Jen Stuart-Smith explores the multiple uses of some easy-to-grow garden favourites

When you grow flowers for their beauty, shape and colour it can be easy to forget all the other qualities they have to offer. Some are edible, others provide scent – either directly, or in the form of essential oils – while the real stars of the show relieve pain and save lives. At Blooming Green, where we grow flowers for use in floristry, we’re big fans of using them for more than just bouquets and arrangements. In fact, this year, we are creating an apothecary garden, inspired by our colleague Kim.
Kim used to work in intensive care in London and, curious about the beneficial effects of plants and essential oils, studied complementary therapy on the side. Not only is she a fan of aromatherapy and the use of essential oils but she often treats us to goodies, made using flowers from our plot and farm. We’ve had lavender cordial and shortbread, wild garlic kimchi as well as calendula lip balm! So, when we look out on our flower plot, it’s not just the flowers’ and foliages’ decorative qualities we notice, but a whole lot more besides:

Clary sage: Striking, architectural mauve spikes are perfect for large arrangements or a dramatic bouquet. The essential oil of clary sage is said to be an aphrodisiac – though we are divided; its musky scent is somewhere on the scale between aromatic and armpit!
Feverfew: Even its name is suggestive of its historic uses and power. Described by Nicholas Culpeper, in his Complete Herbal of 1653, as of ‘general utility to the fair sex’, we have to agree – though we tend to use its daisy-like flowers for rustic posies and bouquets.

Mint: Perfect for a quick, tummy-settling tea or when boiling new potatoes, we love mint and its purply-grey flower spikes. Its scent is invigorating and fresh. Varieties such as buddleia mint, apple mint and spearmint offer different shades of green.

Borage: Pretty blue flower that’s perfect for your Pimm’s or inside ice cubes for summer drinks. Another edible flower that’s a pretty addition to salads or made into a sweet syrup.

Dill: Not technically a flower – but its seed heads look wonderful in bouquets. We use the fronds to make a Norwegian cucumber salad and it’s great with fish.

Calendula: A classic peppery petal that’s great in salads – but can also be used in oils, vinegars and tinctures. Popular as a companion plant in polytunnels and on the veg patch they attract pollinators and aphid-munching predators.
Tansy: The bright yellow button-like flowers on this native plant have a strong, astringent smell. According to Culpeper, this flower needs no introduction… though we would recommend it for its insect-repelling qualities, either in a spray or grown outside your kitchen window.

Nasturtiums: Another bright and peppery addition to salads, nasturtiums are easy to grow – so a fun one for kids – and work well in containers or scrambling over your raised veg beds.

Marjoram: Easy to grow, vigorous and copes well with dry conditions, marjoram’s tiny pink, mauve or white flowers are part of its charm. It works beautifully with summer vegetables or in oils and vinegars.

Lavender: Fresh or dried, lavender is wonderfully calming and known for its sleep-inducing scent. Great for pollinators and good for humans too – who like to use it in ice cream, biscuits or cordial.

Jennifer Stuart-Smith is co-founder of flower-growing and floristry business, Blooming Green bloominggreenflowers.co.uk

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