Edible Flowers & Foliage Through The Seasons

Updated: Jun 24, 2020

Fresh flowers are an ever-popular trend for wedding cakes these days. They are a truly stunning way to finish a cake, as they look great and smell fantastic.


The problem is that many flowers are toxic or just grown in an environment that makes them unsafe to place on food such as your wedding cake. The later is the case for the majority of floristry flowers unless your florist grows their flowers themselves organically, the odds are that they have been sprayed with harsh chemicals that are definitely not food grade. Sadly the laws surrounding what chemicals can be used on flowers are not as stringent as those for crops. Many cake decorators talk about making flowers cake safe, but the truth is this just isn't possible no matter how well those stems are wrapped up, or however many flower picks are used to keep them away from your cake, you can place them on OASIS, those flowers are still going to touch your cake, pollen will likely drop on your cake, and it's very easy for any part of those beautiful flowers to end up on your guests' plates. Just because you can't see it, doesn't mean it's not there.


That's why it's very important to really think about what you are going to decorate your cake with and make sure your cake decorator and florist know what they can and can't do. I personally never allow my cakes to be decorated with flowers provided by someone else, If someone becomes ill eating one of my cakes because I passed the responsibility on to someone else, then it's my fault as much as anyone else.


When it comes to decorating your cake with fresh flowers I'm afraid the internet really isn't your friend. I get so many images from couples of wedding cakes they just love with flowers that are not safe for food. Pinterest, Google and Instagram are just full of beautiful wedding cakes with toxic flowers draped all over them sadly. I've created this guide of edible flowers and foliage for you to look through, it' s arranged by season (UK) so you can look through and see what flowers could be around on your wedding day. This list is quite comprehensive and includes many varieties that are edible but may not be available as food safe flowers due to the method in which they are grown. There are some amazing edible flower farms in the UK including Maddocks Farm in Devon. They grow a great variety of edible flowers, though many that are listed here are not available to order at this time. I'm afraid edible flower farms are still pretty new. But they are always adding new flowers so you never know.



The following list is a list that I compiled for my own use in creating my own edible flower garden in my new house that I plan to start on this year with a little help from my friend Annabell from Cornish Flower Crowns. I am not a botanist, merely an ex-ecologist so I may have missed a few fantastic flower varieties. The wonderful thing about blogs is the that they are editable, so I will endeavour to keep updating this list as I discover new varieties. If you plan to use any of the following flowers on your cake or for any other food purposes please ensure that they have been grown either by a reputable edible flower grower, an organic florist, or have a go at growing them yourself, as if for nothing else the bees will love you. There are many easy to grow annuals on the list below such as cornflowers, violas, primulas and pansies. This list is based on the UK growing season, and some of it Cornwall in particular, flowers may flower later in different parts of the country or the world, but you can still get an idea of what is available.


Once edible flowers have been cut keep them in the fridge until you need them. Most flowers are best picked the morning you use them or the day before. I've added links on some of the varieties to Maddocks Farm Organics so if you'd like to buy anything from them you can. Those that don't have links are not available to buy at the time of writing this, but that doesn't mean they can't be found by other means.


January


You might not think there are many edible flowers in bloom this early in the year. In fact one of my favourite flowers is in bloom during later winter:-


Camellias (below) - Actually some camellias flower as early as December but I'm starting In January so I'm putting them here. Camellias are a great winter flower for wedding cakes, though not something you'll find easily when looking at edible flowers to buy online. They are one of the first flowers I notice when I'm out walking my dog at the start of the year and you can grow them at home for some winter colour, though they do get quite large so only if you have room. They are a great winter alternative to roses, depending on the variety some have more petals than others. They come in white, pink and red usually. You can usually see huge shrubs covered with blooms particularly from January onwards.


Primulas - Which includes primroses & cowslips (Primula vulgaris, Primula veris, Primula hybrida). Easy to grow and to buy online, wild primrose can be found all over the place in the early spring. They are great as a garnish on salads. The flowers can be crystallised for decorations or you can decorate cakes with fresh flowers too. They come in all sorts of colours not just the yellows, whites and pinks of primroses. *


Kale Roses - Another great winter alternative to roses, they come in pinks, whites and purples.


February


Chervil (Leaf and white flower) - Looks somewhat like flatleaf parsley with pretty white flowers - wilts quickly however.


(Still in season primulas; kale rose; camellias.)



March


Borage - Pretty little blue star-like flowers. Great to grow in your garden as they are great for bees, so what's not to love. They are very delicate, however, so not best on wedding cakes that need to sit out in the head for a long time. If used they should go on as late as possible. Alternatively, add them to cocktails or champagne for your guests welcome drink. They come in blue normally, but also white and pink.


Freckles Violet - As with borage, they won't hold up for long in the heat. But they are a lovely white flower with purple speckles.


Rose Scented Geraniums & Leaves - These are true geraniums, the ones you think of from your garden usually are pelargonium and completely different. Lovely little pink flowers with five petals and rose-like fragrance, great for baking with or adding to cocktails, as well as adding to your wedding cake.


Sweet Cicely Fern Leaves - Not an easy one to grow, but Maddocks farm grow them so that sorts that doesn't it. Great used on buttercream cakes or to decorates biscuits with.


Violas - Who doesn't love violas, I surely do. They are great pressed or crystalised and added to cakes or just add them fresh. They come in most colours as well so bonus! They are a great option as they flower pretty much for the entire growing season when looked after properly, just make sure to deadhead them regularly and you'll have plenty of flowers for decoration all the way through till autumn.


Forest Pansy or Redbud - Cercis Canadensis, this is actually a tree that flowers from March to May in deep crimson, pink or sometimes white pea-like flowers. Use only the flowers/buds, they are high in vitamins. The foliage is very pretty though it has purple, heart-shaped leaves with pointed tips, which turn yellow in autumn before falling.


Wallflowers or Erysimum - Depending on the climate, they can flower year-round. No matter where you are, you are likely to get a long flowering season. Some of the more interesting coloured varieties only flower for a few months. They can come in all sorts of colours and some can be different tones and colours. They are a woody perennial with long spires with lots of four-petal flowers at the top.


Daisy - Bellis perennis, depending on the variety some of them are quite brightly coloured, they don't have to be the classic white petals around a yellow centre. Flower until late summer depending on variety. If you or anyone else has hay fever, asthma or severe allergies, you should avoid eating flowers of the daisy family because they could trigger an allergic reaction.


Pussy Willow and Grey Willow - Not really something you might want to eat, but you can. The catkins are produced in early spring and later in the spring, they are replaced by yellow flowers. They look best in the earlier stages before the yellow flowers arrive