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Autumn is my favourite season and although some flowers in the garden are going over (I have just dug up my exhausted Larkspur and Calendula) the half-hardy annuals like Cosmos, Zinnias and Helichrysum are producing buckets of flowers.

Dahlia
Dahlia 'Pink Silk' with Sweetpeas, Feverfew and Zinnias.

I must admit that I was heartened to hear that Monty Don's dahlias hadn't fared well this summer with very few flowers being produced. With the exception of my vigourous yellow waterlily dahlia called 'Glorie Van Heemstede' which has been in constant flower, my other dahlias have either been slow to get going or have looked on the verge of giving up. My previously reliably flowering 'Sam Hopkins' has this year so far produced a grand total of 3 flowers (and one of those was ravaged by earwigs!) The other dahlias do all look like they might be taking off now so perhaps I will be rewarded with some late flowers, providing they survive the current high winds battering the garden.

Zinnias
Zinnias

Although it is sad when an annual comes to an end, the space that is created once you have dug them up and composted them, is an opportunity to plant biennials which will establish their roots and then overwinter ready to flower early next year. I don't like to have bare ground in my cutting beds, so the early flowering annuals are replaced either by binenials such as foxgloves, wallfowers, sweet williams or sweet rocket or with some late-sown annuals which will flower from now until the first frost.

Foxglove 'Sutton's Apricot'
Biennial Foxglove 'Sutton's Apricot'

Back in June, I sowed a few pots of Chinese Forget-me-nots (Cynoglossum) and '10 week' Stocks and they are now both about to come into flower so I have some more annuals to take over the baton from the Larkspur and Calendula and to create a fresh look as we travel through Autumn into Winter.

Also just starting to bloom are a variety of Chrysanthemums  - more in the next blog post...

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It is too hot - too hot for me and too hot for many of my cut flowers.

After a late, and then unseasonably warm spring, when all the spring flowers seemed to bloom all at once in the space of 3-4 weeks, we are now, like most of Europe, experiencing the hottest and driest summer temperatures on record.

Zinnias
Zinnias enjoying the heat

I have found that everything is going up to flower quickly before it has grown very tall and, even with a good soaking with the hose-pipe once a week, my cornflowers, larkspur, calendula and sweet peas are flowering half-heartedly and looking a bit like they are ready to give up.

I can't blame them. Being naturally milk-bottle white, I find that I struggle in the heat and am far happier when temperatures are in the very low 20s.

On the plus side, annuals originating from sunnier climes are thriving - the Zinnias and Cosmos are all looking good. I had thought that my dahlias, being natives of Mexico would be enjoying a good baking but they aren't at their best and I fear that even with regular watering and feeding, they're not going to do much this year. The foliage looks suspiciously like it might have a virus so they may have to be dug up and disposed of but I am not quite ready to face that possibility just yet so they have had a stay of execution to see if they buck their ideas up.

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Ho-hum, gardening is never the same from one year to the next and you just have to live with your successes and failures. All we can do is keep watering (it's best to water well, leaving the hosepipe on the beds for about 5-10 minutes in one position before moving it on, rather than watering more often but with a small amount of water). I have got some annuals growing in the potting shed which should be able to take over when the first lot give up the ghost and there are always the Zinnias, Cosmos (including some rather lovely Chocolate Cosmos called 'Chocamocha' that I have put in as edging plants) and lots of Chrysanthemums that are just forming flower heads now. I'm trying a new one called 'Avignon Pink' which is apparantly the Chrysanthemum equivalent of Dahlia 'Cafe Au Lait'. Just as well as my D. 'Cafe Au Lait' didn't flower at all last year is sulking this year, despite having been moved to a  sunnier position.

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June flowers
June flowers

June finds the cutting garden positively bursting with flowers. The first hardy annuals have just started blooming in the form of Cornflowers, Snapdragons and Calendula. Even though they are just getting going, we certainly haven't been short of flowers due to growing biennials like Foxgloves and Sweet Williams. Add to these, the self-sown Love-in-a-mist (Nigella) which crop up all over the place and it is easy to fill a vase with early summer flowers. I re-locate any errant Nigella seedlings to more suitable gaps in the cutting beds when they start to appear in early spring.

Lady's Mantle (Alchemilla mollis) has been planted as an edging plant, along with Lavender and Thrift, and, if anything, it is doing a little too well as the plants have bulked up considerably. It is so valuable for its frothy yellow flowers which create such a  good backdrop for other, showier flowers.

Daisies with love in a mist
Daisies with love in a mist

Other favourite flowers include Oxeye daisies which are out in abundance on roadside verges at this time of year. We have a clump of them and, although they do self-seed quite prolifically, they are easy to weed out if you get too many. Feverfew is another daisy flower that will self-sow if you introduce it into the garden. Again, it's easy to remove or relocate if it pops up in the wrong place. The flowers of both plants bring a natural wildflower look to vases and it you cut them back after flowering, you'll be rewarded with a 2nd flush of flowers later in the year.

Our shrub roses have really come into their own, producing gorgeously full and fragrant flowers in just their 2nd summer since planting. We grow the dark red 'Munstead Wood', pink 'Gertrude Jekyll' and the deliciously fragrant pink 'Comte de Chambord'. All are repeat-flowering so we'll be able to pick the flowers all through the summer.

Cutting garden in June
The cutting garden in June
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