Category Archives: Cutting Garden

The Cutting Garden – September 2015

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In my Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day post for August I mentioned how I couldn’t tell the difference between my two Cutting Garden pale sunflowers, Helianthus cuc Italian White and Helianthus Vanilla Ice.  Well I can now – the one above, H. cuc Italian White, is now about 7ft tall, a good 2ft taller than Vanilla Ice. They’re both still going strong and highly recommended, but I think I prefer the taller variety for cutting.

Below the Salvia horminum ‘Oxford Blue’, is also still flowering profusely.  The stems are getting even longer and it’s a brilliant, long lasting cut flower.IMG_8842

This is one of the few Ten Weeks Stocks still flowering.  As I mentioned last month I don’t think I’d grow these again.  They never seem to have more than a couple of flowers blooming on the stem at any one time, and although they smell gorgeous, the flowers look rather mean and a bit tatty.  I think I’ll keep looking for alternative varieties as there must be better ones and I adore the scent of stocks.

I have already planted some more Matthiola Incana seed for next year, but if anyone knows of other stock seed worth growing I’d love to know.

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The two Cosmos varieties, C. Double Click Snow Puff and C. Double Click Cranberries are starting to look rather exhausted, but they have been pumping out blooms for months so I’m not complaining.  Interestingly the two different varieties I have at home, Cosmos Purity and Cosmos Dazzler, both single, are both still flowering well.  Do you think making double flowers is more exhausting?

Meanwhile the Antirrhinum, A. Orange Wonder, seems to have gone rather more pink as it’s aged, very strange!  There are still plenty of flowers coming and, as with the Salvias, the stems are lengthening, making them even better for cutting – and there’s very little rust which was definitely a problem last year. IMG_8848

The Zinnias are also still producing well, with Z. Giant Scarlet, IMG_8844

Z. Giant WineIMG_8843

and favourite Z. Raspberry Cordial.IMG_8845

I’m also still supplementing these Cutting Garden blooms with various flowers from the garden, including dahlias, dianthus, molucella.  However, there’s no doubt the Cutting Garden is starting to look a little autumnal and I can’t help but wonder how many blooms I’ll still have to share by next month.

The Cutting Garden – August 2015

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I’ve been remiss in not posting about my satellite Cutting Garden (in my neighbours’ walled garden) since it looked like this at the end of May.  And now it’s producing bucket loads of blooms, like the one above.

The following photos were actually taken last week, but when I visited today it’s clear the recent rain has battered everything quite badly.  I’m never great at staking (always thinking I’ll get away with it!) but this year, when it was clear some stakes were needed, it was so dry I couldn’t get them into the ground.  Quite what my excuse was for not getting round to it as the ground softened is anyone’s guess.  Tsk!

This photos is looking in a similar direction to the one above and shows the Cosmos Double Click Snow Puff, with Cosmos Double Click Cranberries nearer the fence.  Down the slope are the Antirrhinum majus Orange Wonder  with Salvia horminum ‘Oxford Blue’ to the right.  In between are the Zinnias,

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Zinnia Benary’s Giant Scarlet,IMG_8426

Zinnia Benary’s Giant Wine,IMG_8425

and my favourite, Zinnia Raspberry Cordial.IMG_8427

Looking up the slope you can see the Zinnias are still quite small (although have grown significantly in the past week).  Between the Zinnias and Salvias are a line of Ten Week Stocks.  Although they do smell lovely, they really don’t work for cutting, so I won’t be growing them again.

