Genuinely romantic men grow their own cut flowers

Genuinely romantic men grow their own cut flowers

Win a place on a course at the Kitchen Garden School. See below for details

Last month a branch with a very early blossom on it broke off one of the ornamental cherry trees in the main garden I watched my husband from the warmth of the house take a pair of secateurs and cut the lonely fallen branch into long elegant stems.  He arranged them in an old French blue and white jug.  As he walked back into the house with my nine year old son running behind him, clutching the last of the stems, I had the equivalent reaction that women across the land had in 1995 in that moment Colin Firth walked out of the lake with his wet shirt in Pride and Prejudice.  He simply took my breath away. It was utterly sexy and beyond romantic.  Gone are the days when only pansies picked posies. Home-grown flowers are not only a statement of a man’s ethics and view of the world, they are also an intense and deeply personal gift to give, and even more so if he has picked or grown his own.

For me a truly romantic man grows his own flowers.  A man who wants to impress his wife, girlfriend, or dare I say mistress, could easily grow her a bunch of tulips with very little time effort or expense. There’s so much more love and sentiment in something you’ve grown yourself. What could be more beautiful than a big bunch of tulips sitting on the kitchen table, grown by your man? It would beat a shop-bought bunch of imported half dead flowers hands down.

It’s not difficult to plant tulips – it requires about 20 minutes of labour and a bit of planning. There are so many choices of flowers to grow as cut flowers, but a simple example say if your partners birthday is in July, would be to plant a beautiful hydrangea like ‘Annabelle’, and every year for years and years to come you could stroll in from the garden with a bunch of flowers for your loved one on their special day.  That is, as they say, priceless.

Genuinely romantic men grow their own cut flowers

Win a place on a ‘Grow your own cut flowers’ course at the Kitchen Garden School

I really love those kinds of gestures.  They don’t involve spending much, they help the environment and they make an occasion even more special. Anyone can go down and buy a bunch of flowers from the supermarket – they are generic produce in most instances. It’s a bunch we forget. You simply don’t forget home-grown flowers.  They are both unique and long remembered.

On the subject of supermarket flowers, unless you are buying British or Fairtrade, the terrible truth is that you quite literally have no idea when you put that bunch on the table, what you are buying into. You know nothing of the flowers’ provenance. You know nothing of the land they are grown on (recently destroyed rainforest?) the chemicals used, the conditions of the workers involved. More often than not flowers flown in thousands of miles are grown by large corporate fims who have very few ethical practices, or consideration for the environmental consequences of mass production of flowers on either the local population or the wildlife. I personally believe that caring about the person you are giving flowers to extends to caring about the environment we all live in.

Genuinely romantic men grow their own cut flowers

A selection of the flowers you’ll be able to arrange on the ‘Grow your own cut flowers’ course

On the other hand growing your own cut flowers is utterly romantic. The bees buzz about making honey, the insects feed the birds, the birds sing and there is harmony. It’s beautiful, and there is nostalgia as many people associate certain flowers with the people long gone. I for one can’t smell a rose or peach blossom without being reminded of my grandmother. The scent of freshly picked flowers can quite literally capture a moment. A wedding, a promise, a first kiss, a mother’s love. In that moment is a memory, a glimpse of the past, or the promise of the future. Imported supermarket flowers rarely have a scent, and your lady is quite likely to be sticking her nose in something that has been covered in pesticides.

Here we grow Thompson & Morgan flowers in all the borders; cornflower, Californian poppy, cosmos, ammi, scabious, nigella, gypsophila. We also use the vegetable patch, plant to get two crops from one bed.  I have hundreds of tulip ‘Queen of Night’ planted in with the rhubarb. Up come the tulips then up comes the rhubarb: you can double up even when you are short on space.

If you add up the cost of buying six or seven packets of seeds, it is a relatively low outlay and you have flowers on the table right through the growing season. The price of about 12 bouquets over 3 months means that they cost as little as 45p a bunch.

With the Kitchen Garden School cutting garden we have two 9 feet wide, 40 feet borders dedicated to cut flowers, in the cool colour spectrum: deep burgundies, blues and whites.  The only other requirement for a place in this garden for a plant to belong is that it can be cut. We have 20 varieties of rose, which are under planted with hardy geranium. We have rosemary and sage, which looks wonderful as foliage in a bouquet (particularly with roses) and we have agapanthus. There is something wonderfully exotic about agapanthus in a bunch. We also use the wisteria growing up the side of the house and pop the flowers into fishbowl shape vases and let them drape over the table.

The thing to bear in mind when you are first starting out growing flowers for your love is that a home-grown bouquet does not need to be structured. It can be whimsical and romantic, like a vintage tea dress. You can put anything you like in there. If you are putting together flowers for someone who particularly likes their food, consider planting an edible bouquet with roses, lavender, rosemary and other garden herbs or if your partner has just had baby boy then pick a blue posy.

