How and Why to Prune
Ever thought about starting your very own vegetable or herb garden – have your own little spot in which to cultivate and eat your own fresh produce? Think it’s too much work? Well we have a bit of a spoiler – it’s easy to grow your own plants and herbs.
It is also great to start growing your own as there are many recipes with edible flowers nowadays. We’ll see which flowers to eat too.
We’re first going to go through what it entails to simply care for the plants you already have. So why is it important to prune and how exactly you should do this.
You might be used to just bringing your plants home from the nursery, snipping the stems using scissors and feeding them some lukewarm water.
Sometimes it’s actually good to ‘shave’ the stem ends – this will allow the water to actually travel easily up the flowers. Don’t use your scissors like a vegetable peeler, but practice will make perfect.
Also think about repotting – sometimes they leave the flowers quite jammed in too small pots. So if it’s not the season but you feel that the plant will be benefitted and it quite literally choking then go ahead and repot. Do it gently and make sure you’re not in a draft.
How to stem-trim your single stemmed flowers
Use a sharp pocket knife designed for the purpose, work to get an extreme angle. You can also use a Swiss Army knife. So holding your flower stem in one hand, point the blade away from you and gently slice it through the stem so that the cut reveals a generous opening. Then place them in a vessel of lukewarm water.
Deadheading in intuitive – even if just due to their unsightliness. But pruning a plant in its prime requires a deeper level of dedication. You can keep your clippings of larger flowers and outdoor plants as single stem flowers for inside.
The Lantana plant is a favourite as it grows well, it is easy to take care of and attracts butterflies. Its mix of orange, yellow and pink buds brighten your space and attract pollinators. Prune it in summer and care for its blossoms. If it is an early bloomer (like the lilac, forsythia and rhododendron) you can prune in late spring once it’s ready of blooming.
Cut your stems at a 45 degree angle to facilitate water uptake. Wooded stems should be split with a sharp pair of shears, and not household scissors, to avoid crushing the vascular system in the stems.
Time of Day
The morning is always the best time to prune. It is not an ideal situation is pruning when the plant is warm or hot from a day in the sun. You can cut in the evening once the plant has cooled off completely.
You can manage the pH of the water to stimulate the nutrients the blooms used to draw from the plant with some hacks: dropping an aspirin or copper coin into the water.
Edible Plants – from seed to your table
The Oxalis has lemony and fresh leave, the plant actually being a kind of “sourgrass” which is often referred to as wood sorrel.
Its citrusy flavour is due to high levels of oxalic acid – incidentally also found in broccoli and spinach – and vitamin C.
These leave should only be consumed in moderation due to this oxalic acid, as it inhibits calcium absorption.
People who are prone to kidney stones or have gout or rheumatism should avoid it completely.
Breadseed Poppy, Papaver somniferum
It loves full sun and a moderate amount of water.
You just want to consume the seeds as all the other parts are poisonous.
Harvest when the pods are dry and plump. You can easily bake them – in muffins, cakes or bread – or stir into salad dressings or even ice-creams.
Lilac, Syringa vulgaris
The lilac thrives on contrast. It needs plenty of sun and cold nights. You just want to eat the petals, harvest them in the morning and place the stems in cold water until you use them. Place the petals in salads, steeped into a neutral oil for accenting dishes or even blended into sugar for something deliciously different.
Scented Geraniums, Pelargonium
You might need to move this one around from time to time. It enjoys sun but also some shade, and allow the soil to remain moist. Eat the gorgeous leaves, but how? Dried, minced and mixed into a herbal sugar would be lovely but you can also add them fresh to salads.
You can also use it as a bug repellent by simply rubbing it onto your skin.
Purple coneflower, Echinacea purpurea
This is also one for sun and shade, and it requires well-drained soil. You can eat anything from the flower petals to the root (but then you lose the plant). Eat the petals dried and steeped into tea.
Gem Marigolds, Tagetes tenuifolia
This is one to stay out in the sun. Go ahead and sample the petals and the flower head. The petals are great over salads, while the heads can be infused into bitters or in an amaro.
I know roses right! But eat the petals you would have harvested in the morning, before the heat kicks in. The rose is perfect for jams, teas and baked goods, even ice cream.
Viola (Pansy), Viola adorata and Viola tricolor
If you’re in a cool climate then it can be left in the sun, but if you live in a warmer climate then leave your Viola in part to light shade. The petals can be mixed into salads or compound butters; the stems and leaves can be eaten raw or if you prefer have them steamed/sauteed/creamed – as you would your greens.
Calendula (Marigold), Calendula officinalis
The Calendula prefers sun but partial shade is good too. Consume the petals raw in salads or infused in tea.
You can also get creative and mix your flowers into a cocktail
Try this one for your tastebuds
Pomelder Prosecco Punch
Makes 12 5-oz
- 2 cups 100% pomegranate juice
- 2 to 3 inch knob of ginger, thinly sliced
- 20 green cardamom pods, crushed
- 1 bottle extra-dry Prosecco (750 ml)
- 1 bottle sparkling pear juice (750 ml)
- ½ to ¾ cup St. Germain elderflower liqueur
- Combine the pomegranate juice, ginger, and cardamom in a medium sauce pan. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a robust simmer. Cook until reduced to approximately 1 cup, which will take about 30 minutes. Remove from heat, cover, and allow to cool to room temperature. Pass reduced juice through a fine mesh strainer into a storage vessel. Chill in the refrigerator at least 2 hours before making punch. Can be made up to 3 days ahead.
- Just before serving combine reduced pomegranate juice, Prosecco, pear juice, and ½ cup elderflower liqueur in a large pitcher or punch bowl. Taste and add more elderflower liqueur if desired.
- For a fancy party presentation, place a sugar cube in the bottom of a champagne flute, and add the punch. The sugar cube will create a continuous stream of tiny bubbles. It will disintegrate, but doesn’t dissolve much into the punch so won’t change the flavour dramatically.
- For fancy ice cubes freeze sparkling pear juice with pomegranate arils and/or thin slices of Seckel pear.
- For a non-alcoholic variation replace the Prosecco with seltzer. Replace the St. Germain with ¼ cup elderflower syrup.