When I first started gardening, I was all about the ‘useful’ plants. These were plants that you could eat, use for fibre, or for healing. If it wasn’t useful, I probably knew nothing about it.
Then I began learning about beneficial insects, which need a diverse ecosystem. So I began introducing calendula and alyssum to my garden, and allowing my herbs to go to seed.
Finally, I spent a year working in a garden centre. And it turned out that my little niche of ‘useful’ plants took up about 3 aisles. The other 7 aisles were things I was clueless about.
I learned, fast. And in those aisles I found many plants I now adore. Being staff meant first-dibs on new plants, and cheap plants. After the 2021 lockdown, a bunch of seedling punnets went on sale for 50 cents each. I bought home about a dozen of them.
It turns out, they include a lot of edible flowers. And many of them have just kind of established themselves, coming back again each year since.
The header image for this post is the birthday cheesecake I made for myself this year. I definitely learned some things making it, but it was a lot of fun using the flowers in my garden as decorations.
Much to Richard’s displeasure, I really enjoy decorating cakes with edible flowers.
These have become some of my favourite flowers. There’s something special about the blues and whites, pinks, purples, and reds. They can be dried, added to floral arrangements, or eaten!
For the last couple of years, they have self-seeded and come back each spring. They’re very easy-care, and an easy way to get some blues going.
At the moment, they’re still pretty early, I’ve got a few coming up here and there, but it’s nothing like when the whole bush lights up.
Cornflowers – I’ve learned – just make me smile. This photo has been my lock-screen for a couple of years now.
The full flower can be broken down into star-shaped petals, which I used for my pop of blue around the outside of the cheesecake. Or a mix of colours paired well with zinnia on this birthday cake.
Viola and pansy
Viola and pansy are both edible. I never did really get my head around which was what. One’s smaller, I think.
But in my opinion, they’re the most beautiful edible flower. Their soft, silky petals and unique patterns are just attractive. They’re a happy flower, and if I’m using edible flowers, I usually want to include them somewhere.
Again, the only time I’ve ever deliberately planted these was in 2021. Everything we have growing now has grown itself from those original plants.
There’s a wide range of colours available. We could probably do with some more pinks and reds in our collection, but the blues and yellows are well-represented!
They are usually good at lying flat in one piece and are excellent for cake decorating.
Also sold as ‘Sweet William’ – I think the main difference between the two is the structure of the flowers – whether they are clustered on stalks or not.
These come in mostly reds, pinks, and whites. But they can also come in patterns and carry a beautiful scent.
Also planted in 2021, they are getting stronger each year. Three colours have established in my garden now.
It’s hard to work with dianthus as whole flowers – they end up being a bit bulky if you’re trying to keep that form.
So I used petals from three different coloured flowers on my cheesecake.
Truly a gardener’s best friend. This just grows in my garden – self-seeding and appearing wherever it wants.
Plant it once and you’ll probably never get rid of it – but it’s easy to yank out if it’s chosen some place inconvenient.
Calendula is typically orange or yellow. Again, it’s bulky as a whole flower (and has a particular scent that not everyone will find pleasing!) so it’s best to use this one as petals.
It’s associated with a whole bunch of medicinal qualities. You might find Calendula officinalis in some of your beauty products if you take a look.
My mother used to toss them through a salad to add colour. I’ve been known to put them on cake.
Rosemary, rocket, dill, fennel, and many other herbs have edible flowers. There’s a very good chance that if the main plant is edible, the flowers will be too.
In my garden, I save myself a lot of work by allowing my plants to just go to seed and plant themselves. That means a lot of edible flowers too.
Sage flowers (shown above) always strike me with their beauty. Dill flowers are great in pickles, rosemary can be used as both foliage and flowers. Rocket flower petals featured on my birthday cheesecake.
Herbs offer variety and form you might not get from other flowers. At some times of year, there’s not quite enough blooms in the rest of the garden to do what I want to do. But more than once, a visit to the herb garden has saved the situation.