Plant Now: Sweet mignonette

Sweet or common mignonette (Reseda odorata) is an old-fashioned annual that’s ideal for fresh or dried flower arrangements. It has an intensely spicy scent – just delicious – with greenish-white flowers throughout summer and autumn.

Plants like a moist, rich soil and some afternoon shade in hot spots. Sow seeds in trays for transplanting later. In cooler areas, wait until late winter for sowing. Seeds are available from GardenPost.

The mignonette and carnations print is from the Boston Public Library.


I spied some gardenias in my local garden centre this weekend, with their beautifully pristine flower heads and gorgeous scent. If the fragrance of flowers could be measured by a scentometer, gardenias would career off the charts. The perfume is intoxicating, a sultry mix of jasmine and bubblegum with a soft fruity note.

Gardenias are a much-loved garden plant but they have a reputation for being difficult to grow. That might be because they’re prone to yellowing leaves, or chlorosis as it’s called, which is caused by lack of chlorophyll. Why that happens could be any number of reasons, including poor drainage, damaged roots, high alkaline soils (gardenias like an acidic soil), wet or cold conditions, or nutrient deficiencies. Iron and magnesium deficiencies are the most common, but you need to look closely at the leaves to determine which deficiency your plant has. [Read more...]

Plant Now: Delphiniums

Delphiniums are hardy perennials that tolerate cold weather and frosts. In fact, they will stand and even benefit from winter freezing. The plants themselves last much longer in cooler areas. They might last in Auckland, NZ, for an average of 3 years for example. In Queensland, Australia, you may only get a year out of them. But if we’re talking somewhere like Alaska, where the ground is frozen for 5-6 months of the year, they could last 25-30 years.

In the southern hemisphere, delphiniums can be sown in trays now for transplanting later. Typically the end of June is when sowing stops in NZ, though you could squeeze out another week. If you are buying plants, they can be planted from late July through to Labour Weekend. Plant in free-draining soil in full sun.

Depending on where you are in the country, delphiniums flower from mid-October through to June, providing two or three flushes per season. For a new plant that has its peak flowering in December, you could expect to get another flush of regrowth in February or March. In warmer parts of the country, you’ll also get another flush in mid-June.

The beautiful image in the middle comes from here.

The image directly below it shows alliums and delphiniums.

Berry bouquet

At my floral design workshops at HANDMADE over Queen’s Birthday Weekend a participant brought along some gorgeous red berries. Berries are the perfect pick-me-up for winter colour, and can be used on their own or with a mix of flowers and foliage.

This winter bouquet, which features over at Style Me Pretty, contains just berries and foliage and it looks absolutely striking. I love the burlap and fur wrap too.

Look in your own garden for berries to use, such as those from the strawberry tree (Arbutus unedo), heavenly bamboo (Nandina domestica), pyracantha, and Chinese beautyberry (Callicarpa dichotoma).

Plant Now: Pansies


Head down to your local garden centre and pick up some potted colour for the winter months. Pansies are my favourite, though you’ll find polyanthus, primulas and calendulas too.

Pansies are a cheerful addition to the winter garden and make pretty posies for indoors. You’ll find them in all colours – from soft pastels to vibrant hues, such as reds, oranges and yellows. Plant seedlings or potted colour in moist, fertile soil in full sun or partial shade.

Pansies, polyanthus and primulas all like humus-rich soil, so dig in plenty of compost or leaf mould at planting time.

Floral workshop in Wellington

Vase with white chrysanthemum
basket2Candelabra and flowersvase of red roses candlesvases-redWedding glasses flowers
This weekend I’m holding a workshop in Wellington at HANDMADE on Tablescapes: table flowers, centrepieces and wreaths for special occasions. I’ll be talking about some of the designs above as well as demonstrating wiring techniques and different types of displays. Check out the workshop here. I’m also running a workshop on Growing and using herbs for culinary, cosmetic and medicinal purposes. I had great fun last weekend making my own perfumes with herbs to bring to the workshop. Check out my herb class here.

Plant Now: Granny’s bonnets

Granny’s bonnets, aka columbine (Aquilegia vulgaris), produce nodding flowers that are single or double to almost pom-pom like, in pale colours to vibrant hues. They’ll grow in part shade to full sun and flower in late spring/early summer. Plant them in moist but well-drained soil that’s rich in humus. This hardy perennial can be sown directly in the ground or in trays for transplanting in spring.

The good news is there is not much you need to do to grow these plants successfully – they pretty much look after themselves. And each year they’ll self-sow. In fact, they can be rather promiscuous like that.

Herb class at Handmade

Are you going to Handmade in Wellington over Queen’s Birthday Weekend, May 31-June 1, 2014? I’m holding three workshops – a masterclass on growing and using herbs, a workshop on battenberg lacemaking and another workshop on tablescapes: table flowers, wreaths and centrepieces for special occasions.

The masterclass blurb reads as such: Grow herbs year round for culinary, medicinal and cosmetic purposes. Whether you have a large garden or a tiny potted one, find out how simple it is to grow herbs year round. Learn about safe herbal treatments for common health problems, pick up recipes for natural beauty and cleaning products, and master how to use herbs in cooking. Includes stevia (the sugar herb to use in place of sugar), patchouli (herbs for perfumes) and many other common and not-so-common herbs.

The battenberg lacemaking is an ancient art that uses tape and needlepoint lace techniques; in the tablescape class you’ll learn how to style a table with flowers and vintage props like the pros. Lots of gorgeous flowers to design with.

The whole weekend should be great fun, with plenty of different craft and culinary classes to choose from. I hope to see you there.

Check out the Handmade programme here.

Sweet Living Issue 8 out now!

SweetLiving_cover 460

The latest issue of Sweet Living magazine has hit this cybershelves! This FREE online magazine is full of home crafts, DIYs, recipes and more. Check it out here – and pass it on!

Bulbs for shade

Looking for spring bulbs for a shaded spot? There are several that do well out of full sun.

Bluebells, both English (Hyacinthoides non-scripta) and Spanish (Hyacinthoides hispanica) forms, naturalise well, especially in dappled shade and moist, humus-rich soil. English bluebells can be distinguished from Spanish bluebells by their cream stamens (the Spanish have blue stamens). The flowers of the Spanish bluebell are larger and showier. The middle photo above shows bluebells with scilla.

Bulbs for naturalising need more room than other bulbs to allow room for multiplying, so take that into consideration when planting your bluebells.

Erythronium, or dog’s tooth violets, are woodland plants that grow best in shade in humus-rich soil. They naturalise readily beneath trees and shrubs, preferring cooler regions with relatively dry summers. The nodding flowers appear in spring and come in shades of yellow, pink and creamy white. ‘White Beauty’ is a popular form, with marble leaves and creamy-white flowers up to 15cm high. Corms are planted in autumn. Position them 8-10cm deep and 5-8cm apart. The photo of the yellow erythroniums above is from Aberdeen Gardening. Check out more of their gorgeous photos. [Read more...]