Month: May 2014

May Posy

Purple FrillsI have been amazed at how much everything has grown in the garden this month.  We started May with the last of the Spring tulips in full bloom, progressed onto bluebells and have finished with Summer roses. Everything seems early responding to both the warmth and the wet.

May Colours

May’s blooms in our garden have been a beautiful late Spring colour palette of pinks, mauves and violet blues. These soft, pastel colours would make a fabulous Analogous Colour Scheme for a wedding or home decor. I have written previously in my March Posy Blog Post all about the creation of different Colour Schemes. To create an analogous look you pick 2, 3 or 4 colours on the colour wheel that are next to each other. You can either use them equally or use one as a dominant colour with the others to support.

Colour Wheel

Pink flecked with GreenWe started the month with pink viridiflora tulips – `Groenland’.  The  Hardy Perennial low growing Geranium sanguineum also made an early appearance. This pretty pastel pink Geranium is actually a British native wildflower and is perfect ground cover.

Geranium sanguineum



The star of the show this month has been my peachy pink Oriental Poppy. She has been greatly admired by my neighbours. Unfortunately the flowers were at their best when I was  on holiday. This is one of those plants that is a real showstopper, but is no good for cut-and-come again hand-tied posies.

Softly salmon
Papaver orientalisPapaver orientalis








In the back garden my father-in-law built me a fantastic trellis for climbers.   This month the clematis had been quite at home winding round the trellis. At the very beginning of May we had pale pink Clematis montana `Fragrant Spring’ in bloom and now we have semi-double deep pink Clematis montana `Broughton Star’. I also have a much bigger bloomed clematis underneath the apple tree. I wanted Clematis `Bees Jubilee’ to thread through the apple tree branches. However it prefers being lower down! This has meant I have now bought a climbing rose which I am hoping will climb more freely. 

Clematis montana Fragrant SpringClematis montana Broughton StarClematis `Bees Jubilee'

WallflowerThe wallflowers have been flowering freely for some time now. I have just given them the `Chelsea Chop‘. The Chelsea chop (so called because it is usually carried out at the end of May, coinciding with the RHS Chelsea Flower Show) is a pruning method by which you limit the size and control the flowering season of many herbaceous plants. There are a number of benefits to chopping back. Spring-flowering perennials can be persuaded to  flower again as long as the plant hasn’t set seed. Chopping back now limits overall height and creates plants with a more compact, bushier shape that is less likely to flop at the end of summer.

May has seen quite a few blue and mauve flowers in bloom. Brunnera macrophylla `Jack Frost’ is another plant which definately benefits from the Chelsea Chop. It is one of those plants which isn’t showy but is quietly dependable. 

Brunnera macrophylla 'Jack Frost'

Violet Blue Centaurea montana is also another vigorous stalwart. 

Centaurea montana

The other plant that popped up was Borage. I really do not know if I planted this or whether it self-seeded from somewhere else. I didn’t know what it was until I saw `Borage’ labelled in the Herb Garden at Sissinghurst  whilst on holiday earlier in the month. Apparently Borage makes a great herbal tea and goes well with Pimms!



The garden is beginning to see cottage garden perennials and Summer bulbs come to life. We have had foxgloves, allium bulbs and now roses. Unfortunately the bluebells went to seed whilst I was on holiday. Although I got to see bluebell woods whilst away.

Allium Hollendicum aflatunenseChivesGranny's Purple BonnetMatucana

















My greatest success this month has been the sea-side garden I am aiming to create in the front. Under our front window my husband had created an area with small stones on top of plastic matting. I thought it was functional, but boring! So gradually I have been adding to the stones. Every time we have a holiday by the sea I collect a few specially selected pebbles and shells. I was on a mission for driftwood last holiday! I have gradually been buying alpines and simply pushing them into the stones. It was a gamble as there is no dirt other than the moss which falls off the roof. However alpines are often found tightly wedged between cracks and fissures on rocky cliff faces or growing on steep scree slopes. My gamble paid off and the plants have loved their sea-side home. I really like the Sea-Pink as it reminds me of Summer Coastal holidays. In a few weeks time these plants will be joined by Agapanthus in blue and white glazed terracotta pots which have been over-wintered in our Greenhouse. 

Phlox amoena VariegataArmeria maritima AlbaGypsophilia cerastiodesSea Pink

Here is May’s Mosaic celebrating the flowers in my garden this month:-

May Mosaic


After having been on Sarah Raven’s Course to learn how to tie a Hand-Tied Bouquet last month I decided I’d better have a go for my Posy of the Month!  We had plenty of foliage in the garden – I particularly liked Rosemary for the aromatic scent. My next door neighbour had been admiring my poppies so I decided I would make her a Posy including one of my prized poppies. I also made posies for my mother and sister in law picking roses as the central `Wow’ flower.

