September, one of my favourite months in the cutting garden and a time to catch up with all those jobs that there has been less time for during the school holidays. I've been weeding, deadheading, watering and taking out some of the plants that have seen better days like the sweetpeas and wild carrot.

Recent days have definitely aquired a little nip of autumn chill in the mornings and evenings. I quite relish the thought of donning a cardigan after the hot summer days and the whole garden does seem to breathe a sigh of relief now it's not quite so hot.

Autumn flowers
Autumn flowers

I'm continuing to harvest jugfuls of flowers including large numbers of richly-coloured dahlias, gorgeous Panicum grass 'Frosted Explosion' with its 'firework' seed heads, purple Zinnias, electric-blue larkspur, Cosmos in shades of dark and bubblegum pink , gorgeous blue Chinese forget-me-nots, dark-red Scabious, lime-green Nicotiana and classic blue cornflowers.

Dahlias
Jugs of dahlias from the allotment

While there are still an abundance of flowers to harvest, it is also a time of planning for next year. September is the ideal time to sow some hardy annuals ready for early flowering next year. I'll sow pots of larkspur, cornflowers, marigolds and Eschscholzia in the potting shed and keep them over winter before planting out in the spring. You can also direct-sow outdoors if you have space in your cutting beds (I don't have any space until the first frosts kill everything off so prefer to plant in pots).

Dahlias
Dahlias flower all through autumn until the first frosts

Autumn is of course, also the time when spring bulbs start appearing in shops and this year I have lots of space for rows of bulbs up at my allotment. I grow them in the cutting beds at home in amongst the dahlias but have run out of space so I'm really excited at the prospect of planting even more tulips along with daffodils which I haven't grown a lot of thus far. I often wait until the tulip bulbs are reduced in price in November as they don't mind being planted quite late in the year. If you plant them before Christmas, you'll still have a good display come spring.

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The cutting beds are awash with a sea of self-sown Nigella or 'Love-in-a-mist'. The flowers are literally buzzing with bees - their open faces and their blue colour makes them an ideal bee-attractor.

Nigella
Love-in-a-mist

Nigella are really easy to grow and once you have bought the first packet of seed, you'll never need to buy another one (unless you want to try a different variety that is).

The only thing I had to do last year was to wait for the flowers to produce seed pods (when the seed is ripe, they will rattle) and then crush the pods and broadcast the seed over the cutting beds. As these self-sowers start growing over the winter, they flower nice and early and I can then pull them out to make room for spring-sown annuals later in June.

Roses cut flowers
Rosa 'Munstead Wood' with Nigella seedlings growing under and inbetween.

I haven't thinned out my seedlings and they are mingling in amongst the rose bushes, pushing their way up between the blooms - a lovely combination in the garden and in the vase.

The annual herb borage is another wonderful prolific self-sower which pops up everywhere in the cutting beds. If it's in the wrong place, I simply pluck it out or carefully transplant it to a more convenient location.

I am such a fan of these easy to grow plants as they are one less flower to sow in pots in my tiny potting shed. Other self-sowers that are good cutting garden plants  include forget-me-nots, feverfew, Eschscholzia, Panicum, Nasturtiums and cornflowers. You simply need to remember to let some plants go up to seed at the end of the season.

June flowers
June in a jug

I grow forget-me-nots in the garden borders as they are fabulous for hiding messy tulip foliage as it dies down.

Feverfew is a very useful filler flower with its tiny daisy flowers. A short-lived perrenial, it will flower for a second time if you cut it to the base after the first flowering.

The decorative grass Panicum 'Frosted Explosion' is a welome self-sower coming a bit later in the season in mid-late summer. It sees me through into the autum and  combines wonderfully with Cosmos and Chrysanthemums.

This year I am going to add Eschscholzia (Californian poppy) to the party. I've chosen an elegant creamy variety called 'Thai Silk' series 'Milkmaid'. It's quick to grow from seed so if I scatter some around in the beds now, I should see some flowers in about 8-10 weeks time.

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The tulips in the cutting garden first opened their blooms at the end of March with the early-flowering 'Exotic Emperor' and 'Purissima' varieties. It's now exactly a month on, the early tulips have just gone over but there are still lots of tulips in flower and a few more yet to fully open.

Tulip Exotic Emperor
Tulops 'Exotic Emperor' and 'Purissima' in the garden border

I love tulips so much that I grow them in the cutting beds (among the dahlias and perennials), in rows on our new allotment and dotted throughout the garden borders.

Tulip La Bell Epoque
Tulip 'La Belle Epoque'

Yes, the leaves can look unsightly as they go over, and you have to let the foliage die down but I think they are worth it, for the sheer variety of flower shapes and colours to fall in love with.

Tulip Little Beauty
Species tulip 'Little Beauty'

Species tulips such as 'Little Beauty', 'Lady Jane' and 'Turkestanica' are ideal edging tulips for cutting beds. These natural forms are smaller than the cutltivated varieties and have smaller leaves that die down quickly and don't get in the way of things. They are truly perennial whereas some cultivated varieties can stop flowering reliably each year.

Spring vase with tulips
Spring vase with tulips

Whatever type of tulip you go for - species or cultivated, lily-flowered or peony-flowered, there is a tulip for everyone. If you chose early, mid and late-flowering varieties, you'll get 4-6 weeks of flowers for cutting and have a beautiful garden display lasting 6-8 weeks.

Species tulip 'Lady Jane'
Species tulip 'Lady Jane'
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