Herbs in the flower patch

Herbs really bring a dish to life when you are cooking. I feel the same way about adding herbs to my jam jar posies or bouquets. The texture and scent they add to a bunch of flowers really lifts them.

I thought of writing something about herbs this week after picking up a little book to read called ‘How to grow herbs’ by Ian Thomas. It was a fascinating read not only about how to grow herbs but also on their many uses through time.

Mint and lemon balm

Two of my favourite herbs I used last year in jam jar posies were apple mint and lemon balm.

Lemon balm is often used in salads and stuffings. I have read historically that it has been used to make a tea to help depression and anxiety or used to help indigestion. It has also been said to aid a good nights sleep and been used in essential oils. It has antibacterial and antioxidant properties and is thought to symbolise ‘good cheer’.

Mint is also widely used in cooking and is thought to aid digestion and nausea. It is thought to symbolise ‘warmth of feeling’.

I love the scent of mint and lemon balm. I do find they need conditioning well if they are going to last in arrangements. This involves cutting them when it is cool and then giving them a long drink overnight. These herbs can spread rapidly so I have contained them by growing them in pots. I was constantly snipping them for my jam jars so I never did end up getting the stem length for bouquets!

          
Rosemary

Best known to us for adding flavour to roast lamb, rosemary has a long history of varied uses. It was worn as a bridal wreath dipped in scented water in the Middle Ages at weddings and became a symbol of ‘love’. It was also well known as a symbol of ‘remembrance’ and was once thought to strengthen memory. It was even said to be burnt to purify the air at the time of the plague to help ward off infection.

Last year I planted a couple of ‘Miss Jessops Upright’ rosemary bushes and inherited a good sized mature plant in a pot. I found it to be fairly slow growing but I am hoping it will become more established in the garden this year. It likes a sheltered spot and in windy Scotland the protection of a wall can be helpful.

I like to use rosemary in buttonholes for weddings. It provides scent, texture and a strong background for more delicate flowers at the front. Most importantly to me rosemary is a symbol of ‘remberance’ and there is often someone special on your wedding day you would like to remember.

       
Marjoram

The marjoram I grow in the garden comes into flower towards the end of our summer. I use it in bouquets and jam jars as it has a good stem length. It is thought to symbolise ‘wedded bliss’ and like rosemary was worn as a wreath by brides in the Middle Ages.

Lavender

Lavender has many well known uses in products such as soaps, essential oils, cooking and as an aid to sleep. I use it for scent and texture in bouquets, jam jars and buttonholes and I also dry it to add to my real petal confetti. Again it is good for weddings as it is said to be a sign of ‘luck and devotion’.

Last year I planted some new lavender with mixed success. The plants I put in the flower patch thrived. However I lost some in the border where there is wet clay soil. Lavender does not like its roots sitting in water and in hindsight I should never have planted it there!

This year I am going to add to my lavender collection with some new varieties such as ‘Arctic Snow’ and I will find areas of the garden with well drained soil to plant them in.

Achillea

I grow achillea or yarrow in the flower patch to use in jam jars and bouquets. It is thought to symbolise ‘everlasting love’. Legend says it was used by Achilles to treat the wounds of his soldiers and that is why it got its name. It does like to spread quickly and sends out roots which can start to take over if you are not careful. I am going to give mine another growing season and then lift and divide it next spring to rejuvenate it and control the spread!

Dill

Dill is a herb we use to season fish but it also produces lovely yellow/green flowers later on in summer to use in bouquets. I have grown taller varieties which I have found need good staking to protect them from our winds. The Greeks saw dill as a symbol of ‘wealth’ and the Romans thought it brought ‘good fortune’. It is also widely used medicinally.

Bronze fennel

Bronze fennel is said to symbolise ‘flattery’ and being ‘worthy of praise’. It is widely used in cooking in many countries. After sewing it from seed last year I now have a good established clump in the garden. It is used in cooking and in medicine but I use the flowers at the end of the summer in my arrangements. They have yellow flowers with a distinctive aniseed scent. The foliage is also lovely in jam jar posies but needs conditioning well and I am not sure it would stand up to being out of water in a bouquet.

