For true self-sufficiency, why not grow your own bridal bouquet (this exquisite bouquet was crafted by Denise Fasanello floral design)? A number of flowers are easy to grow and make the most beautiful and long-lasting arrangements. If you’ve got a big event coming up, a little planning now will ensure loads of blooms for the big day.
CHOOSING YOUR FLOWERS
Keep it simple. Grow only two or three different varieties and choose flowers that are a sure bet. Annuals such as sunflowers, zinnias, snapdragons, cosmos, sweet peas and calendulas are a breeze to grow. Dahlias, ranunculus and anemones are dead-easy too. Lisianthus, on the other hand, are not.
Grow varieties that are specifically bred for their long stems – dwarf cultivars may look cute but their short stems won’t give you much to grip. Select plants that are labelled as ‘tall’ not ‘bedding’.
Select flowers that bloom as close to your wedding date as possible. Ranunculus and anemones are perfect for August or September weddings; sweet peas and poppies flower in October and November; sunflowers, dahlias and cosmos are ideal for summer and autumn weddings; zinnias and asters are perfect for autumn celebrations.
Plant ‘fillers’ too. Scented geranium leaves, honeywort (Cerinthe major), lady’s mantle (Alchemilla mollis) lamb’s ear (Stachys byzantina), even the leaves of sweet peas, are great for bulking out bouquets if necessary.
WHEN TO PLANT
Some seed packets and catalogues state the time it takes from sowing to flowering. Each plant is different, so pay attention to these figures. Cosmos takes around 12 weeks from sowing to flowering, whereas snapdragons take around 16 weeks. However, that 12 or 16 weeks assumes perfect growing conditions – late frosts or cold weather will set back flowering. Devise a realistic schedule, adding on a few weeks to allow for all eventualities. Then plant in succession. Sow the same flower every two weeks for a couple of months to ensure something’s in bloom at the time you want.
Bulbs are tricky to get right. To make spring-flowering bulbs flower later, you can’t just plant them later. They must have winter chilling and they have to be planted in autumn. Planting them in March or in May, says Paul Hoek of nzbulbs.co.nz, makes little difference to the final flowering time as it is more dependent on how cold the winter is, how much rain there is and how early or late spring comes.
“The only way you can make them later then normal is to plant them in pots and then hold them in a chiller, progressively lowering the temperature from 9deg to zero deg over a period of 10 weeks. Then hold them at zero and take them from the chiller 2-3 weeks before you want them in full flower.
“To make spring flowering bulbs flower earlier, you can use the chilling method above, and simply take them out early rather than late. But a minimum of 12 weeks total chilling is needed, so you can’t have them flowering in May.
“You can also get your spring flowering bulbs to flower earlier by placing the bulbs in the chiller as they are, not planted up in pots. This has to be done at about 4deg. Do this in March and then plant them out in late May. The bulbs will think they have had a winter and will roar into growth, flowering about 3-4 weeks ahead of normal.”
LOOK AFTER YOUR GROWING BLOOMS
Annuals grow quickly and flower generously but they need all the help they can get. Feed and deadhead regularly. Use a balanced fertiliser initially, then, in the last month, switch to one that’s specifically for flowers, like Thrive Soluble Flower & Fruit Plant Food.
If your plants start flowering before the wedding, deadhead the blooms once they’ve faded. If you don’t, your plants will put all their energy into producing seeds at the expense of flowers.
Pay attention to watering too. A dry spell can stress plants and set blooming back a few weeks. And if the weather is unseasonably cold, erect a makeshift greenhouse using plastic sheets.
HAVE A BACK-UP PLAN
- Look around and see what can be used from your existing garden if your original plan fails.
- Ask friends and family to grow back-up flowers for the day.
- Have a couple of fake flowers on standby. Most people can’t tell the difference between a fake and a real flower unless they touch them.
- Use succulents. They’re dead-easy to grow and look spectacular in bouquets.
- Use flax or astelia leaves for interest. Bend leaves over to form loops that can be tucked into your bouquet.