Posts tagged growing guide
How to Grow Cafe au Lait Dahlias

Inevitably every gardener is going to try growing dahlias at some point in their career. Whether it’s for showing in the local Dahlia society exhibition, cutting for arrangements or enjoying in the garden, dahlias are invaluable for their vigor and of course their amazing flowers.

And if you’re growing dahlias, no doubt you’ll be interested in growing the famous (or infamous depending on your personal opinion!) Cafe au Lait dahlia.

The one dahlia that everyone seems to love - retail customers, floral designers, gardeners, dahlia enthusiasts and casual observers all agree that its a spectacular dahlia. In fact, the only people that seem to dislike Cafe au Lait dahlias are flower farmers for a few very specific reasons - but we’ll get into that later on.

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How to Grow Castor Bean (Ricinus) in the Garden and for Floral Design

Castor Beans are as beautiful as they are deadly

Ricinus communis is a popular plant for British borders and home gardeners over the world. Although four to eight seeds can kill an adult human, there’s a lot to love about this plant.

First and foremost is the fact that they are one of the most coveted and favorite materials for our local florists. Seriously, we sell out of every single stem that we can offer (minus the ones we keep for ourselves of course!) and we can never grow enough.

Secondly, castor beans offer a look and presence in our personal garden that is unrivaled by any other plant. It’s broad leaves offer an exotic and striking look that you can’t really get with most other plants - and the fact that it also has the potential to be so dangerous just adds to its appeal and mystique.

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How to Grow Broomcorn in the Garden (and for Floral Design)

Broomcorn is one of our favorite floral materials to grow in the garden and in arrangements, especially in the fall and is also one of our annual favorite grasses to grow!

Broomcorn is not actually a corn but is an ornamental sorghum - distantly related to sugarcane and big bluestem grass interestingly enough.

It usually grows as a single corn-like stalk, soaring upwards above our heads and growing quickly into a towering stalk of strappy foliage and bamboo-like stems, creating a jungle-like effect in the garden.

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The Glory of Zinnia Haageana (Aztec, Jazzy and other Small Zinnias)

When it comes to zinnias, most people think of the large three to four inch zinnias like the Benary Giants, or at least the two inch zinnias like the Oklahoma series - all of the species Zinnia elegans.

Yet, most people don’t know about the tiny single-flowered varieties of the species Zinnia haageana variety that are around half an inch across to one inch at best.

They’re seriously tiny. And each flower is so miniscule with little skinny stems that it would take a lot of them to even fill up a small mason jar. I was never convinced that they would be worth growing, so I had ignored them for the past couple years.

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Yasss Queen Red Lime (and Other Queen Series Zinnias)

If you’ve hung out with me or have read any of the ebooks, you’ll know that I’m a big big fan of the Queen series of zinnias.

A mid-sized zinnia, the Queen series consist of four varieties

  • Queen Red Lime

  • Queen Lime with Blush

  • Queen Lime

  • Queen Lime with Orange

Each of these varieties have a wonderful ombré gradient on their petals, fading from a soft lime green to another color (with the exception of the Queen Lime which is pure soft lime green) which makes them visually incredibly stunning - and when designing with them makes them an excellent flower for bridging between different color spectrums.

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Benary Giant Zinnias: Are They Worth It?

Benary Giant zinnias are the gold standard when it comes to zinnias. Great in form, comes in a variety of colors, and absolutely massive when it comes to their size - a good four feet tall (if not taller) with large 3-4” flowers that are absolutely stunning.

Also known as the Blue Point zinnia (which were specifically bred and marketed as a florist zinnia), the Benary Giants are some of the most commonly grown zinnias for flower farmers.

However, it’s not all great necessarily. My main issue with the Benary Giants is that they’re not consistently double for some of the colors - the Salmon color being the most inconsistent (which of course the salmon colored varieties would be!) and the seed can also be expensive (100 for $6)

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Oklahoma Series: The Only Zinnia Variety You Need to Grow

I’ve noticed a lot of people asking recently about the best or favorite zinnias to grow.

Zinnias are kind of a hot-button topic for most people - even if you hate zinnias and won’t grow them, you’ll have a very definitive reason as to why - but most people, especially flower farmers love zinnias and grow boatloads of them all season long.

However, not all zinnias are created equal (in my opinion at least)

The most popular zinnias for flower farmers seem to be the following:

  • Benary Giant (or Blue Point) series

  • Queen (Queen Red Lime, Queen Lime, Queen Lime with Blush, Queen Lime with Orange, Queen Lime Mix) series

  • Oklahoma series

  • Zinderella series

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How to Grow Cosmos for Floral Design

Cosmos are one of those garden plants that everyone seems to have grown at some point. Whether the usual wild pink variety of bipinnatus , the gold and orange sulphureus, or the fancier varieties like the ‘Double Click’ or ‘Cupcake’ series, all gardeners seem to fall in love with cosmos at one point or another.

A very easy plant to grow, cosmos are one of those garden plants that seemingly need little attention in order to thrive. In fact, they really seem to grow the best with neglect!

That’s not to say there’s not an art to growing them - especially if you’re going to be growing them for floral design.

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How to Grow Perfect Dahlias

Dahlias are the quintessential flower. Whether growing in the garden, cut for a vase on the table, or in a flower farmer’s fields to be used in weddings, bouquets and installations, they are quite possibly the most popular and more demanded flower these days.

It used to be that dahlias were relegated to enthusiastic hobbyists, who would carefully pamper and debud their plants for exhibition in the fall. Although impressive, they were only seen as specimen plants to be exhibited at garden centers and for a select intellectual few.