Myrtle

I planted this fragrant evergreen shrub in the garden last year and hope to use it in my buttonholes. It is thought to symbolise ‘everlasting love, fertility and fidelity’.

Nepta

Nepta catmint is a shrub I came across last year which has beautiful purple flowers. It is also a plant very much loved by cats who will role around in it. Luckily we don’t own a cat but I will need to keep an eye out for any neighbourhood visitors! I planted a couple of plants in the garden last summer. Some started to establish themselves and I used them in the last few bouquets of the season. Others did not do so well. Determined to have lots more in the flower patch I have been growing new plants from seed. Some I am overwintering just now which I sewed in the autumn and others are just starting to germinate. I will grow them on and plant them out in milder weather.

Borage

I love the bright blue flowers of borage which I used in bouquets last year. It is known to self seed so I am hoping I will find lots of it popping up across the garden. It can be used in cooking, herbal medicine and symbolises ‘courage’.

Bay

Bay symbolises ‘glory’, however there is not much glory in my wee bay tree plants. I planted them last spring and although they are still alive after over wintering, over the twelve months they just do not seem to have grown. I will watch them this year in the hope they get a little taller and I can use them with my flowers. If not they will be good for cooking with!

Basil and Thyme

These are two herbs very common in cooking which I would like to grow this year to arrange with my flowers. Thyme is meant to symbolise ‘strength and courage’ whilst basil symbolises ‘good wishes’.

Feverfew

I grew feverfew from seed last year and got lots of healthy plants but none of the daisy like flowers. They have survived the winter well so I am hoping I will get some flowers this season. Feverfew has been used in the past to help headaches and arthritis. It is said to symbolise ‘healing and protection’.

I hope you have enjoyed finding out about the herbs I use to arrange with my flowers. This has definitely not been an exhaustive list and there are many others you can try. Have you ever used them in arrangements? If you have which ones do you like?

As a self confessed plantaholic I cannot resist adding to my stock in the garden and trying new varieties. One place I must visit in the spring is the Secret Herb Garden at Damhead near Edinburgh. I have heard they are an excellent place to source herbs and make very good cakes too!

 

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Triumphs and tears – the best bits of 2015

With another storm raging outside it feels like a good time to stay in with a cup of tea and look back on the last twelve months, and wow what a year. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would have the journey I have had in 2015.

I have gone through every emotion possible! The excitement of a new venture. The high after finishing my first wedding flowers. The warm happy feeling that someone loves their flowers. The sense of pride knowing you have created something special, when you stand in the flower patch that was once a field. The sense of peace and calm after a chaotic day with my children that my garden gives me. The delight of a robin sitting next to me whilst I weed or seeing butterflies and bees landing on my flowers.

And yes there have been plenty of other emotions as well! Tears in the garden after plants have been eaten by slugs or battered by the wind. Crying when you have tripped over the garden rake and thrown yourself and all your newly cut flowers in the mud! The panic wondering if there would be enough flowers blooming at the right time for an order because you never knew what the weather or the plants were going to do. Most especially when that order was someone’s wedding! The exhaustion of early mornings cutting flowers before the girls have woken and late nights arranging them after they had gone to bed. Not to mention aches and pains from digging, lifting and other manual work. Those harder times have also surprised me about myself . I learnt despite loving my sleep and not being good in the mornings I could get up and go and cut flowers before everyone else wakes up. The odd tears were not a bad way of appreciating when to slow down, take a rest, ask for some help and realise that a few muddy flowers were not the end of the world, there will always be more to cut!

My aim was to grow some flowers in my garden and sell them on my stall at the garden gate. All I really wanted was for people to come to love homegrown flowers as much as I did. I look back over the last 12 months and think did that really happen? My first wedding, Gardening Scotland, running a charity stall, attending courses, running a weekly garden gate stall, networking and making friends with other flower growers. Cloudberry Flowers would not have been possible without every one of my lovely customers. So a big thank you to each and every one of you for helping turn my dream into a reality.

With so much happening in one year it has been difficult to choose the highlights and so it has turned into a rather lengthy blog! Here are my best bits ….

