The Flower Cutting Patch
For my cutting patch this year my plan is to have flowers for cutting and arranging from May through to September or October. With snowdrops and dwarf iris flowering in the garden, it is definitely time to start thinking about spring time planting. The dwarf iris are not cutting flowers but to have that wonderful splash of colour in February is a real treat. There is a hint of daylight in the morning (when I crawl out of bed far too early on work days) and the dawn chorus is just starting up, what a difference it makes!
Last autumn I was given another small patch of hubby’s veggie patch to use for my cutting flowers and planted half of it with hardy annuals which have so far survived the winter. I purchased the seeds for my autumn planting from The Higgledy Garden and was really pleased with the germination and kept a half packet of each for planting this spring. So a few weeks ago, in the midst of a really cold snap when the weather was bitterly cold and in need of cheering up, I ordered another lot of seeds from The Higgledy Garden, this time I purchased Cleome ‘Violet Queen’; Cosmos ‘Pied Piper’ (last year’s Cosmos were a great success); Calendula ‘Art shades’; some more Cornflowers ‘Blue Ball’ as they are so beautiful; Celosia ‘flamingo’ and Gypsophila. As well as these seeds I also made a few garden center seed purchases, several varieties of Sweet Peas (Johnsons and Mr Fothergill’s) as well as two varieties of Sunflowers and two varieties of Nasturtium for my new edible flower project. I also purchased Evening Primrose ‘Apricot Delight’ and Calendula Officinalis ‘Neon’ seeds from Thompson & Morgan on-line, also edible flowers. I think I am now well and truly set up with my seeds and now long for some slightly warmer weather in which to get planting!
Last year I got totally carried away and planted whole packets of seeds and then ultimately had vast quantities of the same varieties of flowers. This was visually quite stunning but not practical for cutting and arranging as I had too much of the same and not enough different colours, varieties or textures. As space is always a problem I propose to plant more variety but less quantity of each flower. One of my favourite colour combinations is lime green, purple and orange which is why I planted the Calendula ‘Indian Prince’, Cornflowers ‘Black Ball’ last September and I hope to grow Bupleurum and Scabiosa ‘Back in Black’ (dark purple) this year.
The Wallflowers, which produce beautiful sweet scented orange flowers and were grown from seed last year, are looking really healthy and I hope they will flower quite soon in March.
To have annuals flowering in early May to coincide with the flowering of the hardy annuals (Cornflower-Black Ball; Ammi Majus; Feverfew; Corncockles and Calendula – Indian Prince) and the biennials (sweet William, delphinium and stocks) planted last year, I have planted a few seeds into 36 cell seed trays with propagator lids as follows: Cleome ‘Violet Queen’; Celosia ‘Flamingo’; Scabiosa ‘Back in Black’; Calendula ‘Art Shades’ and two varieties of Cosmos. I have also planted Sunflower ‘Copper Queen’ into fibre grow pots and also two varieties of sweet peas – Jet set mixed and Summer sizzler, in seed trays covered with propagator lids. It is still quite cold out being only the end of February so at the moment they are all on the window sills on our front porch with propagator lids on as it is quite warm there and they will be moved to the cold frame when it is not quite so cold outside.
March has been a really busy month, all the seeds that I planted in February germinated successfully except for the celosia. The calendula, scabiosa and two varieties of cosmos have been potted on into fibre grow pots and are thriving on various window sills throughout the house. We only had a few warm days in March and it is still quite cold.
The cold frames (we now have two, his and hers!) are also full of young plants as all the seeds for my new edible flower patch germinated really well and have been potted on. I I hope to be able to plant them out into the cutting patch in a few weeks’ time. The evening primrose being the only exception as they have only just germinated. Both varieties of sunflowers and all the sweet peas are growing really well and are now several inches tall. We are also going to have hundreds of poppies!
As the celosia failed to germinate I decided to plant some more celosia seeds and also Bupleurum seeds and have got them tucked up on the warmest window sill in the house with a propagator lid to help keep them warm. How I wish I had a greenhouse! Roll on some warmer weather!
By Easter Weekend all the seedlings that had been potted on two weeks previously were thriving in the cold frame and on the window sills on the porch. Fortunately the weather started to improve and we were able to plant out all the young edible plants into the new edible flower patch with the exception of the evening primrose and all of the young plants for the cutting patch except for the cleomes which have now been potted on and are growing well in the cold frame.
The second lot of celosia seeds planted two weeks ago have germinated; we have lots of tiny little shoots! We are still waiting for the second batch of bupleurum seeds to germinate, fingers crossed! The young plants planted out into the cutting patch were the two varieties of cosmos ‘purity and ‘pied piper; scabiosa ‘back in black’ and calendula ‘art shades’. We covered them with cloches at night to protect them from the cold and on a couple of nights freezing temperatures. I also planted a couple of rows of seeds direct into the ground, Larkspur ‘giant imperial mixed’; nigella (love in a mist); Gypsophila and feverfew. Within a week the Gypsophila have already germinated!
There is also much activity in the garden, most notably the wonderful bright red tulips ‘sunburst’ in the tubs at the front of the house. The wall flowers grown from seed last May have burst into flower. They are really quite beautiful, colourful and sweet scented and a great addition to our spring garden.
