The final results of my Great British Flower Poll in honour of British Flowers Week (18th-24th June 2018) are now in.
Here are the top 5 brilliant blooms as voted for by you, the Great British public.
5. Sweet pea
At 5th place, with 5% of the vote, are the delightfully scented easy-going flowers of Lathyrus odoratus (Sweet pea). Legend has it that they were first introduced to England by a Sicilian monk in the 17th century. These skilful climbers look amazing scaling wigwams in sunny borders or scrambling up trellis on a garden wall. As part of the legume family, Sweet peas capture nitrogen from the air and seal it into the soil, making them fantastic natural soil improvers.
Next up, with 5.2% of the vote, are the showy blooms of Dahlia. Available in an array of resplendent colours, these sumptuous blossoms will keep flowering right up until the first autumn frost. Anders Dahl, the 18th century Swedish Botanist after whom they are named, regarded Dahlias as a vegetable, since they have edible tuberous roots. Adorn your patio with these bad boys this season and you’ll be delighting visitors for months to come.
Third place goes to Hyacinthoides non-scripta (Bluebell), with 6% of the vote. Forming lavish carpets in woodlands across Britain in spring, it’s no wonder they are one of our collective favourites. An important early nectar source for bees, Bluebells are even protected by law—uprooting a single bulb could cost you a whopping £5000 in fines! Emily Brontë, who says that ‘The Bluebell is the sweetest flower,’ may be disappointed to see our poll placing it at number three.
In second place, with a marvellous 10% of the votes, are the luxurious plump heads of the exquisite Paeonia lactiflora (Peony). For magnificent homegrown cut flowers, you cannot beat the sweetly-scented, ruffled pink blossoms of the ‘Sarah Bernhardt’ cultivar. Contrary to popular belief, Peonies do not require ants to bloom—although ants do love the sweet nectar that Peonies produce. Simply dunk cut flowers upside down into a bucket of cold water to get rid of ants before taking indoors.
Topping the charts with a whopping 15% of the votes is the charming and quintessentially English Rose. In fact, roses have significantly extended their lead since before British Flowers Week began.
Roses are a staggering 35 million years old, appearing in the fossil record at the same time as primates. The oldest living rose, which grows on the wall of Hildesheim Cathedral in Germany, is thought to be a thousand years old.
Roses have long been regarded as stunningly beautiful flowers. The Ancient Greeks painted them on palace walls in Ancient Crete in around 1600BC, while the Romans used thick rose petal carpets to decorate the floors of banqueting halls.
Roses have even been into space! In 1998, a miniature rose named ‘Overnight Scentsation’ was taken out of the Earth’s orbit to determine the effects of zero gravity on fragrance. The result? Roses are fragrant in space, but do not smell the same as they do on Earth.
With a huge variety of flower shapes and colours on offer, there is a Rosebush to suit everyone’s tastes.
One of my absolute favourites is the brand new ‘This Morning’ Rose, which was launched at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2018. When you look at roses like this, it’s no wonder they are colloquially known as ‘The Queen of Flowers.’
Just pipped at the post were the globe flowerheads of Alliums (Ornamental onions), with 4.4% of the vote leaving them in 6th place. Narcissus (Daffodils) and Clematis were not far behind, with 3.7% and 3.4% of the vote respectively.
Since the preliminary results, Hollyhocks have moved down three spaces to rank 28, making way for Violets, Dianthus barbatus (Sweet William) and Anemone, while Tulips overtook Astrantia (Masterwort) and Cosmos to achieve a middling 16th place.
Despite being the height of fashion at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show this year, Foxgloves and Lupins came in at a measly 11th and 16th place (in that order).
Snapdragons, Campanula, Marigolds, Verbena, Primula (Primrose) and Cornflower all lurk at the bottom of the list with less than 0.5% of the votes.
Just one person finally voted for the delightful blooms of Stretocarpus since my last report, while Monkshood and Muscari received zero votes.
So there you have it, the Rose is a symbol of England for good reason. As a nation, they are hands-down our favourite bloom, which have been adopted as an emblem of England since the Wars of the Roses in the 15th century and are still worn on the chests of our sports people to this day.