January 2015

A bit of snow and the very start of Cloudberry Flowers year with empty beds ready and some new propagating tables.


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February 2015

The first seeds sewn. An exciting time where I just couldn’t wait to get going but had to hold back a wee bit as it was still the middle of our Scottish winter!

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March 2015

The stall was ready and the first hellebores were blooming. Could they be used as a cut flower? Yes I found if conditioned well and cut at a particular point in maturity they could. They were beautiful.

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April 2015

A very exciting month as there were enough flowers to fill my garden gate stall and my home too. The table looked lovely with homegrown flowers down it for a dinner party. As the first flowers were blooming there were lots of photographs taken in April!




May 2015

A busy month with the flowers starting to bloom more and ending in a great trip to Gardening Scotland to be part of the Flowers from the Farm stand.

June 2015

British Flowers Week was a highlight where I spent some happy times with my girls hiding lonely bouquets for people to find and enjoy around town. It was also the month where we cracked on with digging up the rest of the field and creating new beds. The scented shrub border was also starting to become more established. Although still a slow start to the year there were now enough flowers to make some bouquets as well as jam jar posies.

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July 2015

The start of the month brought the end of the school year and with it lots of orders for jam jar posies and bouquets for teachers. The flowers were still behind by a few weeks but by the end of July they were really coming on. The roses were blooming, there were sweet peas and the annuals were now flowering. I also started my new venture making dried petal confetti using the flowers from the garden. The airing cupboard no longer had towels in it and was just full of petals!



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August 2015

This month the garden was full of flowers. The more you cut the more they came and I was able to provide buckets of flowers as well as jam jar posies and bouquets.

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September 2015

Maybe the most exhilarating, inspiring, nerve wracking and wonderful month of the year. Attending the British Flower Workshop Scotland course, a stall at Hartree for Macmillan Cancer Support and a beautiful wedding to do the flowers for.

  

October 2015

At the beginning of October there were still plenty beautiful flowers in the garden but as the month went on these slowed down in production or were battered by the winds. There were no longer enough to sell to customers but enough for me to have in the house and to practice making bouquets with. Here are some pictures of the last flowers from 2015.


November 2015

It was a month to take stock and plant lots of bulbs for spring next year. I was even surprised to find a few flowers still blooming and I even found some anemones in December in flower! November was also a good time to meet up with fellow Flowers from the Farm members where we looked back over the last year and made some plans for 2016.

December 2015

What a mixed month December has been. We have had gas works closing our road for the last six weeks. This severely limited the footfall past the stall and meant that it was not worth putting any wreaths out there to sell. Due to a mystery on where old pipes lay and new ones could be placed various parts of the garden have been dug up and will need to be in January. This has left me extremely nervous with all the bulbs and shrubs I have planted under threat from the digging. However only one small section of border has been dug up so far and we will just have to wait until the new year to see what will happen next.

December was also a magical month with the children full of snow at just the right times, baking, crafting, family and of course santa. I loved making wreaths using the best of what the garden had to offer at this time of year to make a cheery welcome on someones door.

It really has been an amazing year and thank you to everyone who reads my blog and visits my stall for your encouragement, advice and support. It has been wonderful to meet so many people that share my love of homegrown flowers and I am looking forward to an exciting 2016 growing lots of favourites and many new varieties too. Here’s to a flowery 2016!

Happy New Year x

 

 

Autumn flowers and the end of the season

October has been a beautiful month full of mostly dry days and some stunning autumn colours on the trees. It just makes me want to get my hiking boots on and get out for a good walk in amongst all our stunning countryside. In the flower patch things gave gradually started to slow down. The weather has been good but there has not been enough warmth or sun to bring out many new blooms. Having said that the cosmos, scabious and dahlias are hanging on and producing enough for me to cut and enjoy in the house.

Dahlias have taken me by surprise. I thought I would grow a few just to see but did not expect to like them. They seemed showy to me and I thought I liked more delicate flowers. I am now converted! I have loved my dahlias especially the waterlily varieties.