Something changed though. Perhaps it was Martha Stewart (the original flower queen) and her love of dahlias in the garden that led to their re-discovery. Perhaps it was garden enthusiasts like Sarah Raven that reinvigorated the use of dahlias in the garden as not just straight single-flower specimens grown for competitions, but rather for enjoyment and cutting for the vase. Or maybe it was Erin Benzakein of Floret Flower Farm with her photographs of armloads of dreamy dahlias in the Skagit Valley sunset that made the world fall in love with them.

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How to Grow Gorgeous Zinnias (For Floral Design)

There are a wide variety of zinnias available - seemingly for every intent and purpose.

    You have big, giant zinnias like the ‘Benary Giant’ series that can get a good 3-4” across and are perfect double gorgeous blooms in a wide variety of colors. The perfect zinnias for cutting and using in arrangements, they are almost like Gerbera daisies in appearance - fully double in most cases, with those same fluffy outer petals that are almost like a tutu in appearance.

    On the other hand, you also have the ‘Queen’ series. As opposed to the bright and bold colors of the ‘Benary Giant’ series, the ‘Queen’ series are a lesson in subtlety. Coming in shades of muted dusty rose combined with the delicate light green of viburnum and hydrangea petals, these zinnias are unlike the ones that you see in home gardens and in landscapes - they have a beautiful antiqued, heirloom look to them. They also have a great form, creating an almost spherical, perfect shape in some cases.

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How to Grow Scabiosa (Pincushion Flower)

Scabiosa- so named because it was rumored that it could cure mange - is an old European flower that has been grown by gardeners all over the world. It’s also earned the name “pincushion flower” due to the fact that the ends of the stamens look like tiny white pinheads that have been sunken into a velvety, fluffy center of a flower.

Scabiosa are one of the flowers that we love to grow because of their ease of growth, ease of care, and the character that their stems bring to any arrangement. The same swoops and curls and swirls that poppies or ranunculus display with their stems are the shapes and motion that scabiosa can lend to an arrangement.

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How to Grow Basil for Floral Design

    Basil is one of the summer workhorses in our cutting garden. No other foliage we’ve tried has been so easy, so spectacular and so versatile. It goes great mixed with pretty much anything, holds up for a week in the vase, has that vertical form that is so hard to find, and of course the wonderful scent that is both exotic and yet comforting at the same time.

    I had always included flowering basil in the jam-jar arrangements I would sometimes make growing up, cramming a fistful of flowers from the garden with no design sense or order. Herbs had always felt like a natural addition to floral arrangements for me ever since seeing Gayla Trail’s handful of mint in a bouquet on You Grow Girl back circa 2008, so the addition of basil to bouquets had always been a thought.

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How to Grow Daucus (Chocolate Lace Flower, Queen Anne's Lace)

Daucus, also commonly called Chocolate Lace Flower, Chocolate Flower, Chocolate Queen Anne’s Lace, came onto the scene a few years back and took the florist and flower growing world by storm.

The umbellifer heads floating like clouds on strong long stems are such a beautiful sight. The variation in color runs from a dark burgundy to light cocoa to a bright white and changes as the flower ages. Even after the bloom is finished, the seed heads are this awesome weird curly magical structure that looks like some sort of chair a tiny fairy might sit on.

Despite looking like a color variant of Ammi, it is only distantly related to the Ammi majus and is actually a variety of Queen Anne’s Lace (the wild carrot that is endemic to the UK). It grows fairly quick - blooming in 65 days from seed - and from my experience blooms for a much longer period than Ammi.

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How to Grow Bachelor Buttons (Centaurea cyanus)


The first flower that I ever grew from seed were bachelor buttons.

It was the first spring at the house I was renting, and had received permission to start a small garden there. I had done some research as far as easy seeds to start, and had purchased a packet of bachelor buttons.

It seemed strange that the weird little grey seeds with their little hair-like tufts at the end would ever become really anything, but I planted them into a little bit of potting mix and waited for spring to come.

The seeds sprouted quickly, and soon sent up strappy silvery-grey leaves. I was a bit surprised at how easy they were - I had tried seeds in the past for vegetables, but never had started flower seeds before. The seedlings were incredibly vigorous, outgrowing their container in a few short weeks before getting planted outside.

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How to Grow Snapdragons (Chantilly, Potomac and Rocket)

Snapdragons aren’t necessarily one of the flowers that I first fell in love with as a grower. They were kind of “meh.” I thought of them as mostly bedraggled bedding plants that never really looked great at any point, although I was fascinated by the small snapdragon that managed to struggle and overwinter three years in a row.

    In addition, snapdragons were endemic in all of the very standard Teleflora designs, especially in the “Hospital Dolly Yellow” as Sarah Raven describes it. Boring, standard, and overused, there was nothing that I loved about snapdragons.

    That was, until I saw some photos of snapdragons in farmers fields. We don’t have too many of those vertical spires available to us - digitalis, veronicas, verbascums, eremerus are the only ones aside from snapdragons I can think of. A row of snapdragons standing upright at attention is something to behold.

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How to Grow Icelandic Poppies - Stress free!

Icelandic poppies. Their papery translucent petals are the stuff dreams are made of. Like a crushed silk dress that slowly unfurls, there is something so romantic and yet exciting about their delicate petals.

They were, also for three years, my nemesis. For three years, I've tried to germinate thousands of seeds, and every single time, I have failed. Not a single flower to show for my attempts, I had to purchase my plants in.

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