Friday, 15 August 2014

My Cutting Garden

 I am really lucky to have a largeish garden which is split into the "main garden" and the "veg patch/wildlife zone". We have lived in our home for four years now and I have started to make good inroads into transforming the main garden from weedy bramble patch to pretty English country garden.  However...  With the exception of my gorgeous selection of David Austin repeat roses and Hydrangea 'Annabelle', I find myself unable to deplete the plants in the main garden to cut flowers for vases and I absolutely love having pretty flowers around the house during the summer.

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Cut flowers with visiting butterfly
The veg patch was a good idea in theory. It's surrounded by my wilderness bits of garden to encourage wildlife into the same area and it has a couple of permanent beds (asparagus and raspberries) and then several 8x4 foot beds for seasonal crops.  All sounded great during the design stage but out of sight meant out of mind and for the last couple of years I have miserably failed to harvest most of the veg I was growing on time! So in May I took the decision to jack in my vegetable patch, to move courgette, tomato, salad, etc. production into large pots / small beds nearer the kitchen back door and use this space to start off a cutting garden instead.

To kick myself off, I bought a handful of perennials from the garden centre (mainly to trial them as cutting flowers) and popped them into the ground.  I then bought some packs of seeds from the absolutely fantastic Higgledy Garden, made some lines with string and filled up most of my space.  And then I waited a bit and weeded between the rows a bit.  As ever with annuals, it feels like nothing could ever grow fast enough to pick this year but from around 4 weeks ago I have had non-stop flowers to pick.

The photo I have posted at the top is from last week and everything I've used in those vases are keepers. What I love most is that they are also (mostly) really insect friendly and as you can see a butterfly popped by to have a snack whilst I was taking my picture.  So far my favourites from my trials have been:


  • Echinacea Purpurea
  • Rudbeckia 'Marmalade'
  • Rudbeckia Hirta 'Prairie Sun' & 'Autumn Colours' (these have been really great performers)
  • Lathyrus latifolius (Everlasting Sweet Pea)
  • Leucanthemum 'Broadway Lights'

I also have some perennials I hope to trial properly next year as I sowed the seeds in this which include a couple of the Aquilegia Barlow family, mixed Delphiniums and Knautia 'Melton Pastels'.  I sowed some (very late!) Sweet Peas that are just coming into flower.  Unfortunately the marker pen I used has proven not to be as waterproof as advertised so I have absolutely no idea what the gorgeous varieties  now emerging are but they are great to mix in with the flowers from the very prolific everlasting variety which is sadly scentless.

(some of) today's flowers
All of the above favourites are definite keepers for next year (I must be ruthless, I must be ruthless) but I realised when I started picking that my most prolific plants are mostly yellows so I definitely need to add more variety including some greens!!  Having said that at the moment I am getting some nice paler mixes too (see second pic) and luckily I have some self-seeded dill in the veg patch that I've been able to use. I do have the vibrant green establishing Alchemilla Mollis plants in the main garden but think I need to move some up into the cutting patch so I remember to pick more green!

Even though the Summer is not over, I'm already thinking about the changes I want to make so next year I'm also going to trial:

Annuals: Ammi Majus, Ammi Visage, Bupleurum Griffithii, Celosia 'Flamingo Feather' & Dill Mammoth which should have more impact than the bog standard version I had this year. I'm also thinking about possibly adding some Larkspur as I might feel less guilty about picking them than I do about my mixed Delphiniums!

Perennials: Echinacea Primadonna White, Echinops 'Ritro', a long stemmed Lavender and mixed Scabiosa too.

I also need to think about how I extend the life of my picking season.  I'm really lucky in that the "wilderness" part of my garden is absolutely filled with bluebells in spring - so many that I can happily cut them for a few weeks.  I also have several large clumps of chives which I used as early flowers along with a few daffodils that I allowed myself to pick very sparingly from the main garden.

Overall, I am really pleased with the transition from veg patch to cutting garden and am already looking forward to Version 2.0 in 2015!

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