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This Week’s Guest Blogger is Carolyn Dunster

Carolyn Dunster

How to prolong the flower season by cutting flowers for fresh arrangements, drying flowers for permanent arrangements and harvesting seed for resowing.

One of the best things about growing your own flowers in a small urban space is a chance to reap a multitude of rewards for your initial investment and endeavour. For the price of a packet of seeds – let’s say some brightly coloured opium poppies (Papaver somniferum) – a bag of compost and either a single large pot or some smaller sized containers – you will be able to grow enough flowers to pick for you home over the summer and arrange with other blooms and foliage stems in hand-tied posies. You can prolong the life of your cut flowers in a vase by searing the stems once they have been cut and ensuring that the water stays clean and free from any bacteria. I do this by refreshing the water daily and adding a teaspoon of bleach. If the water turns green and murky your flowers will have no chance of survival. If you leave some of the poppy flower heads to die off and dry on the stems of the plant they will turn into the most beautiful seed heads which are a work of art in themselves. These can be picked for use in dried winter arrangements that will last all season and look fantastic in a winter wreath or a pine swag wired on with some small fruits such as clementines and sprigs of holly. Finally, to get more bang for your buck the seed heads will contain pockets of hundreds of tiny seeds. Nature’s generous bounty is a no-cost payback. You will know when the seeds are ripe if you gently shake the seed head and can hear them rattle. You need to collect them before they disperse naturally if you want to sow them in a certain space or you can allow them to do their own thing and you will have a lovely surprise when you find your poppies growing up in unexpected places the following year. If for some reason you don’t want them in a particular position then just remove the seedling as it appears. For collecting and storing seed use a sharp pair of secateurs and snip off the head. Put the whole thing in a paper envelope or bag and label straight away. Do not seal them but leave in a cool dry space for a couple of days during which time the seeds will disperse naturally. Remove the casing and clean off any chaff and store them in jam jars until it is time to sow. As they are hardy annual flowers you can risk sowing opium poppies outdoors in the autumn before the ground gets too cold. This is the way to steal a march on the flowering season. If you sow half your seeds at this time of year they will put on a certain amount of growth and you will get some bushy foliage appearing before the plants become dormant as winter sets in. As soon as the weather warms up again they will come back to life and you will have an early crop of flowers. Plant the rest of your seeds in the spring once the soil is warm enough and daylight hours have started to stretch and you will get you second crop of flowers following on from the first thus giving you plenty to pick from early summer onwards. For more ideas and what to buy visit www.urban-flowers.co.uk.

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