A huge range of plants from trees and shrubs to annuals and bulbs can be grown for flowers and this means that they can be harvested for nearly 12 months of the year, particularly if some form of protection is available such as glasshouses or tunnels. Supermarket and florists often focus on imported flowers that can withstand a long supply chain, so you can offer local specialities that your customers won’t be able to find in mainstream shops.
As you plan your schedule there are various things to consider. Customer demand can show strong peaks over the season such as white chrysanthemums in the winter period and early spring, so you can use this as a guide as you get a feel for your customer’s needs. This should also accommodate a good range of flower varieties, and targeting 10 or more flowers in season at a time.
You should also include rotation planning, avoiding planting by family to minimise disease and weed build up and aim to plant by harvest time to improve ease of harvest. You can also include cultivation approaches to help schedule plants. Plants grown in pots or modules can be moved in/out of protection as the season requires it, helping you to extend the season where required. Chilling of bulbs or corms (e.g. Gladioli) and successive plantings can give a good spread of flowers.
Cutting back perennials between May and June (the “Chelsea Chop”) can be suitable for many flower types such as Helenium and Echinacea can push back flowering, encourage side shoot development and will have a bigger effect the closer you come to flowering. For large stands this can be done in blocks to give waves of flowers over a period of time to avoid gluts.
Think carefully about what grow, and what will fit with your existing market and growing facilities. Some flowers are best left to the importers: the flower trade is now global with the “Big 6” (rose, carnation, chrysanthemum, lily, gladiolus and orchid) being imported from the EU, Africa and Central America. These can be purchased wholesale through the Dutch auction system and can be ordered for weekly deliveries to supplement whatever you can grow.
It is also possible to order flowers from UK producers year-round, with suppliers such as www.flowersbyclowance.co.uk and www.evolveflowers.com able to supply flowers from Cornwall and the Scilly Isles. Generally such suppliers offer a fixed range of products at relatively stable prices and allows the small-scale producer to offer a much broader range of products. Given below are a range of typical cut flower species, with guidance on flowering times to help you plan for year-round production.
Flowers grown from seed, especially for annuals, can be easy and cheap to grow. Most crops are short terms and can be sown several times over the season to help continuity of supply, with plantings every 3-4 weeks, including the spring and autumn periods. For best results these should be sown under good conditions such as under plastic or glass, with multiple seeds down into modules to allow the plants to grow into a ready-made bunch.
Optimal temperatures will ensure good germination and give good early growth whilst helping to avoid early weed setting. As well as cut flowers, module-raised plants can be sold as an ornamental product alongside other young modules such as vegetables. Target spacing of around 30x30cm can be used as a general guide. Tall plants will need net supports in most cases, sunflowers will be self-supporting but sweet peas need a frame or canes to support.
If sowing in modular trays or root trainers use a module filling compost. For most plants optimal germination is around 20°C and a small heated cabinet can come in useful as quick germination is wanted, but plants can be grown in cold tunnels if fleece is available for spring frosts in April and May.
Perennials will need semi-permanent beds as they will crop for two or more years. These can be initially planted October/November or February/March. These will be self-supporting, although will require lifting and splitting periodically, especially if the flower numbers are reducing. You’ll need to be careful managing weeds in established beds, but fully dormant plants (showing no green) can be oversprayed with contact herbicides to help reduce the weed burden. Spacing is more variable with perennials, taller plants like Peonies will need more space but can remain planted for years and are perhaps best treated as shrubs. Be prepared to be experiment here – there are other perennials that are not traditional cut flowers but may be attractive to your customers.
Bulbs and corms can be a very useful group as they flower outside of the usual flower seasons, and help keep a supply to your customers. Some will be perennial, while others are b est treated as annuals. Lilies and gladioli can be planted in sequence too extend the cutting season. Daffodils can be marketed on the strength of their Welsh provenance, while these can be sold as flowering live products for longer term display.
Traditional spray chrysanthemums, brought in as plug plants can be flowering into November if you plant as plugs from June through until August, although simple frost protection or fleecing might be needed into November but these are largely hardy. Plug plants can be supplied from specialist suppliers such as LRM Horticultural Services Ltd. For extra choice Zinnias, Antirrhinums, Aster, Bupleurum and Cerinthe can be easy options. If you have a tunnel that you want to use through the winter into March hyacinths could be planted in 3-5L mock terracotta pots, or medium and dwarf Narcissi such as “Jet Fire” or “Feburary Gold”. Early Narcissi (e.g. “Paper White”) planted in mid-late September will be ready to sell at the point of flowering in mid-late November. Bulbs can be purchased in wholesale from suppliers such as J Parker Dutch Bulbs (Wholesale) Ltd.
Download the full article here: Growing Cut Flowers Year Round