How I pick flowers & plants for my garden

The criteria

Every plant that comes into my garden, whether it is a fruit tree or flowering shrub, annual edible or bright bloom, they all have to adhere to at least 1 of my 5 criteria points. This helps me decide if it is going to make me put the effort in growing something and keep it alive and well so it can thrive (still very much a work in progress as not everything thrives 😆). This is mostly for (ornamental) flowers that I put in the garden as the majority of what grows here is edible in one shape or another.

Aside from the main points I also keep in mind if something is native – and no not everything in my garden is – or invasive. For instance my Canna lily is not native to the uk, it is however not invasive. If something is a non native annual that self seeded freely (becoming invasive) I will not put it in my garden. For instance, I am planning on having English bluebells in the garden, just a few and let them naturalise (multiply). If I were to do this with the Spanish bluebell, I would be putting the English one at risk instead. Worth thinking about.

So apart from native & non invasive my 5 main criteria are;

  1. Edible
  2. Medicinal
  3. Companion
  4. Pollinator friendly
  5. Dye

Is any of this necessary for a beautiful & colourful garden? Absolutely not, I simply choose to have this list of criteria so I know for my own personal beliefs towards the garden that I’m doing all I can to maintain a healthy balance and habitat for wildlife and my needs of the garden.

I’ll explain more in detail below.



Pretty much a no brainer to the title of this criteria but let me explain a bit more about it. When I say ‘Edible’ I don’t just mean tomatoes and cucumbers, nor do I mean that they are solely flowers that produce something edible like aubergine does.  What I mean with edible is that various parts of a plant can be edible. Things like hostas, when the leaves just appear through the soil in spring you can cut them and use them the way you would asparagus spears. Their flowers are edible too. Canna lilies, Oxalis Triangularis and even Dahlias have edible tubers & roots. Not that you should do those things, I enjoy growing them for their looks too. The idea that I could eat them though, that’s what gets me excited.

With the idea that the flowers or other parts of a plant are edible you expand in effect your produce yield. I’ve got a lot of obvious edible flowers in the garden like nasturtium, calendula and basil. but also a lot of not so obvious ones like Grape Hyacinth/ Muscari or Pineapple Guava (the flower petals on these tropical blooms are something else – almost marshmallow like! I kid you not) and even Queen Anne’s Lace.

So far since starting my growing journey with in particular my “list”, I’ve made cake and a gin cocktail out of Lavender, tempura fritters from Queen Anne’s Lace, Nasturtium seed capers, ketchup with green tomatoes, Chive blossom vinegar, whipped calendula cream, calendula cookies and manu many more things.




Plants have been used as medicine since prehistoric times. Aiding in a variety of things from healing burns (Calendula) to aiding digestion, cure colds, repel bugs and even help in labour and as a contraceptive! Top of my head plants like Thyme, Chamomile, Evening Primrose, Lavender, Lemon Balm, Hellebore and even Raspberry – as well as countless more.

I still have many things to learn about medicinal plants as; “Plant medicines can cause adverse effects and even death, whether by side-effects of their active substances, by adulteration or contamination, by overdose, or by inappropriate prescription. Many such effects are known, while others remain to be explored scientifically. There is no reason to presume that because a product comes from nature it must be safe”*

For instance I know that Clevers (sticky willy or Goosegrass) is both edible and medicinal – its medicinal properties are traditionally used for skin ailments like burns and eczema externally. Internally it can aid in reducing fever, tonsillitis & insomnia. However, I know that I am allergic to clevers. When the plant touches my bare skin in get covered in scratches that burn my skin, leaving scratch/burn grazes all over. I therefore will never consume or topically apply anything with clever in it. It it therefore always wise to test something on a small area to see if you get any reactions. I’m so glad I did before I made any drinks or tonics with this plant.

It’s safe to say I’ve got a lot to learn about this topic and slowly I will. I think this isn’t one of those things you can’t rush.

Let me know of any medicinal plants/flowers you know of that has helped you!


*from Wikipedia



Having dedicated a whole article on companion planting and the benefits of it, I’m just going to summarise it here and link to the Companion Planting post.

Companion planting is SO much more than just putting basil with tomatoes or adding in nasturtiums, calendula & marigolds between plants. Yes both of those are great to do (and I do those too). Companion planting is great to use as a way of having sacrificial plants or ‘trap crops’. Plants to protect other plants – carrots and onions are a classic, carrot fly gets deterred by onion smell, and onion fly by the scent of carrots. They are keeping each other safe and by doing so they produce better.

Companion planting is a beautiful way of interplanting your crops. By doing so, combining vegetables with flowers and herbs, you create small little eco systems. You’ll attract good bugs to eat the bad, pollinators to pollinate your crops, limit the spread of disease because there’s not a mono culture of the same thing (rows and rows of singular vegetables for instance, which will be more susceptible to disease).


Pollinator friendly

We’ve all been made aware that pollinators need our help. Surprisingly (or not anymore), it isn’t just the humble honey bee. Bumble bees, hoverflies, wasps, flies, and many many more critters, insects and creepy crawlies fall under the category of ‘Pollinator’. Not all flowers are ideal voor each species so it is a good idea to have a mix of various flower shapes & colours and quantity of pollen something has.

For instance A bee’s colour receptors are ultraviolet, blue and green. They can see reddish wavelengths such as yellow/orange but because bees don’t have a red receptor as such, they can’t “see” red light. The colour we see so vividly is, quite literally, unseen by bees. Bees see blue-green, blue, violet and “bee purple”. Flat and open flowers with easy access are also something they prefer. However, there are bee species that will chew or poke little holes in the bottom of flowers to get to the nectar if they can’t fit in the flower itself. Or they forget that they don’t fit and you can hear a loud buzzing when they’re somewhat stuck 😆

I also noticed that the more tropical flowers, like my Canna and Pineapple Guava are being left alone. This goes to show that having native – or at least flowers that occur in similar climates are in your growing space. Another thing I’ve seen happening over the years is finding different bugs and insects. Every year there’s someone new that comes to the garden and I love it!



Colour comes predominantly from nature. The majority of natural dyes are vegetable dyes from plant sources—roots, berries, bark, leaves, and wood—and other biological sources such as fungi. There are some wonderful colours you can create with simple things like avocado skins or stones, onion peels, beets, leaves – like Indigo – and flowers!

There’s a whole world out there when it comes to natural dye and many techniques to extract it as well. I haven’t ventured out into this yet, but, I do keep this in mind when picking things I want to grow in my garden. So far the list of plants to dye with are the ever wonderful all rounder Calendula, Scabiosa, Cornflower, Cosmos and many more. I’m looking forward to exploring the many uses of natural dye. Think liquid dyes, crayons, powder etc.

Another fun thing to do is to forage for it. I’ve set my sight on Alder berries, and in particular the female berries or catkins. Once those are pollinated by wind, the female catkins gradually become woody and appear as tiny, cone-like fruits in winter. These little things when prepared right, will give you a naturally inky black dye! It’s one I’m most keen on using to dye my corn leaves before I basket weave with it. Now I don’t have an Alder tree in my garden but I do know where I can forage some.


So this is it! My list of 5 a bit more explained. I hope it can give you some ideas and maybe look at plants a little different other than a pretty flower ♥️ I will make sure to update my plant profiles to include information on which criteria they meet. So watch this space!