They provide some gorgeous flowers late in the season when other things are tailing off. They have a bit of a reputation for not lasting very long in the vase. Whilst I have found this true of the bishop dahlias, if properly conditioned the waterlily dahlias have lasted a lot longer. Some of my dahlias just were not right for bouquets. This variety yellow passions was enormous and a really vivid yellow, so was just too much to use and would have overwhelmed arrangements.

After learning which types of dahlia last well in a vase and which colours and sizes work in bouquets I have been spending October trawling through specialist dahlia catalogues.  I have drawn up as usual a rather large shortlist of new varieties I would like to grow next year which can be used in garden bouquets and also bridal work. It’s so hard narrowing it down. You think you have your list and then you spot another that you love which is not that different to the others. The trouble is you can’t choose between them so you end up ordering both. Not very business like but it just seems to happen when you love flowers!

This year scabious has been one of my favourite flowers and lasts absolutely ages in a vase. I did plant a lot, many buds emerged, but a disappointing number of actual flowers bloomed. I don’t know whether this was a general lack of warmth or sunshine but I am determined to get more to flower next year. I have the winter to figure it out!

October gives you a chance to look back over the season and see what has worked really well in the cut flower patch. Without out a doubt the calendula and cornflowers were the work horses this year, flowering all the way from May until October. Closely followed by the sweet peas and phacelia.

Of the new flowers I tried this year Nigella was my favourite. It is so unusual, delicate and has the most amazing seed pods. It did not flower for long, just July and August but I think with better successional sewing I will get more from this amazing flower next year.

By the middle of October sales had tailed off on the stall and flower production had slowed down. At this time of year with the stall closed and still a few flowers in the garden it gave me a chance to practice bouquets and enjoy some flowers in the house. We had fun dressing up one weekend to take some mock pictures of the flowers for a wedding.

Last stall of the season  

The girls thought it was a great idea for mummy to put her wedding dress on. It still fitted!  

Finishing selling the flowers also gave me a chance to start the big clear up in the garden. But first I started in the conservatory. I emptied it, scrubbed windows, floors, seed trays, benches and put it all back together. It was a day of hard work but worth it as it is now a much healthier environment for overwintering my seedlings in. Hopefully they will survive the cold, get planted out in Spring and grow into very strong plants. Now I just have to tackle the rest of the garden!

I have finished planting the bulbs, except for the tulips which I will do when the weather is much colder in November. If you plant tulip bulbs too early they are at risk of rotting in wet soil or getting tulip fire disease which is caused by a fungus. The fungus is less likely to spread in cold weather.

October is a funny month with the season growing to a close. It feels somewhat sad to pull the cut flower patch apart and get rid of all the annuals. But at the same time I’ve planted lots of seeds and bulbs which bring with it the hope of new flowers in the spring and kept me busy as I was missing seeing my customers. It has been a month to reflect on the season and what has worked well and not so well. To spend more time with my family instead of dashing to the garden to ‘just do something for a minute’ that turns into half an hour! We had a lovely October holidays where I could spend time with the girls doing all the things life seems too hectic for these days, baking, painting, making the Christmas cake, bike rides and leafy walks. I got a chance to be busy in the kitchen for an important birthday too!

November will bring the end of the planting and clearing up the garden, a much anticipated holiday where I won’t have to worry at all about the garden when I am away! Then it will be back to make some lovely Christmas wreaths. Doesn’t time fly!

Weddings, weather and widening my horizons.

Life has taken me down a totally new path over the last few months and never more so than in September where I have achieved things I never could have dreamed of a few years ago.  Walking around the dialysis unit seeing my renal patients as a dietitian and then becoming a mum to my 3 beautiful girls I never would have thought I would be doing what I am doing now. September has challenged me, pushed me completely out of my comfort zone, taught me new skills and led me to achieve a dream, growing and arranging wedding flowers.

The start of the month there was a big change in the weather. Previously I had been able to cut flowers early in the morning before the girls woke up for school. Now the mornings were chilly leaving dew on the flowers and no good for cutting. By the time I got back from the school run the weather was warming up and it was too late to cut! So flowers needed to be cut in the evening and this was also proving challenging as by the time I got bedtime stories and baths done it was dark outside! Time for a few nights out with a torch in the cutting garden. This had the added bonus that I finally found the attackers on my dahlias, 20 slugs in one night enjoying a good munch!

