Growing flowers from seed, following my breast cancer diagnosis, has to be one of the most joyful things that I’ve ever done.
Being able to step outside early on a summer’s morning, before the sun has risen too high in the sky, and look at the beauty of the flowers in my cutting patch has moved me to great happiness. Knowing that I grew those flowers from tiny seeds just intensifies that feeling.
I’ve recently started an Instagram account for my cut flower venture called @sunnypatchblooms. This is where I post all of the photos of my flowers and the arrangements that I’ve made with them. I noticed that the hashtag that I use very often is #flowersmakemehappy. So I thought that I’d try to describe why that is.
Right now in my cutting patch I have a fantastic array of different flowers. Five different types of sunflowers, including the obligatory giant ones, are sharing a bed and the sunshine with dahlias which I dug up and divided last autumn and are now happily blooming their heads off again. Sweet peas are romping away on the growing frame that I constructed myself; they look divine and smell even better. I have cosmos, snapdragons, cornflowers galore, nigella, zinias, godetia, Californian poppies, candytuft crown, nicotiana, larkspur, ammi or bishops’ flower, chocolate lace flower, phacelia, bells of Ireland, purple and green amaranthus and gladioli.
I have had so much pleasure from the whole process of nurturing my little cutting patch. From sowing the seeds, and impatiently watching for propagation when the first shoots appear, to planting out the tiny little seedlings. Then looking every day to see how much they had grown overnight and triumphantly spotting the first buds appear on their stems. Of course weeding, thinning and pinching out have had to be done; the latter two are tasks that I’ll have to take a more hard hearted approach to next year.
I’ve loved seeing each flower open – it’s a thrill that I haven’t tired of and can’t imagine that I ever will. What I didn’t expect was the huge number of bees and butterflies that have been feeding on the flowers. I knew that there would be some but I have been surprised at how much they have loved the types of flowers that I’ve grown…especially the blue and purple ones.
Dead heading used to be a chore, but now I enjoy it because I know that the more I dead head the more flowers I will get – it’s not for nothing that many of these plants are called cut and come again varieties.
For me, probably the best part of growing flowers is cutting them and bringing them into my house or giving them to friends and family. I usually cut first thing in the morning or in the evening, then condition the flowers by putting them into water so that they are at their best when its time to try to make them look pretty in a vase. I’m learning how to hand tie a bouquet and arrange the flowers in a variety of vessels. I’m definitely not an expert at this and have a lot to learn, but I have been surprised that some creativity has shown itself in my displays!
Amazingly, the flowers have kept going very well through this extended hot and dry weather with the help of daily watering. Once the flowers are exhausted, it will be time to pull them out, dig over the plot, fertilise and start the sowing process all over again. I actually sowed some biannual seeds at the weekend – lupins, delphiniums, hollyhocks and sweet Williams. These will flower next summer.
I’ve managed to look after the plot and the flowers despite the hip and leg pain that I’ve been experiencing recently. Liam has been a big help and I’ll be calling on him much more over the next month. I’m having my hip replacement operation tomorrow so I’m busily instructing him on watering, dead heading and cutting techniques. I’m looking forward to seeing the first vase of flowers that he arranges – if he puts half as much love into that as he does into me, it will be fantastic!
If you’d like to see more of the flowers from my sunny patch, please do have a look at my Instagram page @sunnypatchblooms