Gardening: Best options for July wedding flowers

Question: My daughter is getting married in the beginning of July, and we would like as many fresh flowers as possible. Are there ones I could plant now that would work in a July wedding?

Raydeen Fuge, Langley

Answer: Sweet peas are one of the very best flowers to plant now for a July wedding. This is the right time to plant them, and their flowering time is more predictable than most other flowers. Their range of colours is immense.

Seeds are easy to get everywhere. All the ones I mention are available from West Coast Seeds, which are sold in most garden centres as well as online. The Mammoth series, for instance, flower when days are 10 hours long, and this type is the earliest of all. These sweet peas come in a range of colours:  crimson, pale and deep pink, navy-blue, lavender and salmon.

The Mammoth series blooms have long stems and the vines climb to about three metres. Then there is the wonderful fragrance. All the sweet peas I'm recommending need supporting, because tall vines grow the long stems to work in a bouquet.

It's best to sow some heat-tolerant sweet peas as well. The Royal Family Blend tolerates heat (so it blooms for longer even in a hot summer). This type has big flowers and long stems, as well. It grows 1.2 to 1.5 metres tall. It comes in many colours including white.

The best heat resistance is in the Old Spice Blend. These are enormously fragrant though the flowers are a little smaller. It's another two metres.

The Spencer varieties include names like the all-white Royal Wedding and the Spencer Ripple Formula, which has pink and white bi-coloured flowers with curved edges. The Ripple type climb two to 2.3 metres tall.

By focusing on sweet peas, the remaining issue becomes simpler since all you then need is some kind of a background for the bouquet. You may be able to lay your hands on some shrub already in your garden: huckleberry perhaps or salal plus ivy as a trailer.

Or perhaps a friend may have suitable greenery. In any case, florists have green branches some on hand always, some of which, like salal, are native here.

You might invest in some Asiatic lilies as a fail-safe. Most bloom through June, but this spring has been very warm, and if you planted the lilies in March, you might have some earlier flowers. The same could happen if you planted gladiolas a tad early, too.

What we're gambling with here is the weather which can be very unpredictable. Meanwhile seed germination and bulb-sprouting can be very weather-dependent, which adds to the element of gambling.

Question: I collected poppy seeds from a plant of my friends but didn't plant them last fall. If I planted them soon, could I get flowers this year?

Lana Austin, East Vancouver

Answer: If they were annuals – like the red corn poppy or the grey-leaved, pink, frilly Papaver peoniflorium – you should plant them in April, and you'll get flowers this year. For perennials, such as the clump-forming, red, huge-flowered Oriental poppy, you won't get flowers this year. It's best to plant these soon.

Anne Marrison is happy to answer garden questions. Send them to her via amarrison@shaw.ca  It helps me if you tell me your region or city.

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