September saw the end to some of the flowers in the cutting patch and the start to others blooming such as scabious, rudbeckia, sunflowers and dahlias. I could see the buds coming out on the scabious and the July planting of phacelia and cornflowers but would they be ready in time for the wedding at the end of the month?

The weather was starting to make me nervous as we went through the month. It was dull, cold and at times wet and windy. Not conducive to bringing flowers into bloom. Some sleepless nights were going to be had wondering if I could do this and produce the flowers I needed for the wedding. Flower growing is certainly a nerve wracking job as you have no control over the weather. You can do everything you can to help things along. Covering the flowers to keep off the wind and rain, staking them well, continually deheading to ensure new blooms, but at the end of the day the weather is in charge and you just have to keep all your fingers and toes crossed!

September also brought with it a delivery of bulbs for planting in the autumn which will produce lots of lovely colour in the spring bouquets. Choosing is very hard when you love flowers as you want to buy everything! I finally narrowed it down to a good mixture of well known tulips, narcissus, hyacinths and alliums and some less well known bulbs such as ixia, camassi and triteleia . Yesterday was a beautiful day and as a family we all pitched in to help and got a good 600 in the ground. Just a 1000 to go now!

Lots of bulbs arrived! 

The girls helping me plant bulbs while daddy lifts the turf. 

  

Another first in September was running a Cloudberry Flowers stall at a charity fun day. I have ran the stall in my garden as a self service one since April but never done one in public before. I was unsure how well received the flowers would be, whether I would have the confidence to do it and enjoy it. However enjoy it I did and people seemed to love the flowers. It was a great day and gave me a good bit of encouragement to try new things with the business in the future. I won’t be so nervous next time!

The Cloudberry Flowers stall at Hartree charity fun day

When I started Cloudberry Flowers the garden gate stall in the garden seemed the perfect place to sell from. To me it meant customers could actually come directly to the place the flowers were grown and buy flowers that were newly cut, conditioned and arranged. The flowers would never have had to travel and people could come and choose the ones they liked at anytime of the day or evening. I even thought it might be a good way for men to be able to buy a woman flowers anonymously! However the stall is proving to have its pitfalls. We do live in a location with very little passing trade and unless you know it is there you will never see it. The high street can be really busy on a Saturday yet our street only 5 minutes away is very quiet. I have also found this month that there is a definite pattern emerging. Flowers seem to sell on Fridays and Saturdays but not Sundays so I will have to review this for next season and see if I need to change the days it is open. Some weekends the sales have been good and it is such a lovely feeling that people want to buy the flowers you have grown. Other weekends sales have been very poor and at times I have a high wastage of flowers on a Sunday night. This leaves you feeling a bit disheartened and questioning what you are doing wrong. Overall it is a bit of an emotional roller coaster and the stall has given me lots to think about and review over the winter as I start to look at next years season. Any suggestions and feedback about the stall will be gratefully received!

The Cloudberry Flowers Garden Gate Stall


I love to learn new things and since I stopped work as a dietitian before my eldest daughter was born I haven’t really stretched myself. I have dabbled in cake decorating and taught myself to do that through books and trial and error! I have had a lot of fun with making cakes for friends and family and still do. At one point I decided to teach myself how to make curtains and blinds for our old house. There was a major sense of achievement at the end of it but I can’t say I enjoyed it! As my mum knows all too well sewing was never a strong point of mine. As my family is growing up now I have found I really need to find me again, learn new things and find a career I love that fits in with being there for my children. September has given me a few opportunities, giving me a really good start in building up some floristry skills and finding my own style.

Growing my own flowers is great but you also need to know what to do with them. At the start of September I went to visit a new friend in the borders who had been a florist for many years and now grows her own flowers too. She was kind enough to share techniques for bouquets and buttonholes with me and it gave me a great start to go off and practice myself. In the middle of september I had a fantastic day at the British flowers Workshop Scotland in Edinburgh. It was a course dedicated to floristry skills using British grown flowers. I met up with fellow flower growers I had met before and made some new friends too. It was such an inspiring day working with beautiful flowers and gaining confidence in arranging them. Learning from different people I have found really beneficial. It has allowed me to practice varying ideas and skills to develop my own style that works for me and I now have the confidence to go with that.