I am in need of a florists bucket to collect flowers in.  No matter, I improvised and used a saucepan!

Freshly Picked


I was really chuffed with myself because I remembered to condition all the flowers by placing in boiling water and stripping the unwanted leaves and foliage. I also found it much easier to handle a smaller hand-tied bouquet. However I got in such a pickle with tieing it up without Sarah Raven to hand to help! It’s quite a tricky job to hold on to the flowers and tie up the stems without dropping the lot! Then I didn’t know how big the pretty waxed waterproof tissue needed to be. Waxed Waterproof Tissue I also couldn’t remember if the tissue went inside the cellophane or outside and if you placed the tissue all over the stems. I finally concluded the end of the stems needed to be free so they could suck up moisture and the cellophane needed to be on the outside. Then I couldn’t work out how to use two different coloured wax tissue papers in an aesthetic way. There also seemed to be a waxed side of the paper and an unwaxed side. I couldn’t believe how complicated it was getting! I won’t even mention trying to tie coloured raffia in a pretty bow! Actually the pretty bow needed to be done at the end over the cellophane so I ended up with two pretty bows not one! I have now watched Sarah’s You Tube video on `How to Create a Hand-Tied Bouquet’ and the tissue just needs to be lightly wrapped not tied. Finally I got to the cellophane sheets. Again how big did they need to be for a small hand-tied posy?! Sarah promises `These cellophane sheets are a must if you are growing your own flowers. With this floristry cellophane you’ll be able to wrap hand-tied bunches to give or take to friends.’ I’d even been on the course,  but I still struggled! It is clearly important that the stems are cut to the same length. I got in such a pickle and when I added the water it went all over the worktop and on to the floor. As for trying to make it stand up – the posy wouldn’t!  I had had a go though and the flowers were beautiful. I took the bouquet round to next door and apologised for the soggy tissue paper and suggested the flowers were put in a vase immediately!

Purple Poppy Posy


I got better with the next two. My sister-in-law noticed I had chosen to give her a prized David Austin pink rose `Strawberry Hill’ in her bouquet and my mum-in-law received quite a successful hand-tied posy with white David Austin `William and Catherine’ roses.

DSC_1780Purple Hues


Making my own Hand-Tied Posies for my May Posy has been a very steep learning curve. Once I had made them I tried out my new MDF backdrops painted with pink and purple paint to photograph them. To be honest my favourite shots are the ones with the flowers collected in the saucepan! I had such trouble trying to get the posies to stand still. My first effort kept falling over and then I got water everywhere again! Oh well I do think the saucepan shot is lovely!

Pastel Charm


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Growing and Arranging Cut Flowers

Last week I spent a fantastic day with Sarah Raven learning how to grow and arrange cut flowers. The `Growing and Arranging Cut Flowers Course‘ was held in Sarah’s garden at Perch Hill Farm in Sussex. It was a wonderful sunny day. Now as I sit at home looking out on to my wind swept garden with intermittent drizzle, Perch Hill seems to be a place where the sun always shines, everything blooms and looks beautiful and there isn’t a greenfly or slug in sight! I am sure this isn’t always true!

When we arrived we were offered tea and coffee. However it wasn’t any old common beverage! You could choose a freshly made home-made tea using flowers and herbs from the sunny conservatory and herb garden. This was brewed in a glass tisaniere.  I couldn’t believe how much use the team made of edible flowers. I thought the pretty pink pelargoniums were simply pretty flowers and didn’t realise they were used to decorate food and make tea!

Pretty Pelargonium


Pink Pelargonium

Edible Flowers















Mid Morning Treat

At break time we had scrummy cake with edible pelargonium petal decoration. Lunch was also a feast of home-made delights including salad leaves with edible Viola `Heartease’ and Calendula `Indian Prince’ petals. I’ve grown both of these and never considered eating them! Inspired I need to get cracking and sow some Edible Flower seed.

Edible FlowersTasty LunchYummy Dessert


I seem to have got distracted by the edible delights. However I was there to learn and not just indulge!

