Is the 12-Month Planning Rule the Secret to a Happy Garden?

Enjoy home-grown flowers in every season, even winter

One of my favorite benefits of gardening is the way it not only gets me up and outdoors, but also allows me to get creative with floral arrangements I make from plantings. During my last backyard refresh, I installed a couple of cutting beds and goth plantings (big movers among garden trends in 2024), so I felt quite proud of myself. That is, until I picked up a copy of English gardener Sean A. Pritchard’s lovely new book Outside In: A Year of Growing and Displaying. This professional gardener takes on large commissions in places like historic estates, but in his own humble Somerset cottage, his planting scheme has evolved to serve as a 365-days-a-year cutting garden. I've read his book and am hereby launching a new trend: The 12-Month Garden Rule. The 12-Month Garden Rule states that everyone should plan their garden so that there's something blossoming or leafing to be displayed indoors...for all 12 months. That’s a departure from the old-fashioned idea that the only time a gardener can enjoy blooms and foliage indoors is during spring and summer (using, say, roses and other warm-weather blooms). Pritchard’s radical concept is that with careful planting and sharp-eyed scavenging, everyone can enjoy charming indoor arrangements year-round. Here's a season-by-season display of florals and foliage to enjoy for all 12 months indoors, as well as timing tips on when to plant.

12 Edible Flowers (Yes, Edible!) You Can Grow in Your Own Garden

1. Summer: Harvest Roses En Masse

Garden designer Pritchard’s unexpected vessels—teacups and water glasses—make roses and nasturtiums look even more charming. Blooms like these are what gardeners weed, fertilize and soil amend all year for, so why detract from their dazzle with a too-fancy vase?

When to Plant: In order to harvest summer roses, plant them just after the last winter frost, which varies according to your local climate but is usually early spring.

2.   Late Summer: Harvest Late-Summer Blooming Flowers

Plant dahlias for explosions of color to arrange in odd areas around your home, such as on a bookshelf or on the stair landing. And deploy a signature Pritchard habit in your own home’s floral displays: Put little vases on stacks of books to vary their height and move the eye around your little arrangement.

When to Plant: To harvest dahlias in late summer, make sure their tubers are in the ground just after the last frost in early spring or summer.

3. Fall: Plant Edible Greens for Their Looks

The Italian variety of kale is longer and smoother than the curly variety you may be familiar with and can grow long into fall. The dark blue-green leaves look striking arranged in a vase—no flowers needed. And it’s no accident kale is the superfood everyone’s cooking—it’s dead-easy to grow as well as nutritious. Similarly, Swiss Chard (shown here) is a wintertime pop of green.

When to Plant: In order to harvest kale and Swiss chard in winter, make sure your crop is planted 6 to 8 weeks before the first frost.

4.   Winter: Harvest Catkins

If you have birch, willow, aspen, hickory or sweet chestnut trees anywhere on your property (or in a nearby wooded space), source a branch or two dripping with catkins (the spikes by which these species reproduce). “A mid-winter miracle, wafting about, as they do, against the starkness of everything else in January in the most perfect mustard yellow or lime green,” is how Pritchard describes them; I’d never thought to forage their charms as and display them as indoor greenery until I saw how resolute and architectural they appear plopped into a pitcher and places on a sill.

When to Plant: It may take a few years for trees to mature enough to tear off a branch with catkins, so look for birches, willows, aspens, hickory trees or sweet chestnuts that are already established.

5. Early Spring: Harvest Hellabores to Float in Dishes

Most flowers have barely woken up, but pert little hellabores blossom right through the snow, through to April. Pluck the flowers off these waxy perennials and float them in a shallow dish en masse, displayed on a tabletop.

When to Plant: Plant hellabores in fall so that they have a chance to get established before the first frost.

6.   Spring: Display Daffodils in Multiple Bud Vases

While the bounty of blossoming spring bulbs is nothing new, Pritchard’s way of displaying them is. He collects multiple matching flutes and bud vases and scatters them, soldier-like, across a chest or tabletop. It turns a pedestrian spring beauty into a more impactful display.

When to Plant: In order to enjoy spring bulbs, have them tucked into the soil before the first hard frost, in a space with full to partial sunlight.

dana dickey

Senior Editor

Dana Dickey is a PureWow Senior Editor, and during more than a decade in digital media, she has scoped out and tested top products and services across the lifestyle space...