Though I have years of experience in growing vegetables, I must confess that I am something of a novice when it comes to growing flowers. This is surprising for a number of reasons. The first is that I adore flowers. I love taking a walk through a field filled with wild flowers, I can spend hours at an RHS garden admiring their wonderful displays and I take great enjoyment in arranging flowers and creating my own bouquets. The second reason why my novice flower grower status is surprising is that I grew up in a garden surrounded by flowers and plants. My Father loved to garden and his interest was firmly rooted in creating flower borders and beds. The hard work he routinely put into our garden created the most beautiful displays and he always seemed to know exactly how to care for the plants and what to do to make them look their best.
Sadly, my Father passed away in May. We had found out in December that he had cancer and in January we were told that it was terminal and that he didn’t have too much time left. It was and still is, a devastating time and I can’t quite yet believe that I won’t be seeing him pottering about in the garden anymore when I go over to Mum & Dads place. The one silver lining of those few, short weeks that we all had together after we had found out he was ill but before he passed was that I had a birthday. Dad and I were the only two members of our family who had birthdays during his illness and I am so very thankful for that fact. It meant that Dad got to choose me one final, special birthday gift which was just from him. Normally Mum & Dad will gift me a joint present but this one time, Dad selected my gift by himself, just from him to me.
The gift in question was the most perfect present. It was a potted David Austen rose, going by the name of “Darcey Bussell”. It promises bright, pink blooms and a beautiful scent. Mum recounts how Dad sat at his laptop for ages reading all the descriptions and looking at all the pictures, making sure he chose the best one (pink roses were his favourite). I love the fact that it will be a constant reminder of Dad and that every year when it blooms he will be filling my life with colour again, just as he always did.
With the arrival of this gift, the thought crept into my head (as it does most years) about how lovely it would be to have a proper “flower patch” down at the allotment, with my rose as the focal point. My Aunt had given me some garden centre vouchers as a birthday present and I started to think that the best way to spend them may be on a few flower bulbs. I started to form a few little plans and ideas in my head about how to design the flower patch and what to grow and ended up spending the garden centre vouchers on a cottage garden bulb pack and some Dahlias. I dug over an area of my allotment to dedicate to the flowers and within a couple of weeks the bulbs were planted (and I still had no real idea as to what I was doing!)
On May 14th, I received the phone call I had been dreading, Dad had passed away. It was a horribly surreal day and the world seemed a little gloomier and darker. On May 15th, I woke up and went to stand out on my balcony, as I do most mornings. As I pulled open the curtains, I looked out in surprise to see one single, striking red Poppy in full flower. It was smack bang in the centre of the bank right opposite my bedroom. It had literally bloomed overnight as there had been no trace of it the day before. Now, I am not a believer in God or religion, but I am spiritual and that poppy made me smile, it gave me the feeling that Dad was somewhere watching over me, urging me to remember him but also to carry on and be happy.
Over the coming days and weeks, the Poppies continued to come. Everyday there was more than the day before and even now, the 6th July the bank is still covered in a blanket of wild flowers. It is absolutely stunning and it definitely gave me the kick up the backside to get my own flower patch at the allotment up to scratch and move ahead with my flower patch plans. I loved how the Poppies on the bank were attracting the Bees and I knew that I wanted to grow flowers that would not only look pretty but also be beneficial to the Bees and other wildlife.
To be honest, planting out the flower patch was something I did rather haphazardly, hoping for the best with each bulb I put in place. Luck must have been on my side though as in time I began to see the beginnings of life. I had planted six Dahlias in total and all of them sprouted successfully. Then the slugs came! I learned pretty quickly that slugs are a fan of Dahlias and so I sprung into action to protect the young plants with some bell cloches. Sadly one of the plants was too far gone when I began my rescue mission and I lost it, but the other 5 recovered from the slug war and went on to grow well.
As well as the Dahlias, I also planted some Freesias, which were a bit of a let down. They were the only bulbs that didn’t even sprout. The cottage garden collection I purchased included an Agapanthus, Astilbe and Peony. The Agapanthus and Astilbe are both putting on strong growth now, but unfortunately the Peony became the victim of a rather unfortunate strimmer incident, which we shall say no more about!
As those of you who have read my previous posts will know, I am something of an impatient creature, which isn’t a good thing when it comes to gardening! For this reason a little later in the growing season I also purchased some more mature plants, just to help give the flower patch more of an established look. I wanted a mix of annuals and perennials and chose the ever beautiful Cosmos, a Bee-friendly Foxglove and a striking Lily. These gave the flower patch an instant transformation and it began to look like it had in my mind when I had first envisaged it. It also helped that at around this time, my Chive plant decided to flower, treating me to a display of stunning, purple flowers.
The finishing touches were, of course the Rose that Dad gave me, which I chose to place in a container in pride of place on the patch. I had questioned myself over and over as to whether to plant the Rose directly in the ground or in a container, not knowing what would be best. In the end I chose the container because the variety of Rose that Dad chose was noted for performing well in containers. Choosing a container also meant that I could ensure it was being planted in exactly the right kind of compost for it to flourish. I also considered that if I ever had to leave my allotment, I would never leave the Rose behind and a container would make it much easier to move. I think I have made the correct decision and the Rose is budding nicely now – I can’t wait to see it in bloom.
Lastly, I dotted a few herbs in pots around the patch. It really gave the area an extra point of interest and has filled in a few gaps nicely. I am so happy with how my new flower patch looks and I have already spent far too much time just sitting looking at it!
The wildlife seems to agree with me too. There are Bees and Butterflies happily darting from flower to flower every time I glance over at the patch. Now that it is finally summer all the hard work has paid off. The Dahlias and Lilies are just starting to open and they are stunning and I don’t think the Gladioli are far behind.
Some people say that dedicating an area of an allotment to flowers is a waste and that that space should be used for fruit and vegetables. I couldn’t disagree more. Yes, my allotment is for growing food, but it is also a space for me to relax and unwind and right now, I couldn’t imagine a more beautiful place to do that in!