There is no doubt about it - growing and picking your own flowers is a total joy. Wandering around the garden with secateurs in hand, gathering blooms for a bouquet or posy, is a satisfying experience.
The trick to success is, as always in gardening, preparation. Remember to feed the soil so it can reward you with stunning floral displays.
Other factors to ensure a blooming success are: choosing flower varieties that suit your garden, climate and the amount of time you have available.
TOP 10 FLOWERS FOR PICKING
1. Sweet peas. Easy to grow, all these flowers need is a sunny spot and something to climb up and hold on to. A fence, trellis or a tall host plant such as topiary are all options. The trick to success is to keep picking them, as this encourages more flowers.
2. Snapdragon. Tall, elegant and easy to grow, these will last in a vase for a week or more.
3. Peruvian lily (Alstroemeria). Plant in spring or summer to pick throughout summer and autumn. These will keep well for weeks in a vase.
4. Marguerite daisies. Masses of daisies cover the plants from early spring until winter, and dwarf varieties are perfect for pots and patio planting.
5. Dahlias. Plant in late spring/early summer for autumn picking. Lift and divide the clumps each winter to get more free plants.
6. Stock. A good, old-fashioned fragrant favourite to plant all year round. These hardy perfumed stalwarts are a must-have for the flora-ista's garden.
7. Bulbs. Gladiolus, lilies and crocus can all be planted now for autumn flowering.
8. Roses. With so many to choose from, I suggest planting floribunda roses. These produce more flowers than the hybrid tea, formal-looking types. This means once you have picked a few stems there is still something left in the garden to enjoy as well.
9. Carnations and dianthus. These plants are closely related and put on a sterling show. Sizes and colours vary, and dianthus is ideal for pots and containers, too.
10. Hydrangeas. Large, frilly heads of flowers appear from mid-summer until the end of autumn. One or two heads are enough to fill a vase.
TIPS ON GROWING FLOWERS
Location, location, location. Choose the right plant for the position. If you have a shady garden, choose shade-loving flowers like alstroemeria and hydrangeas. For bright, sunny spots choose daisies, dahlias, stocks or lilies.
Dig it - prepare the soil prior to planting by adding in Flower Power and Novatec fertiliser. These goodies serve as the backbone to a blooming garden.
Freshen up old container soil by adding in Novatec fertiliser and Debco Saturaid. Mix it in thoroughly before planting.
Water - keep the soil moist, not wet. Water deeply once or twice a week, rather than a little every day. Don't put your flowers to bed wet, as this can encourage disease and mildew problems.
Hunt down a copy of the Tui NZ Flower Garden. This book has more than 1000 photographs and pages of ideas.