Can you name some flowers that could be ready by May?

Question: My granddaughter is getting married at the end of May and I would like to provide some flowers to decorate the church and also to put on the tables at the reception. Can you suggest some flowers to grow to be ready for May? She has mentioned cornflowers or a similar type. (M Hunsdon, via email)

Answer: There is a large range of plants that flower in May and if your granddaughter is going for a blue or purple theme you would do well to source some lilac. You will not get this to grow big enough to use in May but you could ask around as to any friends that have them, as this would look great in flower arrangements and has a strong perfume.

There are other shrubs such as Ceanothus that will be in flower during May but, again, they really need to be already growing and of a reasonable size to start cutting.

The most suitable way to get lots of flowers for a wedding in May is to grow hardy annuals. These include cornflowers and tend to be things that can be sown directly into the soil, where they will grow and flower.

However, to be sure of a good crop of flowers it would be worth selecting the varieties you want and sowing some in cell trays in the greenhouse now to ensure they get a good start. You do not need to heat the greenhouse but make sure the seeds don't dry out or get too wet.


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Keep the plants actively growing by feeding them regularly once they are up and reasonably established. Plant them out in a sunny garden with plenty of space (minimum 20cm apart).

The way the weather is going (in 2012) it looks like things are warming up and it looks quite possible you will get quite a show by May.

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Here are a few hardy annuals that have been awarded the RHS award of garden merit (AGM) and are suitable for inclusion in flower arrangements:

•Ammi majus 'Graceland': dark green, feathery foliage makes the perfect background for an unusually long lasting display of flat, lace-like heads of dainty white flowers opening from green buds. The upright plants are ideal among perennials or other tall annuals, and are especially attractive to bees, butterflies and other insects. They also make valuable cut flowers where they bring a lightness and airiness to displays of bolder flowers in pastels or brighter shades.

•Echium vulgare 'Blue Bedder': One of the best bee plants of all, you can often hear the bees buzzing on the blooms before you're close enough to see them. Bright pink buds quickly open to rich, sparkling, violet-tinted, blue flowers over slightly rasping foliage for a long summer season. The rounded plants are ideal in a sunny place and happy in relatively poor soil, they will also often self-sow for the following year.

•Linaria maroccana Fairy Bouquet Group: One of the stars of the 2008 trial, this mixture contains both pastel shades and brighter colours, including many bicolour. The dainty little flowers – like miniature antirrhinums – line the vertical stems which branch to form secondary spikes as the main spike fades. Flowering prolifically for a couple of summer months, this also a lovely little flower for informal summer cottage-style bouquets.

•Nigella damascena 'Miss Jekyll': Justifiably one of the most popular of all hardy annuals, from soon after germination until the autumn seeds heads this is a lovely plant. Repeatedly divided leaves make an attractive rosette from which spring vertical stems carrying sky blue flowers are followed by inflated seed pods. The flowers are lovely in the garden and when cut, the seed pods can be dried to biscuit brown.

•Orlaya grandiflora: Another annual that combines well with so many other plants – annuals or perennials – and which is bright and colourful in its own right. Featuring prettily divided fresh green foliage, the slightly domed heads are more colourful than the similar Ammi majus. Good in dry soil, and a fine cut flower too.

•This article was first published on January 21, 2012.

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