.

These were the basic things to think about these factors:

  • the garden is south facing so plenty of sun.
  • the climate here in west Wales in generally wet and rainy. Since we are on the coast, we have slightly milder weather than elsewhere in north Wales.
  • there was a scruffy ‘patch’ measuring about 5ft by 5ft that sits away from the main garden. I dug this out with a view to planting flowers here.
  • there is also space around the house, where I could arrange planters.

I turned to my Floret Farm’s Cut Flower Garden book, which I pick up regularly (their website is also an excellent resource).  I had also read about The Flower Appreciation Society’s small East London cutting garden which inspired me further.  Watching Gardeners World, and Jen’s tips from the The Laundry Garden.

Apart from some corn poppies, which I have grown from seed. For the rest, this time round, I decided to buy seedlings rather than grow everything from seed. I invested in a bulk purchase from Sarah Raven because their site has a section dedicated to cut flowers – just what I wanted.

Making use of what I’ve got

When shabby chic weddings were all the rage, I bought some old apple crates from eBay for storage and display. With some liners and holes for drainage, they are now working well as planters. I will definitely buy some more for next year as they so much inexpensive compared with traditional planters, yet they still look good. They are still light enough for me to be able to move them around the garden, and at the end of the year when the blooms are dying off they can be stored ready for next year.

What is growing well

I chose a variety of colours of flowers to grow that would be suitable for wedding bouquets – whites and pinks, for example. I also chose varieties that I struggle to get from wholesalers, like creme brulee phlox and straw flower. When I started writing this post (mid June) the weather had been spectacular; the sweet peas and orlaya were thriving and the nigella is about to bloom. A few weeks on and we have had a lot of rain. But the flowers are holding their own, in early July the orlaya has finished now and the nigella got a bit battered in the wind and the cosmos and straw flower are starting to flower. The poppies are just starting to bloom and zinnias thinking about it.

The patch I cleared, is behind mature shrubs and under a rather large tree – both elements creating lots of shade. Not ideal for some the flowers I had in mind. This area has therefore been turn into a vegetable bed, amongst other things – it’s a bit of a hotch potch but it should provide me with some radishes and potatoes! Next year I will think again about this space – perhaps foliage is a better idea and shade loving herbs.

What have I learned so far?

It is enormously satisfying, but the plants need care and nurturing.  Everything is looking better this year because I am putting the care into feeding and watering.  There is so much to learn and I believe it is very much trial and error. I am thrilled that I have given this project an earnest effort and am already thinking about what to grow ready for the spring.