Flowers to sow for a summer wedding

Alys Fowler
Photograph: Dorling Kindersley ltd/Alamy Stock Photo

This summer I’ve a wedding to grow flowers for: my own. And for someone who has known about this for some time, I have left it all rather late, but there you go. It’s not my first time doing this, so I know full well that you have to start a lot earlier than a couple of months before the big day.

With this in mind, I recently opened the Chiltern Seed catalogue and weighed up my options. Frothy ammi and sprinkles of dusky pink wild carrots are unlikely to be ready in time. The same could be said of cosmos, nicotiana, zinnia, oryla; the list goes on. Of course, it is possible to force many of these things, but that would require a greenhouse and a schedule to be around every weekend for watering.

As I flicked through the pages wondering why I’d left such an important task so late, I came to rest upon the kindest, easiest, most utterly trustworthy of flowers, pot marigolds: joyous blooms that bring sunshine to even dark days, that replenish themselves effortlessly, that make the most of whatever conditions they are given, and offer up food for the bees and medicine for us. Blooms that, when I think about it, reflect the values of the woman I shall marry.

Calendula officinalis cultivars come in every shade from almost cream to buff pinks and terracotta through to the standard neon orange. I’ve a soft spot for anything apricot, so there’s Art Shades in cream and peach, and Orange Flash that promises apricot-buff colour petals with dark bronze shades on the reverse. I’m also trying two that are new for me: Touch of Red Buff that Chiltern Seeds describes as contemporary beige-pink (millennial pink to you and me), and Snow Princess, the palest of yellows with dark and cream centres. If space is limited, Chiltern offers a seed mix of all varieties with a little bit of everything throw in.

Ladybird Rose nasturtium. Photograph: AY Images/Alamy Stock Photo

For good measure and a little variation, I’ve added some nasturtium to the mix. Ladybird Rose in dusky apricot, Milkmaid in cream and Baby Deep Rose in rose pink. I’ll grow them in the polytunnel in pots.

If you want to grow calendula for cut flowers, and there’s plenty of reason to as they last for days in a vase, sow now indoors under a little heat. Plant out by mid-April, spacing 20-30cm apart, in well-drained but not too rich soil and keep on top of weeding. Pinch out the terminal bud when it first appears to promote branching, which means more flowers. You should (all fingers crossed) be picking by June.