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The sunflowers have been amazing this year.  IMG_8429

The large yellow ones, which were very kindly sent to me by Cathy at Rambling in the Garden, didn’t turn out to be the red flushed Ruby Eclipse we were both expecting, but now the huge central stems have been cut, there are plenty of smaller clear yellow blooms, which have that lovely sunflower cheer.IMG_8421

There are two other sunflowers, Helianthus cuc Italian White and Helianthus Vanilla Ice, but I can’t seem to tell the difference between them.  They’ve been absolutely great, hugely prolific and yet dainty and soft coloured for a sunflower.  I featured them in my ‘Moonflowers’ Monday vase and have used them every week since.IMG_8423

Back home, as well as more Zinnias, (including Z. Benary’s Giant Lime not at the satellite cutting garden) I’ve also been cutting Molucella laevis

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and another favourite, Dianthus Green Trick.  This came originally from Sarah Raven, but I’ve already taken a number of successful cuttings and this weekend have taken a dozen more. They last for well over a week in the vase and retain this lovely fresh green.IMG_8262

With many thanks to Julie at Peonies and Posies for hosting the Cutting Garden meme.

Now all I’ve got to do is decide what to choose for Monday’s vase!

The Cutting Garden(s) – May 2015

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So finally I can join Julie, at Peonies and Posies‘ party to talk about the cutting garden.

As last year, my cutting beds are spread about a bit which isn’t ideal, but I’m still very fortunate to have space for cutting blooms.  Again I’ve been allowed to use some space in my neighbours’ walled garden, however this time I have had two different areas allocated.  The first, shown above, is an area that used to be inhabited by chickens, but sadly they were dispatched by a fox earlier in the year and haven’t been replaced.  I’m glad to say there is another area with (live!) chickens just above, so I’m not without company.IMG_7587

The bright green in the photo above is some (I assume) self sown lettuces that I didn’t feel I had the rights to dig up and discard!

As well as (let’s call it) the Chicken Bed there is also a smaller area next to one of the walls.IMG_7589

Whilst the Chicken Bed slopes to the south and is sunny, if rather stony and sandy, the Wall Bed is to the east of the wall and loses the sun relatively early on.  However the soil here seems richer; I think there’s been manure added (you’d think the chicken area would be rich with chicken poo, but it doesn’t seem so).

If you look closely, you can see I have now planted both areas out and I’m interested to see how they fare comparatively.  I haven’t planted any sunflowers in the wall bed as I didn’t think they’d be happy, but I have planted some seedlings in common across the two.

So, seedlings planted so far include Antirrhinum majus Orange Wonder, Centaurea cyanus Black Boy, Cosmos Click Cranberries, Cosmos Dazzler, Cosmos Double Click Snow Puff, Helianthus deb ssp cuc Italian White, Helianthus deb Vanilla Ice, Helianthus Ruby Eclipse (thanks Cathy!), Salvia horminum ‘Oxford Blue’, Stocks Ruby Punch, Ten Weeks Mixed Stocks.  In addition I’ve planted a couple of Dahlia Roxy plants I had spare.

I’ve also got multiple different Zinnia seedlings ready to go in the Chicken Bed in a week or so, as well as plenty of sweet peas that I don’t have space for at home (largely because of my new wider spacing strategy).

As well as the two beds at J&A’s, I’ve also got the two raised beds I used for the first time last year.  The photo below shows them in August last year.

August

Both the Antirrhinums (front left) A. Liberty Crimson and the Euphorbia oblongata behind have overwintered and are looking good.   I’ve planted out some shorter seedlings here,  including Molucella laevis and Calendula.

Whilst I still seem to be up to my neck in seedlings, I’m already regretting some omissions of plants grown last including Amaranthus viridis and Rudbeckia Cherry Brandy.  I also don’t think I’ve got nearly enough foliage and fillers (I seem to recall Sarah Raven suggests you should have a similar quantity of flowers and foliage, well I’ve failed there!)

However, there are two bigger issues, firstly will I have any blooms to speak of for my daughter’s 18th on the 19th June?  And, conversely, later in the year once the cutting garden is in full production, what on earth am I going to do with all the blooms I will have?

Something I never confessed at the time, was that last year, when I wasn’t working, I sold flowers twice a week at the local post office (mostly small bouquets in tin cans, see below).  The trouble is, whilst I could still attempt to sell blooms, what I’m concerned about is that if I’m not there to pick them mid week will they all go to seed and stop flowering?

