One of the greatest pleasures of growing a garden is having an abundance of flowers for picking. Some varieties take well to drying and will last into winter and beyond.
When to Start: for cutting, autumn or spring; for drying, summer to autumn
At Their Best: for cutting, spring to late summer; for drying, all year round
Time to Complete: for cutting, 5 hours for sowing and pricking out and 2 hours for planting; for drying, about 2 weeks
Peruvian lily (Alstroemeria)
globe thistle (Echinops)
hare's tail (Lagurus)
quaking grass (Briza)
sea holly (Eryngium)
Many plants can be cut frequently with little impact on the garden display; they just keep on producing more flowers. Plant a cutting border full of such varieties.
Clear the area of weeds and dig in organic matter. In fall, plant bulbs and mark their positions. Then in spring, plant large swathes of perennials and annuals, so you can cut the flowers regularly without leaving big gaps in the planting beds.
When you're planning to pick your flowers, water the area well the night before. This helps stems plump up and the cut flowers will keep longer. It's best to cut first thing in the morning, plunging the stems immediately into a deep bucket of water. Always cut to just above a leaf.
Some flowers retain their colors and scents when they're cut and dried and can be used in flower arrangements throughout the year. Seedheads look striking in indoor arrangements too, but leave some on the plants if you want a dramatic winter garden.
Several perennials are useful as dried flowers, but you may want to sow some annuals too. Sow half-hardy annuals into modules or pots indoors in spring, planting when all risk of frost has passed. Hardy annuals can be sown direct in autumn or spring. Water, feed and deadhead as you would any other plant.
Pick flowers for drying in fine weather to avoid excess moisture on the foliage and petals. Most flowers will dry better if they're cut before they're fully open. Pick roses just as the buds begin to open, and lavender stems as the top petals start to emerge.
Tie a few stems together with string or a rubber band. Use a kitchen hook or a paper clip to attach the band to a line of string or tie them to a bamboo cane. Then fix the string or cane to the ceiling in a cool, airy place. Because strong light bleaches out the colors, hang them in the dark or at least in low light.
Excerpted from How to Grow Practically Everything
© Dorling Kindersley Limited 2010