Growing flowers outside without protection

Growing Flowers without cover

butterfly on scabious

#Britishflowers hour Monday 13th March, hosted by Paula Baxter of Mill Pond Flower Farm @flowerpotpolly and Kirsty Reid of The Teeny Weeny Farm @tennyweenyfarm, notes by Jill Smith @Binnington Blooms.

The discussion on growing flowers without cover actually resulted in useful sharing of advice on the most effective ways of giving some sort of protection for growers without large polytunnels or greenhouse area.

Growing seed sown directly into open ground creates problems from poor germination, late sowing waiting for the soil to warm up and high competition from weeds.  Most growers start an early sowing undercover in at least a small greenhouse or polytunnel or in the house.  Underfloor heating was mentioned as a remarkably good propagating method.

Planting out young plants early in the season can be protected with enviromesh or caterpillar tunnels.

Working beds and mucking in winter then covering with plastic results in weed free, warm, dry soil full of worms which can give the best possible start to young plants.

Flowers grown predominantly without cover and exposed to the elements result in stronger stems and flowers.

Weather damage of flowers at picking time can create some problems with no protection – pick flowers in bud or just opening to avoid this, weather tends to only damage open blooms.

Roses can be badly affected by weather as well as pests and diseases, mulch after leaves fall and before spring growth to stop blackspot spores splashing up with rain.   Can be sprayed with milk which produces different fungi to colonise the entry points.  Garlic chives deter greenfly.

The hardiest perennials mentioned were Achillea, all herbs, most bulbs, astrantia, aquilegea hellebores  echinacea, rudbeckia & grasses.

Over wintered annuals and biennials will often look very poor at the start of spring but give them a chance and in most cases they will recover.

Properly hardened off spring sowings should be safe to go out without cover from May onwards.

Zinnias and Asters were highlighted as two annuals which do not always do well without cover in some parts of the country.

Perennial grasses are particularly tough without cover and are a useful filler. Miscanthus can be grown from seed.  Miscanthus dried doesn’t shed and is really fluffy, is good fresh also.  There are more than  100 varieties, Red Chief is a smaller one.  Other grasses recommended are  briza, panicum voilaceum, meadow grasses.  All  things feathery are in.

Broom is a staple in early season bouquets, apricot, lilac and white all do well  Best cut when showing some colour but can be forced a bit for earlier.