Planting Flowers for Cutting 

The morning was spent discovering how to grow a cutting patch, full of suitable flowers to pick and make beautiful bouquets. When growing cut flowers you have to make different choices than when growing a herbaceous border. The first choice is `square inch productivity’. To get a lot out of a small garden you need very high square inch productivity. Some plants have stupendous blooms, but tend to be one hit wonders. I learnt that a lot of the flowers I love fall into this category. I have recently bought a stunning Peony `Coral Sunset’, which I fell in love with at Chelsea Flower Show last year.

Coral Sunset I do know that the flowers are big and showy and absolutely lovely. However the blooms will be far too precious for me to pick them! We learnt that the perfect cut flower is cut-and-come again. This means you pick them and, within days, the flowers have come again. `To get large numbers of buckets of cut flowers from a small plot you need to devote most of the soil to growing cut-and-come-again flowering plants.’

Cosmos is an example of a fabulous cut-and-come again flowering plant. I grew Cosmos last Summer and the blooms went on and on all Summer no matter how many I picked.



Other good choices are sweet peas, cornflowers, zinnias, sunflowers, euphorbia, calendula, dahlias and chrysanthemums. The perfect cut flower plot includes more Hardy Annuals, Half-Hardy Annuals, Biennials and less Perennials. Cut-and-Come-Agains only stop producing when they run to seed, or when they get tired at the end of the season. This is where I went wrong last year. I planted lots of suitable seeds, but was afraid to cut the flowers as I didn’t want to spoil my lovely garden and pick all the blooms. If I had constantly picked my sweet peas and dahlias I would have had more and more flowers. In stead of thinking `What a waste to pick that fabulous flower!’ I need to think `I’m going to enjoy that bloom in the house and have more later on to give away in hand-tied bouquets!’ Sarah advocates rather than dead-heading, pick the buds and flowers earlier and live-head when the plants are in their prime.

I must admit I will never give up my roses or peonies even if they aren’t the most productive plants for cutting. These are my show stoppers which I adore. However Sarah did give me a few ideas of plants to grow I’d never considered before. I am going to try chrysanthemums later on in the year. To be honest they remind me of cheap garage forecourt flowers. However I know they always last in the vase and they provide colour in the late Autumn when the garden is going to sleep. I like the look of `Anastasia Green’ which looks big and bold and very architectural. Nothing like those white and red garage varieties which I dislike. Sarah’s Abundant Chrysanthemum Collection looks appealing. I really can’t believe I am saying that chrysanthemums could look appealing!

Anastasia Green

Abundant Chrysanthemum Collection



At the end of the `Growing’ Section we had a guided tour of the Cutting Garden at Perch Hill. I would love to work here! The garden is beautiful and there are wonderful views of the Sussex Weald. Add in a home-made lunch together with an atmosphere of peace and calm and working at Perch Hill would be my dream job!

Planting OutHard at Work

Handy ChairQuiet Haven

Sarah had organised the course in Early May to take advantage of the tulips. Bulbs are not Cut-and-Come-Again, however they do provide a riot of colour and a bit of glamour. This year we have had so much mild weather that the tulips were nearly over and the alliums were in bloom. I did see a kaleidescope of tulip colours in the garden.

Tremendous TulipsTulips for CuttingLast of the TulipsOrange Mix

These orange and yellow tulips would like great in the Stained Glass Vases on sale in the shop.

Multi- Coloured Vases Jewel ColoursVibrantWow!


I thought I didn’t like dark tulips, but these beauties have proved me wrong! They look so effective against the backdrop of the other jewel like colours. Wouldn’t they look great in those jewel coloured stained glass vases? I also saw a calmer palette of blues, purples and greens in the garden.

Stained Glass VasesPure Purple Allium HeavenPurple and GreenEuphorbia characias subsp. wulfenii


Apart from the beds there were pots full of prettiness where ever you looked.

Pretty PotsRambling Clematis

Creating a Hand-Tied Bouquet 

In the afternoon we were shown how to make a hand-tied bouquet, which Sarah made look very easy!  We were given advice about picking flowers. One point was to pick flowers last thing at night or first thing in the morning. Plant cells are full of water (turgid)  after a period of darkness when levels of transpiration and photosynthesis are low. Turgid cells don’t flop as easily. Cut flowers should be plunged straight into water and not left in direct sun. A flower bucket is a good idea and this one keeps the separate components of your bouquet separate.

Zinc Divided Flower Bucket

Sarah recommends choosing three types of foliage and three of flowers and a divided bucket seems a good idea.