We are now at the end of April, where has the month gone! All the plants are doing really well and the gypsophila and nigella seeds germinated very quickly and are now flourishing. Still waiting for the larkspur, they take a bit longer to germinate.
Throughout May the cutting patch has been growing and flourishing, a changing picture on a daily basis. It has been wonderful to watch and learn as the fruits of all our hard work and plans start to take shape. The weather has been a challenge and we have been out in the wind and rain staking the tall Cornflowers and Sunflowers and we have been backwards and forwards with fleece and cloches for the nights when we have had a frost and on a couple of occasions we were caught out and lost some of our more tender plants, Cosmos and some of the veggies, to night time frost.
Having the rain and then the sun has been ideal growing weather and everything is growing inches every day. By the last week of May we had some lovely sunny weather. The Calendula and Cornflowers burst into flower and we were able to pick from the cutting patch and have flowers in the house! So exciting as this is just the beginning!
All the plants that we planted last autumn, that struggled to survive the winter, are now in full flower by mid June. The Sweet Williams are a wonderful mix of colours ranging from deep dark red to shocking pink and pale pastel pink. The Delphiniums are tall and strong and beautiful shades of blue. We have Cornflowers, Corn Cockles and Poppies and will soon have Ammi Majus as well. The colours of the Calendula (Pot Marigolds) are really stunning and we now have fresh cut flowers brightening up the house every day. This is what it is all about.
It is now the end of June and what a fabulous month it has been. We have been reaping the rewards from the cutting patch daily and filling the house with the most beautiful sweet scented blooms, what a joy it has been!
The garden, the cutting patch and the veggie garden were all really dry at the beginning of July and we were having to water and just when we were beginning to wonder when we were ever going to have some decent rain we had a really good rainy day on the second day of July with just over three quarters of an inch of rain.
After the most welcome day of rain the double poppies and the sweet peas were both in flower. To me the arrival of these two flowers epitomises English summertime flowers in all their beautiful and fragrant glory.
We have fresh flowers in the house every day and have so many flowers that we have been supplying our neighbours with buckets full of flowers as well!
At the beginning of June we had sown seeds for Wallflowers, Lupins and Sweet Rocket in seed trays, for planting out at the end of August or beginning of September and for flowering next year. Although we only used less than half a packet of each pack of seeds the germination was really good and by the first week of July the seedlings were all ready for potting on and we now have more seedlings than we know what to do with!
By the second week of July the Poppies and the Sweet Peas were looking absolutely fabulous and whilst we have decided not to pick the Poppies this year as they only really last day they have added such a gorgeous splash of colour to the garden and to the cutting patch. The Sweet Peas, ‘Pink Pearl’, ‘Mammoth Blue’, ‘Chelsea Centenary’, ‘Mollie Rilestone’ and ‘Summer Sizzler’ to name but a few, are now being picked every day and it is just wonderful to have the house filled with such lovely colour and fragrance. One of the famous impressionist painters apparently once said “My garden is my most beautiful masterpiece” and I am inclined to agree with him!
The second week of July also gave us the first of the giant Sunflowers ‘Copper Queen’ reaching up eight foot high into the sky and also the slightly shorter but equally beautiful lemon yellow Sunflowers ‘Garden Statement’. The lovely dark red Antirrhinum (Snap Dragons) ‘Night & Day’, the lime green Nicotiana Langsdorffii and the Feverfew have also just started to flower. In the tubs on the patio in front of the house we have four different varieties of Cosmos flowering.
Still to look forward to are the Phlox, Nigella, Scabious, Cleomes and Lilies, all hopefully will be flowering in the coming month.
After all the rain of the last two weeks of July all the rest of the flowers in the garden and the cutting patch are in flower. The Nigella – Love In A Mist are a mass of wispy, misty flowers and the Scabious are dark and mysterious. The Phlox are as beautiful as ever, they just get better and better every year. As for the Cleomes, this is a first for us, they are quite attractive in their own rather strange way!
We have had a fabulous crop of Sweet Peas and with the assistance of some very helpful flower enthusiasts on Twitter were able to identify the beautiful little ‘Cupani’ quite possibly a variety related to the wild ancestor of all sweet peas.
At the beginning of August we have planted the Wallflowers ‘Cloth of Gold’ young plants, which we have grown from seed, into the cutting patch and have kept a few for the garden as well to add a splash of bright yellow next Spring.
Thinking ahead to next year, out of all the annuals grown this year, I would definitely like to have cornflowers in the cutting patch again, they are really good as cut flowers but having had the blue and the very dark purple, next year maybe pink for a change. I would also like to have the Scabiosa in different colours. Thinking about colour schemes a section of pastel shades and then a section of hot colours would be fun. The Antirrhinum were also lovely and I will definitely grow them again next year in lots of different bright, vibrant colours. Nigella – Love In a Mist is another favourite and always a must have in my cutting patch.
It would be fun to have a perennial section, the Delphiniums are perennial and are now really strong established plants and will hopefully come back every year. Our Sweet Rocket and Lupin seedlings are all growing really well and we have planted some next to the Delphiniums in the cutting patch and also kept some for the garden. I would love to add Alstromerea, Veronicastra and Astrantia to my collection and am hoping to plant these as bare root plants or plug plants next spring.