The bouquet I made at British Flowers Workshop Scotland

My first flower crown made at British Flowers Workshop Scotland

It then got to a week before the wedding. I had the new found confidence in my own floristry skills but the weather was really playing havoc outside in the cutting patch. I have never watched the weather forecast so closely in my life! What it was saying was a lot of wet weather was coming our way and the wind was picking up too! Not good for the nerves this close to the wedding. A friend had an inspired idea of putting up a gazebo over a section of the cutting patch to protect some of it from the rain. So on the Sunday afternoon after being a bit dubious at the idea and having visions of gazebos taking of in the wind over the road my husband and dad helped out and put it up with a lot of reinforced roping! It worked a treat. The rain hammered down and it stood its ground. At least a section of the wedding flowers were protected! My phacelia that I had planted especially for the wedding were starting to bloom. Unfortunately my white and lilac cornflowers were not. I decided to cut them in bud and bring them into the warm to force them into blooming but it was a lost cause. If a cornflower is not ready to flower it will not!

Phacelia in bloom the week before the wedding.

The white cornflowers in bud but not ready to bloom for the wedding

 

Wednesday came and it was the start of the major cutting, conditioning and arranging for house flowers right up to Saturday and the brides bouquet, buttonholes and table centres. It was a week of hard work especially with the girls still to be looked after too. The appearance of grandparents on Friday was a godsend so that I could then just concentrate on the flowers. Once the flowers were cut, I knew I had grown enough and they were sitting conditioning in their buckets, the sense of relief was huge. I could now concentrate on using the skills I had been practising for the last few months to arrange all the beautiful flowers. I loved working with them, putting theory into practice and being creative. Now I had some lovely flowers and I just needed to get them there in one piece the next day! Going to bed that night I suddenly had a panic, what if someone decides tonights the night they are going to burgle the sheds and garages? My husband thought I was being completely daft and said of course they are not going to steal flowers, if they are going to steal anything it would be the tools or bikes! Needless to say they were all still there in the morning!

Travelling with flowers you have arranged in a variety of jars and vases is a bit tricky. Especially on small country roads where you really do feel every pothole as you go over them! Bubble wrap and strapping the boxes of flowers in with seatbelts worked really well and driving very slowly! I think the back window maybe needs a sign saying sorry driving slowly important wedding flowers on board! The flowers got to the bride and the wedding in one piece and driving home I felt so proud and happy of what I had achieved and judging by the number of yawns I managed that day more than a little tired! Hopefully my wedding couple will always look at phacelia, cornflowers and scabious blooming in September and be reminded of their wedding. That is the joy of using seasonal flowers.

My first bridal bouquet wrapped in twine and full of beautiful scabious, mint, cosmos, cornflowers, borage, phacelia, ammi majus, ammi visnaga, nepta cat mint, marjoram, eucalyptus, salvia, sweet peas, perovskia or russian sage, physostegia and didiscus.

Buttonholes wrapped in twine and made with rosemary, white heather, echinops, cornflowers, nigella seed pods, achillea, rose and weigela leaves.

Table centres in jam jars wrapped in twine and full of cosmos, mint, echinops, cornflowers, salvia, phacelia, ammi, borage, nigella seed pods, briza grass and sweet peas.

So now sitting on monday morning after the wedding writing this blog would I grow the flowers for a wedding again? Definitely! To grow and arrange the flowers for a couples wedding is an amazing privilege and for a while you are part of their dream which is a special place to be.  

Seeds and the start of spring

I have read a lot this year about not sowing your seeds too early. I sewed some sweet peas in January/early February but managed to resist with all my new ones that kept popping through the post. Last year I managed to grow cut flowers which bloomed from July right through to October. This year I would love to be able to provide you with flowers from much earlier in the season, ideally from April depending on the Scottish weather!