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With many thanks to Julie at Peonies and Posies, (who has a completely glorious cutting garden) for hosting this meme.  Do go and take a peek.

 

 

Flower farming at Common Farm Flowers

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It was a funny week – Monday, Tuesday and Thursday at work in the City, with Wednesday, a joyous interlude spent at Common Farm Flowers in Somerset.

I’ve already blogged about a talk I went to at the Garden Museum by Georgie Newbery here, but this was a whole day, and this time on Georgie’s home turf, Common Farm.   The subject was ‘Flower Farming for Beginners’ and although I don’t see myself chucking in the ‘proper’ job any time soon, within the wonderful group on the course with me, were a number clearly determined to do exactly that, and good luck to them!

And we couldn’t have had a better teacher than Georgie, who combines a wonderful warm personality with such generosity sharing her advice and knowledge.  She was also quite fierce about not losing sight of the business side of things!

The morning was spent with a general introduction and then a tour of the farm, roughly in the order in which the different areas have been brought into cultivation.  The farm covers 20 acres and the beds used for growing flowers have grown in size in line with the business.  The most recent ones above are massive – only about a metre wide but they must have been at least 30 metres long.  Georgie grows over 250 crops, which of course makes her life much more difficult, but in my view makes her arrangements so much more interesting.

At the moment, out in the beds, there are plenty of bulbs (I have to get some Tulip Queen of the Night next year!)2015-04-29 11.14.18

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together with blossom and other tree and shrub branches.

In the polytunnel, her first of four crops of sweet peas, together with many other annuals, were just starting to come in to bud.

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Back inside for a delicious lunch, with wine 2015-04-29 16.47.10

and then in the afternoon, a slightly more formal run through of a number of prepared sheets we were able to take away with us.

The information (and our questions) came thick and fast, and it was fascinating to hear both Georgie’s experiences and everyone else’s plans.  Some people wanted just to grow, to provide flowers for florists wholesale, others wanted to do the floristry too.  With a £2.2Bn cut flower market in this country, Georgie is convinced there is room for all of us – the ones that we all want to squeeze out are the imported flowers, which never smell and only have a long vase life because of the chemicals they’re been treated with.

We didn’t cover floristry in any detail, but there are plenty of other workshops scheduled during the year such as ‘Posy tying’ and ‘DIY Wedding Flowers’ which are tempting to sign up for.  Perhaps we would get to play with her vase collection:2015-04-29 16.47.36

Finally, after tea, we headed back to our budding flower farms around the country, replete with both knowledge and delicious home made flapjacks.

With enormous thanks to Georgie, and everyone at Common Farm for a delightful day, and also to Rosie, a fellow attendee, who very kindly gave me a lift back to the station.

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Sweet peas – is less really more?

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One of the tasks we (it was a two ‘man’ job) completed this weekend, was the erection of the jute netting between the swing uprights.  This is the first time I’ve used jute netting (bought by the metre from Agriframes), rather than green plastic, having been introduced to it by Julie at Peonies and Posies.  It’s much easier to handle, will compost at the end of the season and is a much more natural colour.

Another area where I’ve taken advice from Julie (and indeed Georgie Newbery of Common Farm Flowers, of which more in a later post) is the spacing of my sweet peas.  Unlike 2013, when my sweet peas at the back of the swing beds were quite successful, last year they really weren’t.  They somehow never got going which I put down to a number of issues.  Firstly, I don’t think the ground was well enough prepared for what are hungry plants, secondly they suffered from lack of water and lastly, something which compounded the previous two problems, I think they were fundamentally overcrowded.

Last year below, in June, and you can barely see the sweet peas to the right of the rose.

June

So this year I have dug out a trench and filled it full of manure and new compost and reduced the number of plants considerably to just 1 every 8-9 inches.  It feels counter intuitive to plant less when I want more, but I’m sure the combined wisdom of the aforementioned sweet pea-aholics know best.

