29 January 2014

Book Review: Grow your own cut flowers by Sarah Raven

Last year I made some small bouquets from the flowers growing in our garden. It made me realise how much I missed choosing and buying flowers for Lucy each month - something I haven't been able to do while I've been off work.

It got me thinking about how I could bring cut flowers back into our lives. So I went online and started asking around for recommendations on books or web resources that people knew to be helpful for growing and arranging cut flowers. Lincslass on the Grow on You website recommended Sarah Raven's Grow your own cut flowers book. As always I went straight to the library website and found that our library had it in stock! That very evening Lucy and myself went to the library and loaned the book.

But enough about us, let's get on to the book. It's brilliant! Sarah Raven has a great writing style that allows the reader to embrace even the simplest of ideas without feeling stupid. An example being the 'cut and come again' flowers. Of course I knew that plenty of flowers need dead heading and keeping providing flowers as long as dead heading is done on a regular basis. But what had never occurred to me was that it would be possible to take the flowers before they were spent and that the plant would keep providing. Quite a revelation - and yet something so simple. It never even occurred to me that this was exactly what I was doing last year with the sweet pea flowers - cutting the new flowers off and waiting for the plant to replace them.

Each chapter about plant types; bulbs, annuals, biennials, etc, follows the same format. This begins with an introduction and an explanation how each plant type works and how they respond, as well as how to care for them. Each chapter closes with a table of plants that Sarah knows to be good for bouquets, with excellent photographs by Jonathan Buckley, of each flower. This table includes a description, the role it plays within a bouquet, good combination plants, and any special requirements.

I feel that Sarah really says it as it is and this book is a winner because of that. She makes clear that if you plant a seed too deeply, it won't have the energy to make it to the surface of the soil. Quite basic - but really necessary to make clear.

The chapter on arranging cut flowers, the equipment required, and how to condition the flowers to get the best out of them was, for me, the best chapter.

Throughout the book there are sumptuous photographs of bouquet arrangements that will make you want to start sowing seed immediately! Luckily the book ends with a diary of what to do when, so you know what you can get on with right away.

Clear and concise - an excellent read. I'd definitely recommend this book, especially if you're a cut flower novice like myself.

If you have any tips for growing or arranging cut flowers, or can recommend and follow-on books - please do let me know in the comments.


  1. Hi Tim,
    This sounds like a great book. Although I haven't read books about this subject, cutting and arranging flowers has been a life long endeavor for me. When selecting my plants, I've made it a practice to have flowers the entire season. Most can be cut and brought into the home or taken to work. At work, I was 'famous' for the arrangements at my desk and during the annual silent auction, I donated a monthly bouquet as a bid item. It brought in $200 for the employee fund. I've gotten away from having flowers at work - I think it's time to stop by the florist today!

    1. Hi Dawn, what a fantastic thing to do. I bet you were very popular due to your flower arrangements :) I think it's always time to stop by the florist - even if just to look! I'm looking forward to sowing the seeds I have for the coming year so I can practice arranging - I don't know why I didn't realise I enjoyed it sooner!


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