June 2012

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I wrote an article earlier in the week about edible flowers and which types are safe to eat.  This article has lots of ideas to make your flowers into tasty creations and how to preserve them for the winter.

Pick your flowers early in the day when they are packed with flavour.  Look for flowers that have just opened and leave any look past their best or dirty.  Only ever eat flowers that you are sure are edible as some are poisonous.  Remove the pollen and stamens from flowers as well as the green parts under the flower.  The white part at the bottom of rose petals is bitter so it should also be cut off.  Anyone with allergies should avoid eating flowers.

One of the easiest things to do with edible flowers is make tea.  Peppermint, lavender or lemon verbena, make a lovely refreshing tea.  Leave one or two sprigs to infuse in a cup of boiling water for about 4 minutes and then remove.  Chamomile tea is known to be calming and may help you sleep better.  Don’t add milk to these drinks, but a touch of honey can be added to sweeten them.


Winter can be an uninspiring time for flowers, but if you plan ahead you can preserve them to use when you wish.  A great way to preserve the flavour and scent of flowers is to put them in oil.  Marjoram, thyme and lavender are great in cooking. Floral oils will keep for up to 6 months.  Ice cubes are another way to preserve flowers, and they look so pretty.  Freeze small flowers or individual petals of larger flowers in ice cube trays.  Roses and scented geraniums work well.  They can be added to drinks for flavour and scent.

Scented sugar is lovely in cakes and meringues.  Mix a couple of cups of rose petals in a food processor with 225g of caster sugar.  Leave the sugar in an airtight container for a week and then sieve the rose petals out.  The sugar can be used to make a subtly flavoured butter cream or added to cakes and meringues.  You could also try making lavender or violet sugar.


Crystallised flowers are lovely decorations for cakes and deserts.  They will last a couple of days if stored in an airtight container.  Use a small brush to paint the flowers with egg white on both sides, and then sprinkle them with caster sugar.  Use small flowers like mini roses or violets, or separate petals from larger flowers.  Spread them out to dry on greaseproof paper, if you have used whole flower heads hang them upside down to dry out. If you’d prefer not use raw egg whites, powdered or pasteurised egg white will work too.

All images are from Kathy Brown her lovely book is available on her website.  It’s full of beautiful photos and scrumptious recipes to make with edible flowers.

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This dreamy rose is a soft white, with a touch of green on the outer petals.  It’s long stemmed and has a lovely large head, with up to 55 petals.  It has a strong stem and can last up to 2 weeks.  To top off a perfect white rose, it also has a delicious fragrance.


Maroussia is used in all types of floristry including gifts, events and funerals.  It is particularly popular for wedding flowers.  The floral cloth above was made by Robert Koene as part of designs for a church wedding. It consists of 250 maroussia roses and 800 stachys leaves.  Each petal was individually placed in the intricate design.


Robert Koene and his team used 7,500 roses to transform the church.  The theme was ‘tears of happiness’, the conical designs along the aisle symbolised teardrops.  White Naomi Roses and Feeling Dark Green Chrysanthemums were also used in the designs.


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We all want to get the most out of cut flowers and enjoy them for as long as possible. There are a few things you can do to increase their longevity and of course it helps if you know which flowers are long lasting.

These robust flowers come in almost every colour imaginable.  There are two main types, spray chrysanths have lots of small heads on a stem, and blooms which have one large head.  Forget boring mixed bunches; new varieties from florists are funky and modern.  They are very hardy and will last up to three weeks.
Cymbidium OrchidsCymbidium Orchids
All orchids are long lasting, but cymbidiums last particularly well as they don’t damage easily like other more delicate orchids.  The exotic blooms are large enough to be used individually in arrangements.  They are available in white, pink, yellow, red and green. They last up to three weeks and work well submerged in vases.
These elegant flowers come in many colours from white to pink, orange, red and purple.  There are several heads on each stem of Alstromeria.  English grown Alstromeria is far superior when in season, usually from spring to autumn, with beautiful large heads. They will last up to two weeks or longer, sometimes English Alstromeria will last three weeks.
You are spoilt for choice with carnations, there are literally of hundreds of colours.  You can get frilly, feathered or two tone varieties.  Choose from pure white to the palest pink, to cerise and velvety crimson. Standards carnations have one large head, whilst spray carnations have several small heads on a stem and are sold in bunches.  They are great value for money and last up to two weeks.
King ProteaProteas
These impressive flowers are very long lasting.  They come in in many varieties ranging from small pincushion proteas to huge king proteas.  They last 2-3 weeks, sometimes longer as they gradually dry out. King proteas can have flower heads up to 25cm across; the tactile petals have a velvety feel.  Proteas are available in a range of colours from white to pink, red, orange and yellow.
For tips to help your flower last as long as possible have a look at this article

