Last year, I didn’t really grow flowers. Due to wanting to grow food and be as self-sufficient as possible with the space I had, flowers didn’t really fit in with my plans. I grew some marigolds for companion planting and would have grown some nasturtium too had I not temporarily misplaced the seed packet. There were a few flowers which popped up unexpectedly on my plot which I appreciated much more than I thought I would. These included some dahlias, gladioli and a couple of sunflower ‘weeds’.
This season, I am upping my flower growing game. Because I still want a highly productive garden, I have put a lot of thought into all the flowers I am growing, ensuring the vast majority of them have multiple purposes. I hope you find this useful in deciding which flowers you may wish to grow. I have separated them into edible and non-edible varieties. If I’ve listed an edible as non-edible it is because I can’t find sufficient information and would not want to tell you that you can eat something that I am not 100% sure is edible. Also please be aware that if you are pregnant or have any underlying health conditions, it is worth doing your own research and/or speaking to your doctor because some of these may have adverse side effects to these groups of people.
Bergamot, Lemon and wild varieties – both types of bergamot are great for pollinators. I will also dry some of the leaves to make tea.
Borage – Bees LOVE borage. I couldn’t help noticing the number of them surrounding the borage my allotment neighbour had on her plot last year. It also flowered for a very long period. Borage is also edible, you can eat both the flowers and the leaves. The leaves can be eaten raw or cooked, and the flowers look gorgeous brightening up a plate of food or jazzing up your drink. Apparently borage tastes like cucumber.
Calendula – Bee friendly, edible flowers and they are also great for homemade beauty products thanks to its antibacterial, antifungal and anti-inflammatory properties.
Chamomile – the flowers are used for making relaxing night time tea. I may also try making soaps/balms using chamomile because it has anti-inflammatory properties.
Cornflower – Beautiful edible flowers that are great for bees. I may also cut a few purely for decorative purposes.
Dahlias – gorgeous flowers for both the garden and for picking. Dahlia petals are edible so I may try sprinkling some petals on salads if I can bring myself to eat something so beautiful.
Hollyhock – beautiful flowers and great for bees. You can eat the flowers and leaves in salads and also make tea from the flower petals.
Nasturtium – Bees love them as do white butterflies. Nasturtiums are often used to help prevent cabbage white butterflies attacking your brassicas. It’s still worth using other protection for brassicas, but the nasturtium can be an easy access plant for butterflies. Hopefully this will keep them from battling their way to get under your brassica netting. The flowers, leaves and seeds are all edible. The flowers and leaves are often used in salads while the seeds are often used as ‘poor man’s capers’.
Nigella – bees love nigella flowers. In addition, the seeds are edible and often used in Indian cooking and bread making.
Viola Tricolor– the flowers are edible which are a great addition to brighten up salads. It is also anti-inflammatory and is apparently great for soothing skin rashes.
Non edible varieties
Cosmos – I love cosmos. They are such a happy flower. Plus like many flowers on this list, they’re great for bees.
Foxglove – produce the most beautiful flowers that bees love.
Strawflower – These are for a bit of fun – they’re great for drying & making decorations. See a video for making strawflower baubles here.
Marigold (French) – These are a great companion plant for many vegetables because they attract bugs to eat aphids.
Phacelia – part of the borage family. This one has multiple benefits. Bees absolutely love it and it is also often used as a green manure because it has an extensive root system which is good for improving soil structure.
Sweet Peas – producing beautiful spring flowers that are great for cutting.
Sweet Williams & Sweet Rocket– My reason for growing these is to brighten up a path down the side of my house, because they are apparently shade tolerant and good for growing in containers. The latter is also good for pollinators too.