Meanwhile, my pots by the front door look even more sparse, with just eight plants each.

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However, despite my current trepidation about whether I’ve done the right thing, there are a couple of definite positives.  Firstly, I’ve finally freed up some root trainers to plant more peas and beans, and secondly, there are more sweet plants to either give away (sister dear) or plant up in the veg bed or the cutting garden. I don’t think I’m growing any of these from last year, but I bet they’ll still be gorgeous.  Roll on the sweet peas!

The Greenhouse review – April 2015

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I missed joining Julie’s Greenhouse Review at Peonies and Posies  earlier this month as I was away, but after a weekend spent sowing, pricking out and planting out, it occurred to me that this could be the busiest the greenhouse is all year and so thought I’d take a few photos to capture it, even though I’m very late.

Sadly the pictures aren’t great as I’d spent so long playing it was pretty dark by the time I got round to taking the photos.  The shot above is of a number of the seeds I’ve now pricked out.  These are mostly for cutting but there are also seeds I’m growing for the two new beds.  I’m a bit concerned than the plants I’m growing for the Bronze Bed are a rather eclectic mix (Antirrhinum Orange Wonder, Calendula Sunset Buff, Eschoscholzia ‘Cameo Dream’, Hordeum Jubatum, Scabiosa atropurpurea Fata Morgana) but I thought I’d grow them all and then decide which ones worked and bin the rest!

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One of the reasons the greenhouse is so busy is because it’s still full of tender plants like argyranthemums, lampranthus and pelargoniums – not just larger pots but also plenty of cuttings.  Once both these and the (many) sweet peas have been moved out, there should be rather more room to manoeuvre.  Also, I need to plant out the sweet peas so that I can use the root trainers for my beans!

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Meanwhile, on the heated propagation mat, courgettes (Romanesco, El Greco and Gold Rush) are jostling for position with Helianthus and Zinnias. IMG_6990

Some of you may remember last year that I was saved from being completely overwhelmed by seedlings by my lovely neighbours J & A, who allowed me space in their beautiful walled garden to plant some of my cutting blooms (see last year here).

Well the good news is, having invited them over for coffee this morning and plied them with lemon cake, they’ve agreed that I can have space again.  Excitingly there are two different areas on offer this year which, combined, make a larger space than last year, so I’m very excited as to how much I’ll be able to pack in.  Of course the problem this year will be how I can make sure blooms get picked when I’m in London, but that’s something I’ll have to work out.

And to finish, a shot of my big, blousy tulips (Mistress).  Sadly they’ve taken rather a battering in the recent winds and are already looking a little tatty, so I’m sure they won’t still be fit for public consumption by my EOMV post, so thought I’d share them here.

Don’t you just love spring?IMG_6977

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day – July 2014

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So today, as time is short, the garden is parched and I haven’t reported on it since inception (conception?), I thought I’d conduct Garden Bloggers Bloom Day from my Cutting Garden down the road.

Don’t you just love annuals?  From May 13thIMG_2226to July 15th

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As divulged in my original post, the blooms are Helianthus ‘Claret’,

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Helianthus ‘Valentine’ (just one, the slugs got the rest), IMG_3769 - CopyCleome ‘Violet Queen’,IMG_3774 - Copy - Copy

Amaranthus Viridis,IMG_3775

Cosmos ‘Dazzler’,IMG_3776 - Copy - Copy

Cosmos ‘Psyche White’,IMG_3778 - Copy

Ammi visnaga (top picture) Antirrhinum ‘White Giant’,

IMG_3781 - CopyAntirrhinum ‘Liberty Classic Crimson’,

IMG_3782Rudbeckia ‘Cherry Brandy’ IMG_3784and Malope.IMG_3783

I’ve been delighted with my ‘cutting’ blooms which, together with other flowers in the garden (particularly sweet peas) are providing buckets of lovely arrangements.

With many thanks to Carol at May Dreams Gardens for hosting this meme.