Mr Fothergill's Zinnia Early Wonder Seeds
Whether you’re picking, giving, receiving or simply admiring them, flowers bring joy and elevate spirits. We’ve rounded up 13 expert tips on growing your own blooms from flower farmer Sam Webb (@sam_and_wild_violet_garden).
Many flowering plants need full sun (six to eight hours) to thrive, but ideally there should be some protection from the hot afternoon sun. Some plants can tolerate more or less light, but always check plant labels prior to planting. Ensure the spot is also shielded from strong winds to prevent flowers from being blown over and damaged.
Healthy plants start with healthy . “Always improve your soil by adding plenty of organic matter, like compost and aged cow manure,” says Sam. If you have well-draining soil, use compost and manure as a top dressing, instead of digging them in. “This no-till method allows the soil structure to stay intact, which in turn leads to healthier plants and bigger flowers,” she explains.
“Grow what you love, but remember to plant for your region and to grow with the season,” says Sam. You may love peonies, but they resent the heat and will not do well in subtropical or tropical climates. Look to other local gardens for inspiration, or head in-store for advice.
Dahlias are a firm favourite in Sam’s summer garden. “It’s hard to beat dahlias for style and wow-factor,” she says. “Gomphrenas are the best ‘bang-for-your-buck’ blooms.” They put on a prolific flowering performance and require little water once established. “Chocolate Queen Anne’s lace are cruisy flowers and will self-seed too,” adds Sam.
“Once leaves start to form, begin feeding regularly with an organic liquid fertiliser that’s high in nitrogen, like nettle tea,” says Sam. This helps to promote strong leafy growth and stems. “But once plants start to bud, switch to a liquid fertiliser rich in potassium, like comfrey tea,” she adds. Store-bought organic liquid fertilisers will also help to boost flower growth.
“Give plants a good, deep watering,” says Sam. This encourages roots to grow deeper and helps keep plants well-anchored. But take care not to overwater. “To check if plants need watering, stick your finger into the soil to a depth of about five centimetres,” says Sam. “If it’s dry, then give them a good drink.”
Once seedlings appear, Sam recommends covering the soil with a layer of organic mulch. “Pea straw or lucerne will help retain soil moisture and also add valuable nutrients as it breaks down,” she explains.
The trick to getting bushier plants is in the pruning, which Sam applies to her dahlias. “Once seedlings have three sets of leaves, I pinch out the centre to encourage side shoots. It prevents them from growing a tall central stalk and will promote more flowers too.”
A thriving flower garden will attract both good and ‘bad’ bugs. “Bees will love it, but so will other insects like thrips and grasshoppers,” says Sam. If treatment is needed, try to encourage beneficial bugs or use organic sprays.
Some flowers – like Sam’s standard dahlias – need to be staked. She supports large blocks of plants by running string between posts at the ends of each row. “This ‘corralling’ method is suitable when you have a large group of flowers; for home gardens, it's better to stake plants individually using tomato stakes, star pickets or a metal plant support,” says Sam. Or you may prefer dwarf varieties of dahlias, which don’t require staking.
“Deadhead often to promote more flowers – the more you cut, the more it produces,” says Sam. “Don’t let plants produce seed, otherwise all their energy goes into seeding, rather than flowering.”
Pair flowers with other plants to create drama and interest. “The vegie garden offers lots of beautiful textures for contrast: asparagus foliage is fine and fern-like, while globe artichokes have striking, silvery-green leaves,” says Sam. Flowers can also be of benefit in the vegie garden, helping to encourage pollinators. “Cosmos and zinnia are the easiest to grow.” Scatter seeds over the soil and once they pop up, they’ll flower all season.
“Planting in separate beds of hot and cool colours makes for an eye-catching feature, but I personally think beds look best when they’re randomly planted, creating a riot of colour,” says Sam. “Know the heights of your flowers, too, so you know whether to position them in the centre or the front of your beds.”
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