Now it is getting towards the end of February, the days are getting longer and we have seen a little sunshine. So last week I gave in to temptation and cracked on with planting some hardy annual seeds. Hardy annual seeds can be sown in the colder weather and can survive some frost. These seeds will flower this year but for one season only. Some of the seeds I have started this week are sunflowers, bells of Ireland, bupleurum, cornflowers, calendula, stocks, nigella and phacelia.

It is a bit of a military operation planting lots of seeds at one time as they all like different conditions to grow. Below you can see the heated propagating bed up and running with some of the seeds in it that like bottom heat and light to germinate.  I also have seeds in the bathroom, in the airing cupboard covered in newspaper where it is warm and dark, and even some in the fridge. I think my husband is beginning to wonder where he is going to find the next the ones!

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I don’t sow all my seeds at one time but will sew them in succession over the next few months so I will have flowers right through to October. Last year I was really bad at labelling seeds properly and ended up in a bit of a muddle not knowing what was what. So this year I am trying to make sure I label all the plants and write down the dates of when I sowed them.

Here is a picture of the sweet peas I sowed two weeks ago. They are all starting to germinate now and when they have grown a couple of pairs of true leaves I will pinch out the growing tip. This will encourage them to produce side shoots and make bushier plants.

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Below is a picture of the branches I brought into force a couple of weeks ago. The blossom is just starting to come out on them now. Another week in the warm and they will make a pretty display of spring blossom in the vase.

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Back in late November I planted tulips to cut in the spring. At the time I hoped I had waited until it was cold enough to plant them. Unfortunately the weather was mild and wet before Christmas and I was really worried I had planted them and they would have rotted away in the waterlogged soil. However this week I was really excited to see them all start to pop up out of the soil so it won’t be long until we have some lovely tulips to cut! I am looking forward to watching what else comes up in the garden in the next few weeks as the weather gets warmer.

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Sweet Peas

This week I got itchy feet to start sewing my seeds so I have started with sweet peas.

I have read a lot of conflicting advice about sowing sweet peas, which makes it difficult to know where to start. Gardening though is all about trial and error! I decided to soak the seeds overnight before sowing as I had read this may help germination. I have also read you can make a small hole in the seed to allow moisture in, but I was a bit nervous of doing that in case I destroyed it.  Next I put the seeds in deep root trainer trays filled with compost, which suit the sweet peas long roots and watered them in well.

I was faced with more conflicting advice about whether sweet peas should be covered in newspaper to exclude light to germinate or cover with glass to allow light in. I opted for the newspaper, in the airing cupboard full of towels and I am hoping the seeds will germinate in there soon. It was the warmest place I could think of in our old cold house at this time of year. As soon as they have germinated I will get them into the light and the cool conservatory so they do not get too leggy. You can also sew sweet pea seeds direct into the soil in your garden but the risk from mice (and for me slugs) is too high, so I sew indoors and transplant out later when I have some decent sized plants.

Last year I grew sweet peas for the first time and used them in mixed bunches and jam jar posies. What I loved about them was the more you cut them the more they just kept on flowering and the scent is just divine! They do have a shorter vase life than some other flowers of about 4-5 days.  However the great thing about buying locally grown flowers is that they will be cut freshly for you and you know they will last the longest possible time in your vase at home. Buy a bunch of sweet peas and they will fill your room with scent and look lovely in a vase on your kitchen table.

This year I am going to experiment with growing many more varieties of sweet pea to find out which are my favourites. I am growing spencer, heritage, grandiflora and multiflora varieties, in a range of colours.

When I started to write about sweet peas this week I searched for a picture I had taken of them last year and realised I was struggling to find any! I had a few pictures of them mixed in with other flowers, but not on their own to show you how beautiful they are. Note to self must take many more pictures of my flowers this year! I will leave you with a couple I did find of my sweet peas in jam jar posies

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These flowers are beautiful, delicate and deliciously fragrant . Look out for bunches of sweet peas on the stall later this year!

A few favourite flowers

With another week of snow, ice and all the snowdrops covered up I thought I would write about some of my favourite flowers I grew in the garden last year and what makes them special!

