The Flower Cutting Patch
Not all flowers that grow in your garden are suitable for cutting. The ideal cutting flower needs to have a strong stem and one that will last for several days in a vase. In our garden we already had established many shrubs and perennials such as Peonies, Roses, Phlox, Hydrangea, Lilac, Hypericum, Forsythia, Iris, Alstromeria and Honeysuckle. We have also recently planted Alchemilla Mollis, Astilbe and Anemone. Space in our garden has always been a problem and we were just not able to grow the variety and quantity of flowers to have a regular supply of flowers for cutting and arranging so it was decided to establish a flower cutting patch separately from our garden.
With the plan to grow my own flowers, in autumn 2013 we planted more daffodils and tulip bulbs in the last remaining spaces in our garden to add to the bulbs planted and added to over the years. Throughout March and April we were able to have freshly cut daffodils and tulips arranged in the house and simultaneously we began to plan the flower cutting patch. We cleared, weeded, raked and composted the new flower patch in March and we also planted Sweet Pea seeds into grow pots towards the end of March.
At the beginning of April we started planting seeds in drills in the flower cutting patch. We planted Larkspur-Giant Imperial mixed colours; Cornflowers-Blueball; Stocks-ten week mixed colours; Nigella (Love in a Mist)-Persian Jewels and two varieties of Poppies-Red Field Poppies and Shirley single mixed colours. Poppies have a very short vase life but are such prolific flowerers that they can be replaced daily if necessary and they look quite stunning in arrangements so definitely worth the extra effort. As the weather was still quite cold we covered all the newly planted seeds with cloches. Within ten days the cornflowers and poppies had started to germinate followed by the Larkspur and Nigella a week later. The stocks did not germinate at all, a bit of a mystery. With the nights still very variable in temperature we kept the seedlings covered with the cloches. This also protected the seedlings from being devoured by the rabbits.
We planted Dahlia seeds into a seed tray and placed it inside our porch which acts as an overflow for the cold frame. Sunflower seeds were planted into individual little grow pots and placed in the cold frame. Germination of the Dahlias was not very good but the Sunflowers did really well and by the end of April were ready to be planted out into the flower cutting patch covered with a netting cloche to protect them from the rabbits.
By the end of April the Sweet Peas were already several inches tall and ready to be planted out in the flower patch. We planted the Sweet Pea seedlings all along a chicken wire fence with little chicken wire fences around them to protect them from getting eaten and also made a wigwam of hazel canes for Sweet Pea seedlings to grow up.
By mid-May the cornflower and poppy seedlings in the flower patch were ready to be thinned out. I have read in many gardening books that thinning out seedlings encourage healthy plant growth, prevent overcrowding and also mildew later on when plants are mature. I grew up in a country where nothing is wasted and very little discarded and so do not find it easy to dig up and discard perfectly healthy little seedlings. Instead I very carefully dug up the seedlings in small clumps and replanted them in another section of my flower patch followed by the Larkspur and Nigella seedlings at the end of May.
In mid -May we also planted seeds to grow biennials for flowering in 2015. We planted Sweet William – Single mixed; Wallflowers – Monarch Fair Lady; Delphinium – Pacific Giant Mixed; Aquilegia – Nora Barlow Mixed and Scabious – Border Mixed into seed trays. The Sweet William and Wallflower seeds germinated well, the Delphinium seeds produced eighteen seedlings. Unfortunately the Aquilegia and Scabious did not germinate at all.
We also had Lilac, Iris and my all-time favourite Peonies flowering in the garden in May and by June the garden was in full flower with an abundance of Roses, Hydrangea, Ox Eye Daisies, Hypericum, Lillies, Lupins and Sisyrinchium. Throughout June the cornflower, poppies, larkspur and nigella seedlings in the cutting patch all grew into strong healthy plants, so tall that we had to build a fence out of hazel canes and twine to support them and on the first day of July our first Poppies and Cornflowers appeared.
By the end of June the biennial seedlings were ready to be pricked out and replanted into module seed trays or individual little pots. We had so many that there was not enough room in our cold frame and some had to be put under the cold frame!
At the beginning of August we planted all the seedlings in the flower cutting patch where they soon thrived.
By July we also had the Phlox and Cosmos in full flower in the garden along with the newly planted perennials and everything in the garden and the flower cutting patch was a riot of colour, we were spoilt for choice as to what to cut and bring into the house. Throughout the whole of July and August we were cutting and arranging flowers on a regular basis, sometimes daily. It was a truely magical time. The house was full of beautiful flowers and their heady scent. Full of enthusiasm from our summer of success, in September I was given a second piece of the veggie patch to turn into a flower cutting patch! In mid -September we planted hardy annual seeds, for flowering the following year, in drills in the second patch, these included Cornflower-Black Ball; Ammi Majus; Feverfew; Corncockles; Calendula – Indian Prince and Bupleurum. The weather was warm and humid and so we left them uncovered. Within five days all but the Bupleurum had germinated and the germination was really good. We also planted Stock seedlings, purchased from the garden centre in the first cutting patch. October was very mild and the new seedlings were big enough to attract the rabbit population by mid -October and so we covered all the new seedlings with netting cloches. Luckily I kept half the packet of Bupleurum seed to grow in seed trays next Spring.