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Start your very own wildflower garden

As featured in The Irish Farmers Journal – IRISH COUNTRY LIVING | 01 JUN 2016

Maura Sheehy of Maura’s Cottage Flowers shares her tips to create a wildflower cutting garden to supply you with blooms all summer long. This week, we talk about care and maintenance for your flowers.

I hope you are enjoying your wildflower garden project. Thank you to all the readers who have been in touch to say how much they enjoy the column. It is lovely to see that so many people are enjoying growing their own flowers and re-connecting with nature and their local environment. Flowers truly are food for the soul. By now, all your plants should be well settled into the soil and with the recent fine weather, you will see huge growth in the coming weeks.

I delayed planting out myself as it was quite cold up until a few weeks ago. My cosmos, calendula and love-in-a-mist are just starting to flower now.

The most important thing to remember is to keep the flowers well watered, especially on days when there is a strong wind and sunny spells and if the flowers are growing in a raised bed. If you are heading away on holidays, please do ask a friend to pop in and water your flowers. Weeds need to be kept under control, too.

Looking back to St Patrick’s Day when the project began, I suggested a list of 10 flowers to try growing this season. Here are a few suggestions regarding care and maintenance for the coming weeks.

1. Cosmos can grow fairly tall, so keep an eye on them and stake them if they need it. Staking is necessary for plants like cosmos as they tend to fall over in a strong breeze as they mature. Staking is straightforward. All you need are bamboo stakes and some biodegradable tying material such as twine. You push the bamboo into the ground close to the main stem and secure the stem loosely to the bamboo cane in a few places – basically towards the top, centre and base of the plant. If you twist the twine into a figure of eight, this prevents the stem being pulled too tight up against the cane. Be sure to start cutting some of your lovely flowers as soon as they appear if you want them to keep producing during the summer months, otherwise they will go to seed.

2. Cornflowers also require assistance. They have an upright posture. I don’t stake them individually; instead I place four stakes or bamboo canes around the bed and use a light rope attached to the canes as twine would be too light.

3. Nigella or love-in-a-mist is very easy to grow. It requires very little attention. It can be cut while in bloom or if you wait, its seed-head is beautiful mixed through arrangements.

4. Ammi majus grows very tall and is a light, airy plant. Use a tall, strong bamboo to stake these beauties.

5. Sweet pea will need that extra bit of care. They love a weekly feed and will need to be cut often as they go to seed really quickly. As discussed a few weeks back, sweet peas do need a climbing frame. The tendrils will attach themselves to the wire, but they need a helping hand, so don’t forget to attach the climbing plant as it reaches for the sky.

6. Antirrhinums are well able to look after themselves. They are generally a very sturdy plant and will not require staking. However, it is a good idea to cut them as they flower or at least to dead-head them once the blooms are gone. They are a brilliant flower to reproduce, so be sure to prevent them from going to seed.

7. Straw flower is fairly sturdy but towards the end of the season might need a bit of minding. A wonderful flower both cut fresh or dried.

8. Calendula is one of the easiest flowers to grow and will happily self-seed for you. They are usually low growing and require little or no maintenance, although they can be prone to greenfly.

9. Poppies, too, are very easy to grow and like the calendula will keep self-seeding. I use the seed-heads in buttonholes and bouquets. They have a lovely light green colour and are well worth growing for their fleeting beauty.

10. Larkspur is known as the “poorman’s delphinium” and, like delphiniums, grow tall and slender with their papery flowered spikes. They will need to be staked.

The Benefits Of Growing Flowers

There are so many benefits to growing your own flowers, including:

  • The plot itself will be brimming with colour, so its existence will be a beautiful addition to your home and garden.
  • You will have fresh flowers for your own use, to create natural arrangements to decorate your home and give as gifts to your friends.
  • You will know that you are contributing to the biodiversity by providing plenty of bee-friendly flowers.
  • It allows you the opportunity to unleash your personality, both in selection of flowers and colours and in the way you arrange the flowers.
  • You can use your flowers to create beautiful arrangements for special family occasions and parties.
  • Your success may be an opportunity to coax other people to get growing.
  • It’s rewarding. Any challenges or associated tiredness will soon be forgotten and replaced with fulfilment and a very satisfying sense of accomplishment.