To celebrate the launch of our new scent Cornflower and Meadow Rose, we have been speaking to florist and grower, Milli Proust, expert on all things wild and floral. She will be talking to us about her beautiful new book and advising us on how to grow our very own rambling patch of cornflowers.
So Milli, could you give us some advice as to how best to plant and care for our cornflower seeds. Where in the garden will they flourish and what can we do nourish and encourage their growth?
Cornflowers are a confidence giving seed as they don't need too much fuss to germinate, so it's worth giving them a go even if seed-starting is not something you've done before. They're a hardy annual, which means they germinate, grow, flower, set seed and end their life over the course of a year, and as they're hardy, they can tolerate a fair bit of cold. That said, they prefer slightly warmer temperatures to germinate. Choose a sunny spot to grow them. You can sow directly in the ground in April-May. Prepare the ground by removing weeds, and raking it so the soil is even with no big clumps. Give the patch a good soak with a watering can (this saves you doing it straight after sowing, which runs the risk of washing the seeds away). Draw a line in the ground with a stick, a cm deep, and sprinkle the seeds along the line. Try to drop the seeds about 12 cm apart, but don't worry too much about it as you can pull out any extra seedlings later. If you'd like to do more than one row, space the following rows about a foot apart. Keep the ground from drying out too much over the next couple of weeks, and you should see germination within the month. You'll see them come up in their lines, so you should be able to identify which are cornflowers and which are weeds. Remove any weeds that spring up around them to give them the best chance of growing nice and big for you. If it's a dry summer, be sure to keep watering them if the soil is looking particularly dry. Keep picking and dead-heading them to encourage more flushes of flowers.
We know that cornflowers look wonderful with their soft colours and delicate petals, but is it true that they are also excellent additions to the kitchen?
Cornflowers are edible and make a beautiful addition to summer salads, cakes, or for sprinkling into drinks. Dry drying them slowly on a tray in the house and once they're fully dry you can store them in a jar for future culinary use.
We love your book. It is the perfect seasonal companion for our own adventures in the garden. Could you tell us a bit more about it and how you came to write it?
I loved every minute of working on the book. It came from a place of becoming increasingly fascinated by the relationship between land and gardener- there’s something incredibly intimate about that relationship. Every bit of land is so different, from the size available, soil type, the climate, where the wind comes from and where the sun touches it, that there’s never going to be a perfect textbook to follow when it comes to gardening. This journey of learning the land has felt much more personal than anything else I’ve done, and much more nuanced too- much like getting to know and understand a new friendship. I’ve not been growing flowers for very long- this is only my seventh year growing commercially, and embracing that, I wanted to write in a way that made the practical elements as accessible and easy to understand as possible.I wanted to bring a book into existence that not only was practical, useful, and encouraging if you’re just starting out growing flowers, but celebratory of the personal too- a book that motivates the forming and strengthening of a relationship between a garden and a gardener, whether the space you have to grow is a few window boxes, an allotment, or a garden.
We believe your flower beds are set to expand. What can we expect from this new field of blooms?
My business partner Paris Alma and I have taken on another field we're renting from a local farmer. We're using this extra space to be able to supply local and London florists with our beautiful, seasonal blooms. We have plans to eventually host workshops there too- we want to be able to share as much of the beauty as possible.
To learn more about Milli, click here.