Seen at the Festival of the Tree

...if you would be happy all your life, plant a garden ~ Chinese proverb

Friday, 14 November 2014

VP's VIPs: Our Flower Patch - The Finale

Jam jar posy of the flowers Our Flower
schools can grow
Our third and final chat with Our Flower Patch's Cally Smart and Sara Wilman takes a look at their favourite flowers, plus they give us some ideas for planting tulips - the perfect job for now. The scrummy pictures are courtesy and copyright of Sara Wilman.

What are your favourite cut flowers?

I love tulips in myriad colours and grow lots for cutting. I never grow them in the garden borders because they can look messy, especially when they go over but growing them close together in trenches on the allotment gives me dozens of buckets early in the spring. I also grow a lot of dahlias in jewel colours for late summer and autumn colour. I adore ranunculus.

Calendula is my favourite flower to sow from seed with children. It’s beautiful, easy to grow and so, so useful. It looks great in the vase with blue cornflowers, the edible petals look pretty in a salad and it has a history.

My Victorian dairy farmer ancestors used it to make their butter yellower and it was used on the battlefield during the civil war to treat wounds. In fact calendula salve is still used to soothe injuries now. We include a recipe so you can make your own in our materials. And the seeds are easy to collect. Children love them because they look like they may crawl of your hand at any moment. What a hard working flower.

Large picture: Sara's flower beds. Then, top right to bottom left: Cleome and dark Scabious; Cosmos 'Purity';
Nigella; Scabious; and Zinnia, Salpiglossis and snapdragon

Oh My!! That would depend on the season!! Since becoming involved in growing flowers I have noticed the seasonal changes more intensely. I think I focus more on what the weather is doing and am more in tune with the changing seasons and what they bring to the vase.

I have found a new love of Tulips. Having been slightly put off by the tight small buds you see bundled in the supermarkets I have found a new passion for all the many and varied types that are available to grow for your own vase!

Annual Scabious are just stunning and so productive, my Autumn sown plants are still producing and we are nearly at first frost time! The seed heads are magnificent too. I love perennial scabious also. Zinnias are amazing, I love their zingy colours and I couldn't be without Dahlias in my flower patch.

The trumpets of Salpiglossis look like a silk and velvet gown. Cleomes have unforgiving spines, but I can forgive them that because of their stunning flowers. I just end up getting stabbed often! Cosmos, so simple and beautiful, a jug of pure white cosmos is hard to beat for a simple arrangement.

Nigella is such a hard working plant! In the spring I sometimes start to think I prefer the Nigella seed pods in a vase to the flowers, and then I see a new batch of Nigella flowering in October and realise how hard it works for me. Plus I dry the seed pods to use for arrangements after the frosts have arrived.

I best stop now! I’m getting carried away, thank you for not asking what is your favourite flower (singular) as that is nigh on impossible!

Tulip 'La Belle Epoque'

I'm looking to grow tulips for cut flowers on my allotment for the first time this year, which varieties would you recommend?

Tulips 'Ballerina', 'Black Prince'
and 'Princess Irene'
Over to Sara. I look through the Peter Nyssen catalogue for colours and shapes I like and to make sure that I have tulips ready for cutting over the longest period of time. I can never remember the names. Sara is more scientific in her approach. She knows what grows well, sells well and lasts well in the vase. Our different approaches make us a good team.

Ahh, my new passion! Yes I had ignored tulips for cutting as I thought they wouldn’t last. Never will I be without them again. With a combination of narcissi, tulips, ranunculus and biennials such as hesperis, sweet William and foxgloves I’ve been cutting non stop since the end of February – and I don’t have a polytunnel!

I digress! Tulip varieties! Try some viridiflora, 'Artist' or 'Doll’s minuet' – mind you I loved each of them that I grew and they are a type that will most likely return for a few years. I loved 'Belle Epoque' and its scrumptious, silky look. Bizarrely they didn’t sell well. I think for some customers they look as if they are almost over before they’ve begun, but they have fab vase life.

There is an assumption that a tulip is a specific shape, and size, the one we are used to seeing bundled on special offer 10 for £1.99 in a supermarket. They can be soooo much more than that. Lily shaped flowers that are perfumed like orange jelly – 'Ballerina'.

My tastes tend to be for the dark black flowers teamed with orange or bright pink so I had lots of those. But one of the most stunning tulips I grew was 'Snow Parrot' a white tulips that looked like it was sculpted out of porcelain. 'Black hero' was stunning and looked like a peony.

This year I’m trying some new ones, I’ve gone for some coral, peachy ones, and a few paler pinks! I personally am not a fan of the fringed types as they looked a bit raggedy to my mind. Try and get a range of flowering times, and look to get colours to flower together that go together! Or do as I did and just buy anything that takes your fancy and blow the budget completely!!!

Oops! Oooh I’m really looking forward to tulip season now!

Tulips 'Black Hero', 'The Artist' and 'Snow Parrot'

Thanks Cally and Sara for a fabulous interview! It's been really inspiring to learn more about your story and I wish you every success for the future. I'm looking forward to planting my tulips this weekend and showing you the results next year :)

If you missed their previous posts on VPs VIPs, there's how they met and got Our Flower Patch off the ground and then there's the nitty gritty on how they work together and how their scheme works.

Other useful links:


  1. A lovely post, it's made me long for a few tulips. I really like the dark ones teamed with bright pink as well, perfect.

    1. Now's the ideal time to plant them CJ. Mine are going in this week if we get some clearer weather!

  2. Thank you Michelle, another lovely post. I got 350 tulips in yesterday, felt odd as the weather was still so warm! I do so love them, and can't wait for them to bloom again next spring. I'm just about to write a blog about tulips for the Our Flower Patch blog, so I will link to this post also. Thanks again. Sara

    1. You're welcome! Thank you for giving such interesting answers to my questions and answering them all :) I see these have been popular posts in terms of reads, so here's hoping that translates into visitors and signups for you...


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