It’s dahlia season: the perfect time to choose the varieties to grow next year. Rachel Siegfried, the Founder of Oxfordshire flower farm Green & Gorgeous, shares her tips for creating a beautiful cutting garden at home. By Jessica Jonzen
A DAHLIA BED AT GREEN & GORGEOUS FLOWER FARM IN OXFORDSHIRE. IMAGE: CLIVE NICHOLS
There are few things which bring me more pleasure than wandering around a beautiful garden filled with flowers, especially when I get to take a cutting or a posy home. So when I heard about Green & Gorgeous, a farm with four acres of flower fields, orchards and herb and vegetable beds in the Oxfordshire countryside, I was desperate to visit.
When I arrived on a golden September morning earlier this month, the stresses and worries that this year has brought evaporated like the dew. Armed with a pair of secateurs, I picked my way along the glorious beds filled with dahlias, grinning inanely at the sumptuous jewellery box of colour and shape, snipping away to create a glorious bouquet. The experience was truly therapeutic: I came away with an armful of beautiful dahlias and a real feeling of renewed positivity.
Run by Rachel Siegfried and her partner Ashley Pearson, Green & Gorgeous opened back in 2008 to provide beautiful garden-grown local flowers as a sustainable alternative to imported flowers which embraced the seasons and our national love of gardens.
A DAHLIA DISPLAY IN RACHEL’S FLOWER STUDIO AT GREEN & GORGEOUS. IMAGE: CLIVE NICHOLS
Having worked in a walled kitchen garden on a private estate in the Cotswolds growing produce for the house which included cut flowers, Rachel became increasingly captivated by the beauty and spontaneity of using garden grown and foraged materials to create arrangements for the house. She found a market garden in the countryside with good growing facilities and a house next door and Green & Gorgeous was born.
Twelve years on, Green & Gorgeous provides beautiful flowers throughout the growing season, which Rachel transforms into beautiful natural bouquets and arrangements for weddings. Their floriculture and floristry courses inspire professional gardeners and florists and hobbyists alike, and here, Rachel shares her tips for creating a joyful cutting garden and how flowers make a house a home.
(LEFT) RACHEL SEIGFRIED WEARING A FLORAL HEADRESS; (RIGHT) DAHLIAS AND ROSES IN RACHEL’S FLOWER STUDIO. IMAGES: CLIVE NICHOLS
How important are flowers in creating a home? Is your own home full of them?
I always have flowers in my home – I know how much they can lift your spirits and I have seen this more than ever this year. I chose the paint colours for each room in my home with flowers in mind and love using the walls as a backdrop to my floral designs. From China Clay by Little Greene in the living room – an earthy pink which works well with soft peaches and plum tones – to Hardwick White by Farrow & Ball in the study, a grey green which looks fantastic with yellows, each room is different.
Which are your favourite flowers to grow?
That is a difficult question to answer as I have so many favourites which seem to change with every season and the new flowers that it brings. I love flowers that evoke wildflower meadows, and scent is very important to me. My dream combination would be something like blousey garden roses paired with an umbel like Daucus Dara (carrot flower).
(LEFT) ONE OF RACHEL’S STUNNING FLORAL ARRANGEMENTS; (MIDDLE) VIOLET THE WHIPPET LOUNGING IN THE SHOP AT GREEN & GORGEOUS; (RIGHT) RACHEL SEIGFRIED GATHERING FLOWERS. IMAGES: CLIVE NICHOLS
How much room does someone need to plant a cutting garden at home?
Many people grow in just a raised bed or squeeze a few rows in amongst the vegetable patch; if you choose cut and come again varieties it is surprising how much can be produced out of a small space. The trick is to spend some time planning your cutting patch, ideally on paper for continuity, and to select varieties that combine well together.
It’s early Autumn: what sort of jobs should we be doing in the garden at this time of year?
It is a busy time of year clearing Summer flowering crops, preparing for Spring flowers by sowing hardy annuals, planting bulbs and dividing perennials. It is also a good time to plan which varieties of dahlia to grow next year so I would recommend visiting anywhere that grows lots of dahlias to see the whole plant, its habitat, health and vigour.
What is your own garden like at home?
A mess! Full of weeds and long grass but it is a haven for a wildlife and I guess I see the flower farm as my true garden.
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