Q&A with Chris McLaughlin, Author of “Growing Heirloom Flowers”

By Shelley Pierce | August 19, 2018
Image by The Quarto Group
by Shelley Pierce
August 19, 2018

Chris McLaughlin has been gardening for over 35 years and is the co-founder of northern California’s Laughing Crow & Company Flower & Fiber Farm. She has authored seven gardening books and has written for From Scratch magazine, About.com, and VegetableGardener.com. In print, her work can be found in such magazines as Heirloom Gardener, Urban Farm, Hobby Farm Home, Herb Companion, and Fine Gardening. In her latest book, “Growing Heirloom Flowers“, Chris takes you on a tour of these alluring blooms, covering the benefits, challenges, growing requirements, and everything else you need to know about more than forty heirloom flowers.  Read on to learn more and enter below to win one of two copies from Quarto Publishing Group!

1. Why are you drawn to heirlooms? What heirlooms do you grow in your garden?

I enjoy heirlooms for their timeless beauty, endurance, biological diversity, fragrance (in many cases), history, and because they are passalong plants!

While I don’t have strictly heirlooms in my garden, I grow different species (and varieties) every year. My *must-haves* are dahlias, strawflower, love-in-a-mist, lavender, marigolds, honesty, snapdragons, hollyhocks…oh who am I kidding? I try to get as many different heirlooms as possible out there! LOL

2. How will this book help us to grow the fullest, richest and most aromatic blooms possible?

This book isn’t necessarily a step-by-step guide to planting every heirloom species. But rather, highlighting those heirlooms that bring these attributes to the garden.

3. What are some easy to grow heirlooms that you’d recommend for beginners?

Black-eyed Susans, cosmos, flax, cornflower, marigolds, echinacea, daffodils, daylily, aster, lavender, calendula, pinks, bee balm, and snapdragons are all heirlooms that are easy — and eager– to grow!

However, I think you’ll find that the list is shorter for those that are actually hard/tricky to grow.

4. What I love about your book is that you have interspersed it with fun little projects. Tell us about some of your favorite projects featured in this book.

Summer Flower Crown

I truly don’t have a favorite project because I find that there are so many uses for the crafts and creations made from flowers and botanical in general.  However, I habitually use them as dye plants for the mohair (Angora goats) that we raise on our farm. I also never tire of making flower crowns!

FREE PROJECT!  Learn how to make a summer flower crown HERE.

5. When it comes to heirlooms are you still learning something new from these time-tested flowers? What is something new that you have learned recently?

I have to say as a gardener, I learn something new every single day. It might be about heirlooms specifically, or it might be about other plants, soil, micro-climates, etc.

We just bought a new farm and have to start our gardens completely over again. The one lesson that I get to learn every so often is that gardening keeps you humble. If you can’t manage to stay humble, no worries — the garden will do it for you!

6. I have to admit, flower arranging is not my forte so I much appreciated the section on “basic flower arranging principles” and “12 quickie flower arranging tips”. How long did it take for you to flower arrange in confidence? What are some common flowers and elements that make their way into your flower arrangements?

Oh I am STILL learning to have confidence with my arrangements! I have always done a lot more growing than arranging, so I fiddle around with flowers in a vase more than many, lol.

What I have found is that the flowers, fillers, and greens truly do most of the heavy-lifting, so I try not to judge myself too harshly.

I am crazy about interesting botanicals for the bouquets. I can’t get enough of cool-looking branches like corkscrew willow, seed head pods such as Love-in-a-Mist, or the drama of Love-Lies-Bleeding.

Win one of two copies of Growing Heirloom Flowers!

To enter, simply leave a comment on this blog post by midnight on Sunday, August 26th, 2018 (be sure to provide a valid e-mail address) in answer to the following question:

Do you have experience growing heirloom flowers?  Do you have any tips that you’d like to share?

Be sure to include a valid e-mail address. The winner will be drawn at random from all qualified entrants, and notified via e-mail. (See rules for more information.)

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