Genuinely romantic men grow their own cut flowers

Rocky Coles, tutor and head gardener at the Kitchen Garden School

It’s not hard to put together a beautiful arrangement. Use a sharp pair of scissors and have a bucket of water to ready to pop the blooms in as you pick to keep them fresh. Tie flowers loosely or pop them straight into a jam jar. For me, a garden grown bouquet shouldn’t be precise or perfect; after all we don’t live in a perfect world. Relax, get creative and forget trying to produce the perfect bunch: the flowers themselves are perfect, and giving your true love a home-grown posy of flowers is quite possibly one of the most romantic things that a chap can do.

WIN a place on Vanessa’s ‘Grow your own cut flowers’ course in the Big Spring Giveaway! With expert guidance from head gardener Rocky Coles, you’ll learn how to grow beautiful cut flowers all the year round, get advice on how to look after the flowers once you’ve picked them, tips on weeding, deadheading, organic pest control, organic feeding and flower arranging.

Vanessa Kimbell
Vanessa Kimbell, an author and blogger, runs cookery classes at her home in Northamptonshire using either home-grown or locally produced goods and is a firm believer in sustainable, ethical food.

Growing your own cut flowers

Who doesn’t love a jug of flowers on the kitchen table?

When students arrive I pop warm muffins and a pot of fresh Fairtrade coffee on the kitchen table next to a jug of flowers. It makes people feel welcome and there are always comments on how lovely the flowers are.  But when it comes to everyday flowers sometimes things just don’t make sense.  Buying imported flowers is one of the things that in the majority of instances just makes me cross. For me flying flowers thousands of miles, using who knows what amount of energy to keep the flowers cool, goodness knows what pesticides to keep them pest free and paying a pittance to a poorly treated workforce who are more often than not exploited is senseless at best and irresponsible at worst.  I grow my own or when there are none in the garden I buy Fairtrade.

Growing your own cut flowers

A welcoming sight

I appreciate that there are certain varieties of flowers that only grow in special conditions, and I understand that if you want say, roses at Christmas, then of course we don’t have the climate.  That said the revolution of local, seasonal and sustainable food is upon is and I see absolutely no reason that the same can’t be applied to the British cut flower industry.

I acknowledge that sometimes flowers like bananas, chocolate and vanilla need to be imported, but if you are going to buy imported goods this is still your opportunity to make a difference by buying Fairtrade flowers.

If you want to enjoy flowers with a totally guilt free with a free conscience the best thing to do is grow them yourself in your garden or allotment.  I like Thompson and Morgan for a wide selection of bulbs and seeds that make beautiful cut flowers.  Lilies, Sweet Peas, Sunflowers, Roses, Dianthus, Gladiolus, and Gypsophila are just a few straight forward flowers that you can grow with very little effort and if you want to take your green credentials even further then buy some of the organic seeds they sell and then the following year collect your own seeds.

Growing your own flowers can save you plenty of money especially if you give cut bouquets as gifts.  It is also hugely beneficial for bees & insects providing food and habitats insects and in turn they help to pollinate your other flowers & vegetables and helping to maintain a healthier eco-system.

Growing your own cut flowers

Growing your own cut flowers

Not everyone has the space in their garden or the time to grow their own flowers, so buying them is their only option, however there is a lot of information, much of it from the cut flower industry itself trying to convince us that cut flowers have low carbon footprints. It seems to me however that they have gone to great lengths to prove that they are a green option, and yet most of the data I have read focuses solely on the benefits of growing flowers in naturally hot countries and then flying them into the UK compared to growing them in cold countries in hothouses which of course can be very energy intensive.  If we buy varieties that need little heat such as Cosmos, Nigella, Sweet Peas and Clary Sage like the ones in the photos above then this “comparison,” is utter nonsense.

If you want to think about the real impact of importing flowers one step further then consider this  – in developing countries where poverty is endemic and access to clean water is problematic precious dwindling water supplies are used to produce exported luxury inedible crops grown.

Is it right that large corporations buy up land and claim the associated water rights, and that is before you start asking what impact large monocultures have on local biodiversity, which we know even from our own intensive farming is detrimental to the environment.

I know, I’m on my soap box now, but one of the biggest concerns I have about buying imported flowers with no certification is the well documented use of chemicals used on commercial cut flowers either to control pest & diseases or to prolong their life during transportation.  Most imported cut flowers are grown in countries where there is little pesticide regulation which means that there is no control on the use of dangerous chemicals and a vast range of pesticides, fertilisers and fumigants are used in producing cut flowers such as DDT, dieldrin, methyl bromide and methyl parathion* have been banned in the UK and the USA for many years because they are deemed too dangerous to use in the industrialised world. (*source The Ecologist)

Perhaps one of the most worrying concerns I have is the issue of child labor in the cut flower industry.  A quick Google search using the words ‘child labor in the cut flower industry’ reveals dozens of organisations fighting for changes to protect exploited children in the industry.

When I chat to people who come on courses here most people haven’t even thought about where our flowers come from, however after a few minutes explanation the penny drops and people are quick to cotton on that they are easy and cheap to grow yourself and that locally-grown flowers have similar advantages to locally produced food. The flowers are fresher, have a longer vase life and they smell much nicer.

Vanessa Kimbell
Growing your own cut flowers

Vanessa Kimbell
Vanessa Kimbell, an author and blogger, runs cookery classes at her home in Northamptonshire using either home-grown or locally produced goods and is a firm believer in sustainable, ethical food.

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