Winter is for Dreaming up a Cut Flower Garden

Winter is for drawing-in and dreaming up plans for spring…

Thoughts of growing flowers for your breakfast table, sharing with friends and the bees is a beautiful reverie to get you through the cold. Find a spot of winter sun, bring a notepad and pen, and turn spring flower thoughts into your own cut flower garden. 

Whether you have an area of lawn to convert into beds or simply a patio with space for a few pots, there is incredible choice for spring and summer flowers, from ethereal Nigella and floaty chocolate lace to bright and cheerful summer Zinnias and Dahlias. Prepare the soil now so you’ll be ready for springs’ warmth and heady possibilities, your mind will thank you for the time spent in the soil too.

You’ll need a sunny spot (that receives a minimum 6-8 hours sunlight during the day), this could be a sunny patio for pots, a bare patch of soil begging to be filled or an unused area of lawn. You’ll want to make sure the area is well-draining, so after watering the area check that there are no pools of water that sit there for a while. Scoop up a handful of your soil, is it heavy clods of clay, loose and sandy, or fluffy-feeling dark rich loam? 

Sandy soil tends to be well-draining but is drier, loses nutrients easier, and gets hotter in summer, which gets tricky for cool-loving plants. Clay soils retain water and nutrients better, but can be heavy and waterlogged which plants generally don’t appreciate. Loam soil is ideal but take heart, adding compost to either soil helps solve these issues and there are flower options for all types. 

If you have an area of un-used lawn, consider using a ‘no-dig’ method to re-purpose this area for flowers, an easy way to prepare flower beds that requires just 2 things: cardboard and compost. To do this mark out each bed (a practical width is 1.2m) with string tied taut between poles to make straight lines, lay cardboard sheets (such as those from packaging or moving) over the lawn, overlapping each piece to ensure no gaps. Spread a 10-15cm layer of compost on top, and water it down. After a few weeks the lawn and the cardboard will have decomposed and you can plant straight into the compost. A no-dig method lessens weed germination and improves soil beneficial organisms and microbes which means healthier plants and less work for you. 

Tip: For the best information on this you will want to look up Charles Dowding’s videos on how and why to do this.

If your cutting garden will be a collection of patio pots, choose flowers that will grow to a maximum height of 1.5x the height of the pot. Soil in pots dries out quicker than in the ground, and warms up quicker in the spring, so stay away from cool-loving flowers such as Larkspur and Nigella. Lay a layer of stones at the bottom of the pot for drainage and fill with potting soil. 

Not all gardens were created equal in terms of soil and sun so choosing what works best for what you have helps with planning what to grow and where. Growing a mix of various flower forms or a certain colour palette will help when putting flowers together in a bunch or vase. Here are some spring-planting options for a variety of growing conditions:

  • For sandier soil try Scabiosa, Cosmos, Rudbeckia, Statice, or yarrow, as these plants love the free-draining position, and can tolerate lower nutrients in the soil 
  • These flowers appreciate light shade or afternoon shade: Rudbeckia, Nigella, Calendula, Phlox, Larkspur
  • Save the hottest and sunniest areas for heat-loving Zinnias, Celosia and Amaranth
  • For clay soil try the obedient plant; coral bells, Echinacea or Choreopsis
  • Save the best seat in the house (sunny, rich in organic matter and well-draining) for your Dahlias, roses and snapdragons
  • Perennials are sustainable choices as their roots grow deeper as they establish which means they are more water wise and don’t require repeated purchasing of seeds. For perennials that make good cutting flowers try Penstemon, Alstroemaria and Echinacea
  • For maximum harvest from a small growing space or when growing in pots you want ‘cut and come again’ flowers such as Zinnias, Scabiosa, snapdragons, and Dahlias

Lastly, when planning your growing space consider using permaculture principles to help make best use of your growing area’s space and personality, how to design it for both beauty and to fulfill more than one function while using water efficiently. This may mean designing beds to echo the shape of the greater space, planning beds to be perpendicular to the gradient if growing on a slope to reduce water run-off, incorporating space for herbs or a picnic spot, and planting flowers where they can be enjoyed from inside the house. 

A full guide for setting up your own cutting garden and starting flowers from seed is available to purchase, contact Lisa on or via Instagram @wildly_sown.

For hard-to-find seeds and dahlia tubers contact the Hort Couture Flower Collective on Instagram @hortcoutureflowercollective.

by Lisa Barrett

Wildly Sown



Hort Couture Flower Collective