Flowers bring colour, texture and scent to our gardens and provide a welcome source of food for pollinators. With a little patience you can grow many flowers cost-effectively from seed. Short of time? You can also create an instant flower border in just a few hours using garden-ready plug plants.
We asked some of our favourite gardening bloggers to share their simple secrets for growing spectacular flower gardens. Here’s what they told us…
Know your soil
It’s easy to snuggle up on the sofa with some gardening books or search the internet to find images of flowers that you’d love to grow. But the old adage, “right plant, right place” is never more true than when it comes to growing flowers. Before you get carried away choosing specific blooms, Alison Levey, of the Blackberry Garden advises:
“It’s always good to know what the soil is like in your garden. There are tests you can buy to see how acidic/alkaline it is, and you can also check if it’s clay by seeing if you can squeeze some into a ball.”
Figuring out your soil type is one part of the equation, but you also need to bear in mind how much sun your flowers will get and how much water they’ll need. Over at Carrots and Calendula, Ciar Byrne blogs about sustainable gardening. She says:
“I think it’s important to work out what plants will grow well in your garden without too much assistance…plants shouldn’t need too much extra watering, even in dry patches. This year I’ll be trying some more Mediterranean plants including Lavandula angustifolia and Santolina chamaecyparissus.
The easiest way to find out what will thrive in your garden, suggests Alison Levey, is to see what’s growing in neighbours’ gardens around you. It’s not a foolproof test, but it will give you a good guide.
Choose a colour scheme
“Planting your garden is a bit like decorating your house,” says Carol from The Sunday Gardener, “you plant to your preferred style and colours – what you like to look at.” You can opt for maximum drama or peaceful unity, but in either case, here are some tips:
- Choose a style: “There are so many styles to choose from ranging from the cottage garden, to stylish prairie planting to architectural plants,” says Carol. Figure out what style you’re most drawn to and keep everything consistent.
- Choose colours: Use the colours you enjoy, and think as though you were decorating a room in your house, says Carol. A breathtaking colour combination Nic Wilson of dogwooddays wouldn’t be without is purple and orange. One of her favourites is the delicate bell flowers of Cerinthe major ‘Purpurascens’ contrasted with Calendula officinalis nana ‘Citrus Cocktail’ or Californian Poppy ‘Sun Shades’. These annual flowers last for months and self-seed in her garden, but are easy to remove in areas required for other plants.
- Choose something to repeat: Carol says, “a good rule to bear in mind, whatever your style, is to have a theme and repeat it. This can be one plant, or a small number or recurring colours – but repeat planting and use of colour gives the design structure and avoids it looking bitty.”
Select the right flowers
Once you’ve identified your soil type and situation, decided on an overall style, and chosen your colours, it’s time to think about specific flowers. A combination of annuals and perennials usually provides the most successful display, starting with the tallest at the back and the smallest at the front. Holly Taylor, T&M’s online manager adds that the best way to use a website for planning is to refine your flower search by soil type, hardiness, amount of sun and colour. That way, you’ll quickly zone in on the flowers that are most likely to flourish in your garden.
For height at the back of your border, don’t overlook the value of climbing plants on a fence, trellis panel or obelisk, says The Sunday Gardener, Carol:
“There are so many different types of climber plants to choose from providing a long flowering period. The Clematis group alone has a wide range of flower shapes and flowering times. Another favourite is the highly-scented annual sweet pea, but there are also some less common climbing plants like the annual Cobaea scandens (the aptly named cup and saucer plant). For cooler northern gardens, Tropaeolum speciosum (the Scottish flame thrower) makes a real splash of colour.
Planting shrubs and perennials in your flower border helps to provide year-round structure and can reduce the amount of watering, feeding and dead-heading required throughout the growing season. Gill of Off the Edge Gardening suggests creating your dream border over time and keeping the costs down with clever use of annual seeds:
“Whilst waiting for your shrubs and herbaceous perennials to become established in a newly planted border, you may well have a few gaps. The perfect solution is to fill them with annuals! Many are easy to grow from seed and will quickly, and cheaply, provide you with a summer-long carpet of colour. My favourites are cosmos, French marigolds, cornflowers and love-in-the-mist, but there are so many to choose from you can have fun experimenting. Vibrant or subtle, tall or short, simple or outrageous, there’s something out there just perfect for your garden.”
Do you prefer annuals so that you can design a completely new display every year? Mike of Flighty’s Plot knows how to get the longest lasting show for your money. It’s simple: “Sow annual seeds in several lots to extend the flowering season.”
Keep your flowers blooming
Perennial flowers are generally easy to grow and require little attention once they have established. Annual flowers require a little more care – for the best displays you’ll need to feed and water them regularly, as well as remove faded blooms.
Alison of The Blackberry Garden explains:
“Deadheading is a key part of my routine in the growing season, it helps encourage more blooms and also helps most plants get more bushy. I don’t use pesticides in the garden so I try to encourage insect-eating wildlife like birds and ladybirds into the garden. I also like to give some of the more hungry plants a regular feed with liquid seaweed as that seems to keep them healthy and happy.
Planting your flowers close together will help reduce weeds and encourage longer stems. And if you’re growing flowers for cutting, add shrubs with interesting foliage to the centre of the beds to provide structure to your flower arrangements as well as the border.
We’d like to thank all of the gardening bloggers who contributed tips to this article. We hope it has given you food for thought and helps you incorporate more flowers into your garden in the coming season. For more expert advice, head on over to our summer flowers hub page.
Since the first seed catalogue was published in 1855, Thompson & Morgan has grown to become one of the UK’s largest Mail Order Seed and Plant companies. Through the publication of our catalogues and the operation of our award-winning website, Thompson & Morgan is able to provide home gardeners with the very best quality products money can buy.