Ready for arranging

The second step is to Condition the flowers. The bottom two-thirds of the leaves should be removed. Leaves in the middle of the arrangement clog it up and they go mouldy in water.  Stems should be seared in boliing water to stop them flopping and increase the vase life. Woody stems need about 30 seconds. Flowers also benefit from having a rest in a cool, dark place before you arrange them. I’ve never seared plants before so I am looking forward to my flowers lasting longer when picked for a posy.

Stars of the ShowGathered Ingredients

The next stage was to Make a Hand-Tied Bunch with our flowers. Sarah made it clear that organisation was key to success! She laid out the conditioned flowers and foliage in the order she would need them. Sarah also cut a length of string ready to tie up the bouquet. Sarah chose primary foliage to form the scaffolding of the bouquet. Her choice was acid green Euphorbia oblongata. With the primary foliage Sarah made a kind of sieve scaffold to pull the other elements of the bouquet through. She used other secondary foliage of Cerinthe major and Viburnum opulus. The idea was to create a loose, natural, garden style bouquet. Any excessive foliage was snipped off.

The start of a BouquetDeep in ThoughtRemains of the Day

For the flowers Sarah chose orange tulips as her main component. This was described as the` Bride’, the flowers which you most admire and have that `wow` factor.  These are usually the most expensive in a florist shop and the flowers you fall in love with in the garden. The Bride forms the centre of attention in the bouquet. Sarah combined her Bride with bridesmaids. These flowers are often similar in colour to the main flower, but not quite so showy. Sarah had chosen orange Calendula `Indian Prince’. These flowers are threaded through at an angle through the scaffolding of the foliage.

Vibrant Calendula

Work in ProgressOne More?Ready to Snip

The last flowers were what Sarah called `Gatecrashers’. These provide a contrast to the other flowers. Obviously if you want a bouquet which is full of calm, peaceful colours then leave the Gatecrasher out! Sarah chose striking purple alliums to contrast with the orange flowers.  The purple also picked up on the purple of  the Cerinthe foliage.

Sparkler Allium

Once arranged the bouquet is tied with the pre-prepared string.The stems are cut to the same length. Lastly the bouquet is wrapped in waterproof tissue  and cellophane.

Tieing UpReady to  wrapWaxed Waterproof TissueAll Wrapped Up Pretty

Finally it was over to us to have a go! I definately learnt by doing and by my mistakes…Firstly I forgot to put water in my bucket, so I was picking flowers in the heat of the day with no water! I think I was feeling like a kid in a sweet shop and was excited to finally pick my own flowers for a bouquet. Some of the foliage had already been picked for us and pre-conditioned. Sarah had advocated organisation. We were slightly pressed for time so I just got stuck in! That meant I couldn’t remember which flowers had been conditioned and which hadn’t. I also forgot to remove unwanted leaves and foliage. I had picked fluffy fennel as foliage, but Sarah said this was not recommended as fennel always flops.  I chose to use a different Euphorbia to Sarah as foliage. I loved the bright acid green colour. However it had one strong upright stem and couldn’t be made to form a scaffold to pull the flowers through. Euphorbia characias subsp. wulfenii I then thought I’d use the Viburnum as a scaffold. I was rather over exuberant and used far too much and had forgotten to condition the stems. The overall effect was I ended up with far too much foliage and leaves in my bouquet and my `Bride’ got lost! In fact I would say the guest foliage took over the wedding and the Bride disappeared from sight! I had so much foliage I struggled to hold the bouquet. The stems were so dense that when I tried to pull the flowers through some of them snapped off.  Cerinthe Major Purpurascens

I chose similar flowers to Sarah – beautiful orange tulips as the Bride, together with orange calendula and ranunculus as bridesmaids. I added in alliums as Gatecrashers. I learnt another lesson. It is helpful to pick flowers of similar length stems. My calendula and ranunculus had short stems and got lost in the bouquet overshadowed by the viburnum.

Hand-tied Bouquet

Blues and PurplesFinally I had not cut my string and needed assistance to tie up! In fact I noticed other people had similar problems and saw three people were involved in tieing up one person’s bouquet!

Hand-tied Bouquet

I learnt that producing a Hand-Tied Bouquet involves skill and forward planning. It is not just thrown together!

Spring BloomsBlues and PurplesMaking a Hand-tied BouquetWrapped UpFreshly Picked My Hand-tied Posy

Here’s mine posing back at our holiday cottage in Sissinghurst. The viburnum is starting to flop as I forgot to sear the stems. Some of our bouquets may not be perfectly formed, but the flowers are beautiful and a lovely reminder of a fabulous day. I learnt so much on Sarah Raven’s Course and I look forward to honing my skills over the coming months!

Hand-tied Bouquet

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