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What is the slow flower movement and how you can be apart of it

allotmentalice
Published on May 16th 2021
6
by allotmentalice (All rights reserved)
A close up of a flower
We can enjoy the wonder of flowers in many ways. We can eat them, smell them and appreciate their beauty when picked and flaunted in a vase, brightening up any dull corner of a room. For Candide's Festival of Flowers this month, Alice Whitehead (@allotmentalice) shares a more sustainable approach to flower growing and buying. In addition to this, she shares some nifty tips for growing our own cut flowers in a more sustainable way.
Making eco-conscious choices doesn’t stop at the garden gate. The blossoming ‘slow flower movement' shows us that every time we order a bouquet or choose a bunch of flowers on the high street, we might want to think about how they are grown. From harsh monocultures to pesticide use and air miles, the environmental price of online or shop-bought cut flowers can often be greater than the price tag.
A close up of a flower garden
But a slower, more local flower-growing concept, which originally took root in the US, has seen a growing number of British florists embracing grown-not-flown practices. These ‘florist farmers’ grow their own flowers in the UK, predominantly without synthetic chemicals, and work with nature to produce more naturalistic seasonal arrangements. Flower from the Farm is just one group championing artisan growers of seasonal and sustainable British cut flowers.
But if you want to fill your vases with flowers at an even more leisurely pace, it doesn’t get much slower than growing your own. Here are my top tips for bumper blooms for the garden and the vase.
Join the slow flower movement and grow a bouquet in your own back garden:
Cut flowers being selected

The Cut Flower Collection

A close up of a flower

First, treat your cut flowers as a crop

Most of us tend to grow flowers quite haphazardly, plugging gaps in border or pots – and letting them do their thing. But if you want a productive cutting garden, it pays to think more ‘professionally’.
I always do a couple of sowings, so I have regular supplies. This means as I pick one row, I know a new batch is coming up the ranks behind them. I’ll get a head start undercover in later winter (about six weeks before the last frost), then sow outside in spring and early summer. I’ll pinch out the growing tips of my small plants when they’re around 10cm tall – because branching equals blooms!
A close up of a flower garden
Just like my veg, I like to grow my flowers in rows so I can walk among them and pick the best blooms. It’s easy to lose buds and flowers as you lean across a group to cut them! I grow my flowers in a sheltered, sunny spot and add a good mulch of homemade compost to keep weeds down, improve moisture and fertility.
A little girl holding a flower

My favourite cuttings for a bouquet

How to choose flowers for the perfect bouquet?
Annuals are the easiest and cheapest cut flowers to grow. From one seed packet, you can get buckets of bundles. I’m crazy for cosmos, and it self-seeds readily at my allotment too, so there’s no effort the following year. I also like Zinnia, Gazania, and Sweet Peas. I think of these as cut-and-come-again crops, almost like salads. Every time you snip a stem, they reward you with a new flower spike.

Zinnia

Zinnia spp.

Treasure Flower

Gazania spp.

Sweet Pea

Lathyrus spp.

A vase filled with purple flowers on a table
Sunflowers such as Velvet Queen and Buttercream are dazzling in a vase (just don’t let them get too big!), and Billy button or ‘golden drumsticks’ are also striking. They don’t grow as bulbous in our climate, and I tend to lump them into the annuals category as they rarely make it past the winter.
It’s always nice to stock up on a few perennial stalwarts such as Sweet William, Astrantia, Roses and Echinacea. I also love Knautia as it has masses of beautiful blooms, is loved by bees, and comes in all sorts of colours. It’s almost impossible to kill – and, in fact, must be taken into hand as it plants itself all over my allotment.
A person wearing a flower field
If you want flowers all year, plan with spring and summer bulbs. I also like to propagate hellebore for winter arrangements from the tiny seedlings scattered about by the parent plant. You can never have enough hellebores, in my opinion, because they are flowering when very little else is around to pick.
A good bouquet also needs filling foliage. Floaty grasses look lovely – but beware of them self-seeding. Herbs, such as rosemary and fennel, give structure and fragrance.
A group of colorful flowers

Top tips for cutting flowers successfully

  1. I cut in the morning or evening, so all the lovely nutrients are stored in the stems, and they last longer. Flowers tend to get dehydrated in the heat of the day.
  2. Snip them straight into a bucket or vase of water - and cut them at an angle to increase surface area to ensure they can take up a good drink.
  3. I remove the lower leaves in situ and pop them on the compost heap - so there’s no messing about when I get home. Leaves that sit and rot in water cause the nasty pongs.
  4. I change the water in the vase every couple of days and recut if I see the flower heads wilting.
A close up of a flower garden
A group of colorful flowers in a field
Find the plants mentioned in this article in our collection and grow a beautiful (& sustainable) bouquet of your own!
Cut flowers being selected

The Cut Flower Collection

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