Louise Curley, author of The Cut Flower Patch, shares this month’s planting diary. 'For most places in the UK May is the month when the danger of frost eases and planting out on to the cut flower patch can begin in earnest. The transition from sunny, protected windowsill or greenhouse to the great outdoors can be quite a shock to young plants. The best way to ease this impact is to harden off any plants for a few weeks by gradually acclimatising them to cooler temperatures, wind and rain. Cold frames are perfect for this job but grouping pots together in a sheltered spot near your house and covering them with a layer of horticultural fleece at night will work just as well.
'Hardy annuals are the first plants to be planted out on to the cut flower patch this month and they will keep me supplied in flowers right through until the first frosts in October or November. There are sunflowers such as ‘Vanilla Ice’, the pincushion-like flowers of Scabiosa atropurpurea, ammi, cornflowers and, for climbing up hazel wigwams, I couldn’t be without fragrant sweet peas. And if spring has caught up with you a little this year and you feel like you’ve missed the boat when it comes to seed sowing don’t despair. Garden centres and some mail order plant nurseries have small cut flower plants which are perfect for planting in May.
'Spring bulbs may be fading but summer flowering varieties are perfect for planting this month. Bulbs take up very little room so are fantastic for maximising your cut flower growing potential – plant in blocks or in between low growing flowers such as statice and Anemone coronaria. Plant acidantheras and freesias for scented flowers in August and September, and forget the old fashioned, frumpy reputation of gladioli; there are some fabulous varieties to choose from. Grow the sumptuous crimson coloured ‘Espresso’, the rich velvety ‘Purple Flora’ or the zingy ‘Green Star’. Sometimes arranging a traditional cut flower in a more contemporary way is all it takes to update an image. Try putting single stems of gladioli in a massed collection of simple milk bottle vases for a modern take on these exotic blooms.'