Hellebores

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Last year was the first year I really took notice of Hellebores in the garden. It was our second year living at our new house and I had never grown them before. Unless you looked closely you might just miss them altogether as the flowers tend to face downwards and get buried behind their leaves. Hellebores in our garden are the first flowers to bloom alongside the snowdrops, a first sign of spring after a long winter. They are beautiful and make a good cut flower as long as they are conditioned well and cut at the right time. If you cut hellebores too early before their seed pods are developed they will wilt in the vase.

Philadelphus Mock Orange

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Philadelphus is a flowering shrub I just love due to its fantastic citrusy scent. It grows at the top of our steps leading to the cutting garden and as you climb them the scent just hits you. Philadelphus Mock Orange was one of the main reasons I wanted to grow flowers for other people. Shop bought bouquets were often so disappointing with virtually no smell. I wanted to grow flowers that smelled wonderful for my stall so other people could enjoy bringing a cottage garden feel into their homes.

Alliums

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I like alliums, so much so I have planted a lot more to come up this spring! They look very striking in a bouquet of flowers and provided you change the water in your vase every couple of days there should be no problem with the oniony smell associated with them. A couple of drops of thin bleach in your vase water will help too.

Roses

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I think roses have always been a firm favourite of mine. For the last two years I have had a couple of climbing roses in the garden including Dublin Bay which you can see in the picture above. As I had so few roses last year I was not able to use many for cutting and the ones I did have were not strongly scented. One of the main things I wanted to expand this year was the number of roses I had. I have created a new rose bed and also potted some in containers for the patio. All the roses I have chosen are good for cutting but also most importantly strongly scented! Some of the roses I have planted include Queen of Sweden, Gentle Hermione, Diamond Days, Chandos Beauty, Ice Cream, Caroline Victoria and Warm Wishes. At the moment they are all bare root roses just peeping out the soil and I can’t wait to see them grow and flower later in the year!

Sunflower Vanilla Ice

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Last year I enjoyed growing sunflowers as a cut flower for the first time. I had only ever tried to grow the tall varieties before with the kids to see whose could be the tallest! The vanilla ice variety produced smaller heads on branching stems which were lovely in jam jar posies and bunches of flowers. The one problem I had last year was the wind and I lost one or too plants after particularly stormy nights. I had staked them but obviously not enough! 2015 has been declared by  Fleuroselects Home Garden Association to be the year of the sunflower so I will be trying to grow a few more varieties as cut flowers for you and I will be using much stronger stakes!

Cosmos

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I loved growing cosmos last year as it just flowered and flowered! It is also a beautiful delicate flower and lasted well in a vase. I will be growing lots more of these this year and trying some yellow and orange ones for a bit of variety.

Scabious

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I grew this flower as it was a cut and come again flower and it did just that all the way to the first frosts. It starts to look good in bud but then develops into the most beautiful flower and the stems were nice and strong for using in bouquets.

Phacelia

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I really loved the look of phacelia in bouquets and jam jar posies last year and it was something a little bit different. It also has the added bonus of being able to dig it into the soil at the end of a season where it acts as a green manure!

Ammaranthus

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I grew ammaranthus last year because it was something completely different with its bright red tassels! It lasted brilliantly in a vase and produced flowers right up to the first frosts. You could mix it in with other flowers in a jam jar posies or it looked great with a few stems together in a vase on the kitchen table.

Zinnia

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Zinnias were a favourite of mine last year firstly because I really did not think I could grow them! I knew they liked the sun and warmth in the soil and being Scotland I just did not think it would be warm enough! To begin with there was very little growth and then I put them under fleece tunnels, we had some good weather and they took off.  They were so bright and colourful and lasted a couple of weeks in a vase. I am going to grow them again this year and fingers crossed for a warm season of growing so we can enjoy them throughout the summer.

These flowers are just a few of my favourites from last year. There are far too many new gorgeous annuals that I discovered to mention! It makes you want to fast forward winter so you can get growing and enjoy them again! I would love to know if you had any flowers from the garden last year what your favourites were! Maybe you can remember flowers from your childhood or gardens you have visited that you would like to see again. I am always looking for new varieties to try!