Chrysanthemum arrangement – Justchrys.com

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Common name: Sweet pea

Botanical Names: Lathyrus odoratus

Origin: Eastern Mediterranean region from Sicily to Crete

Colours: White, pink, red, blue, cream

Sweet peas are a climbing plant with delicate flowers, they grow up to 2 metres in height.  They have a heavenly scent and get their name from the Latin for fragrant ‘odoratus’.  In the language of flowers their name represents ‘delicate pleasures’.

They have been cultivated since the 17th century and there are now hundreds of varieties.  They are perhaps most well-known for the delicious ice cream sundae shades of pinks and cream.  Although there are also stronger colours such as red and deep purple.  There are also a number of dwarf bush varieties are that are suitable for pots and hanging baskets.


Sweet peas are easy to grow in your garden; the main thing they require is some form of support to climb up and a sunny position.  They can be trained up a wigwam, cane or trellis.  A beautiful wall or screen of sweet peas can be achieved by arranging canes in a line and attaching wire or net between them to create a surface for the plants to grow up.

Cutting the flowers encourage further flowers to grow, they will last 2 or three days in a vase.  If you prefer to leave the flowers on the plant, remove any faded heads before they set seed, as this encourages a longer flowering period.


Cut flowers are available from March to November, they tend to last longer when grown commercially as they are treated to prolong their life.  Commercially grown, cut sweet peas should last up to a week. If you are lucky enough to live near a grower, English sweet peas are beautiful.  The pretty ruffled blooms are perfect for wedding work and provide a quintessential English garden feel.  The delicate pastel colours also suit vintage wedding themes.  As sweet peas have quite short stems they tend to be sold as loose flowers rather than arrangements, even a small vase of them will produce a divine fragrance.

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Flowers have been eaten for thousands of years, the Romans used them in cooking, as did the Chinese and Middle Eastern cultures.  The Victorians used them to garnish dishes and decorate cakes.  Some spices we use today are made from flowers, cloves are dried aromatic flower buds and saffron is tiny stigmas from crocus flowers, hand-picked and dried.  Flowers can be tasty and nutritious, as well adding colour and texture to dishes.

There are many uses for edible flowers including decorations, cakes, jams, infused oils, syrups, flavoured butter, cocktails, wine, flavoured spirits, scented sugar and crystallised flowers.  Many edible flowers are high in vitamins and minerals, particularly vitamins A and C.


Don’t eat cut flowers purchased from shops as they will most likely have had pesticides used on them.  The easiest way to make sure flowers are pesticide free is to grow them yourself.  Pick flowers at their peak and use them the same day, harvest flowers early in the day and only use flowers free from diseases.  Gently shake the flower heads to remove any insects and carefully wash them.

There are many edible flowers including carnations, apple blossom, hibiscus, chives, dill, fennel, lavender, gardenia, primrose, impatiens, rose, nasturtium, runner bean, marigold, snap dragon, pea flower, calendula, violet, borage, phlox, cornflower and mint.


If you’re not green fingered and would rather buy your edible flowers, First Leaf specialise in growing edible flowers.  Based in Pembrokeshire National Park, they sell grow a variety of edible flowers and leaf garnishes.  The flowers are packaged in punnets and shipped overnight in insulated boxes.

There are also a number of poisonous flowers commonly grown in gardens.  They are sometimes mentioned in murder mystery novels, James Bond was poisoned in Casino Royale with Digitalis, which is foxglove.  The following flowers are toxic (although not a complete list) and should never be consumed, monkshood, anemone, clematis, lily of the valley, larkspur, bleeding heart, euphorbia, hyacinth, jasmine, sweet pea, foxglove, daffodil, poppy, mistletoe, columbine, hydrangea, lupin, hypericum, rhododendron and calla lily.

If you’d like to see a comprehensive list of edible plants please click here

To enjoy edible flowers safely follow these guidelines:

Only eat flowers you are certain are edible.

Introduce flowers slowly to your diet in case of allergies, especially if you have hay fever or asthma.

Eat your own home grown produce or products sold as edible plants.


Edible flower salad – yummly.com

Mixed edible flowers – firstleaf.co.uk

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