A journey growing cut flowers in a Scottish garden

By Catherine Duncan | July 22, 2015
Image by Catherine Duncan
by Catherine Duncan
July 22, 2015

Welcome to another edition of Gardening Know How’s weekly guest blog! This week’s guest blogger is Catherine Duncan who lives in Peebles in the Scottish Borders where she grows seasonal, scented cut flowers in her garden to sell to local customers. She is a seedling member of Flowers from the Farm, a network of British flower growers. When not gardening she enjoys baking, cake decorating and spending time with her husband and 3 young daughters. Catherine keeps a record of her progress in the cutting garden on her blog at cloudberryflowers.wordpress.com and you can also find her on Twitter @cberryflowers and Instagram.

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Eighteen months ago I started a new journey, creating a cut flower patch in my garden in Scotland. I knew there were successful flower farmers in the south of England but could it be done north of the border with our rain, low temperatures, sporadic sunshine and high winds to contend with? I wanted to give it a go as I have always loved flowers and admired herbaceous borders I have seen, which are full of cottage garden varieties. I also love filling my house with flowers that are natural, unique and full of scent, which I just could not find in the shops. I wanted to bring the garden inside our homes. My plan was to try growing my own and if it worked to start a small business selling scented homegrown flowers to other people. It has been a roller coaster ride of gardening highs and lows but I have discovered I can grow cut flowers in Scotland and would encourage anyone to give it a go too!


Last year I jumped in with two feet first. I had an awful lot of enthusiasm but not much experience with growing cut flowers. I started by growing a lot of seeds indoors in February and March and planted them out in April and May. I was so excited to see these tiny seeds turning into strong young plants, with their promise of lots of flowers. I had no idea what was to come!

unnamed1 One morning I went out to find a whole row of plants had disappeared completely overnight. I had underestimated the destructive nature of a hungry rabbit! What had once been a cute couple of bunnies chasing each other on the front lawn were now my gardening nightmare. From the day before’s feelings of excitement and pride at growing all these plants I was now completely disheartened. To make matters worse the slugs were happily munching on the plants despite using many methods to stop them, including beer traps, slug pellets, coffee grounds and egg shells!

Scotland and its weather is a very unpredictable thing too and I knew it was going to be a challenge! We can have a nice hot sunny week in April to be plunged back into winter weather with sleet, fierce winds and rain in May. I learned the hard way that my plants needed staking against the wind and lost quite a few sunflowers on a particularly windy night. I also lost seedlings by planting them outdoors too early and the late frosts got to them. I have now learnt that in Scotland to be safe I really need to wait until June when transferring plants outdoors.

It may sound like my gardening journey was turning into an uphill struggle but after a holiday in July I came back last year to a cut flower patch bursting with flowers. I was over the moon. All that hard work had been worth it. The patch was full of unusual cottage garden varieties that I had never seen to buy in the shops such as phacelia, corncockle, cornflowers, sweet peas, ammi majus, achillea, amaranthus and zinnias. The scent was divine and the bees and butterflies were constantly around the flowers. I started to sell some from the garden gate and was excited to find other people loved them as much as I did for being unique, natural and scented. unnamed2


This year I have been able to start the season with more experience and even more enthusiasm.  Hopefully I can share with you what I have learned along the way. Anyone can grow cut flowers and it is something that is so rewarding you will want to do it again year after year.

unnamed3 You do not need a large garden. Many annuals can be grown in a small space. My cut flower patch is 40ft x 70ft.You do need a patch that gets a lot of sunshine as many annual flowers prefer this to a shady spot. Most of the flowers I grow like a fertile soil so I mulch the beds each autumn with homemade compost.

If your garden is in an exposed area be sure to protect your plants from the wind with stakes. I use pea and bean netting laid horizontally for the plants to grow through or individual heavy duty bamboo canes as support.

By far the biggest problem to me was my hungry garden rabbits. The only solution I have found is fencing. I have used chicken wire around the perimeter of my patch and it is buried under the ground to stop the rabbits tunnelling through. So far it is working very well! To keep the slugs at bay I have not found anything to be truly effective but I have tried to plant my seedlings out at a much later stage when they are much taller and less likely to succumb to an attack. unnamed4
Another thing I have found invaluable in a colder climate growing flowers are small fleece and polythene tunnels. These I can pop over the beds and protect the young plants while the weather is still cool. On sunnier days I can pull back the fleece and cover them over again at night. Without these I would have a very short season and I love the flexibility of them.
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Despite a cold, wet and windy start to our spring and summer this year I have had flowers in my patch since April and have been enjoying making jam jar posies for customers to enjoy. I enjoy being able to use different flowers each week as new ones come into bloom. Each jam jar of flowers reflects the seasons and smells divine.

I love taking time once the children are in bed to unnamed5wander through the garden and see what is blooming that day and watching the bees and butterflies attracted to the flowers. Often a friendly robin will come and perch next to me while I weed the beds and it is times like these that I know growing cut flowers is the best job in the world.

I hope you have enjoyed reading about my adventures in growing flowers in Scotland. If you would like to follow my progress I write a blog at www.cloudberryflowers.wordpress.com

Remember to tune in every Wednesday to get another unique perspective on gardening!

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  • mehul rana
    Comment added February 9, 2018Reply

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  • Patricia Bunk
    Comment added December 9, 2017Reply

    I liked reading about your adventure. Plus, I like to see how other people are pursuing their dreams in flower farming. I also grow for market except in the US. I am especially fond of Scotland.

  • Phoebe1
    Comment added October 6, 2017Reply

    What an amazing journey told by you about the flowers. I would really love to grow some of the flowers in my garden too. You have told them in a beautiful manner. I am so impressed. Thank you so much for sharing.

  • Jay wilson
    Comment added August 28, 2017Reply

    I would like to grow my own flowers for my wedding in June 2018 - what would you suggest.

  • Magda
    Comment added April 5, 2017Reply

    Great descriptions!

  • Minnie Barber
    Comment added February 18, 2016Reply

    Those flowers are amazing! I would love to grow such beautiful flowers in my garden. Your tips are very helpful, and give me the information I need to start and how to look after them!

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