Like many keen gardeners, having packed our garden full of plants, we are always finding or reading about new plants that we'd like to grow but we just don't have space for. Everything we grow in the garden borders is chosen to be suitable for cutting but also to put on a good garden display. In addition, we have an area half-way down the garden which is purely dedicated to growing plants for cutting (a mix of annuals, tulips and dahlias). These are housed in a series of raised beds with a wide central path running between them - originally designed to give our children room to zoom up and down on their bikes and trikes when we moved here about 7 years ago. The raised beds are built from railway sleepers and recycled wooden pallets - initially to grow veg in but gradually taken over by me as my passion for growing flowers took off!

wide path through cutting garden
Wide path through cutting garden

When looking at the space, we decided it was time for a remodeling of this area to house as many cutting beds as we could fit in. It wasn't great timing as the raised beds were packed full of spring bulbs and biennials but sometimes you just have to go for it when you have the time. So, it's 'bye-bye' to raised beds with wide paths and 'hello' to more, ground-level beds with smaller brick paths between. We're going to have almost double the planting space which will make room for a rose bed, a dedicated perennial and herb bed, a whole bed of dahlias and lots of space for annuals, foliage and fillers.

Days 1-2

We made a start on a Monday at the beginning of February when the sun was shining and it was very spring-like. Once we started digging we were reminded of just why we went with raised beds in the first place - very little soil and lots and lots (and lots) of rubble!

rubble
All rubble and no soil!

We're leaving one raised bed in place for now as it is crammed full of tulips and I can't bear to lose the flowers this April and May. Everything else growing in the beds has been carefully lifted and temporarily potted up or bagged up. We may lose some flowers this year but, as I keep having to remind myself, it will be worth it in the long run and whatever happens, we will be ready in time for all the annual flowers which will keep us in flowers from June until the first frosts.

DSCN2425
Bulbs, perennials and biennials from one of the raised beds have been potted up until the new cutting garden is complete

Day 3 Erm.. There is an awful lot of rubble to move about and we've found what we suspect are the remains of an old out-house buried under the raised beds on one side. On the plus side, we've salvaged lots of bricks and found a lovely old glass bottle but there's a lot more work than initially thought. There's no going back now though and we're already planning what to plant once it's finished!

Days 4-5 My lovely husband has been working hard all weekend and the garden is gradually taking shape. Some of the old raised beds were quite rotten so our fire pit has come in handy for getting rid of the wood. We've added a gold ring to our collection of finds!

Cutting garden revamp
Raised beds have been dismantled, hardcore for central path in place and soil ready to be shifted about

Days 6-7

The cutting garden is gradually taking shape. Lots of soil and rubble have been moved around - the rubble relocated under the pathways. Brick paths are being laid - a central wiggly one and some narrower ones dividing the cutting beds into sections. When planning a cutting garden, it's important not to make the beds too wide. About 1-1.2 m is the ideal width so that you can easily reach into the middle of the bed without having to trample the soil.

Days 8-9 The final paths have been laid, soil has been redistributed and the new cutting area is complete, save for the area where our final raised bed full of tulips, grape hyacinths and scillas has been left until the tulips have come into flower and been cut. Once they are over, we'll carefully lift the bulbs, complete with their foliage and replant them so that the foliage can die down naturally. We'll then be able to demolish that bed.

Brick path
Our cat, Otto enjoying the new central path in the sun

Day 10 We've started putting in some of the plants that have been languishing in plastic pots and compost sacks. We've lined the edges of the central path with some cuttings of chamomile and we've planted a row of small perennials along the edges of the beds running along the central path. We've used dwarf lavenders, drumstick primulas and Alchemilla mollis (lady's mantle).

Day 11 The new cutting garden is finally complete and is planted up with the bulbs, biennials and perennials from the old raised beds and everything looks really healthy after a dose of rain. I'll give you the low-down on exactly what we'll be growing this year in my next post.

New cutting garden
New cutting garden!

 

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Time to say goodbye to January. I always find this month to drag on just a little too long. Last year, we did 'Dry January' which made it seem even longer! This year, we've learned our lesson and are going to do a dry February, it's no coincidence that it is the shortest month.. This January we've experienced some proper winter weather in Norfolk, with beautifully crisp, frosty mornings.

Winter frost
Winter frost in our garden

January for me is a time to reflect and plan. I've been poring over flower seed catalogues, making lists and planning what will go where.  This year, I've particularly enjoyed the Chiltern Seeds catalogue which has lovely descriptions and lots of useful advice. If you visit their website, you'll be able to view pictures of each flower variety and search by colour, height and other useful factors. Just be warned that you may be tempted to buy far more seed than you have space for.

Bulbs and early flowers

I always pot up some spring bulbs during the Autumn in the potting shed to bring inside for floral displays throughout the winter. So far I've had Amaryllis, Iris reticulata, Paperwhite Narcissi and miniature daffodils in flower but I'm looking forward (somewhat impatiently I might add) for the Hellebores and Snowdrops in the garden borders to open out into flower. I think Hellebores are my favourite winter flower as they are so elegant. They make great cut flowers although they can be a bit temperamental. If you find yours wilt once cut, they can often be revived by re-cutting the stem and searing the end in boiling water for 20 seconds before placing in cold water up to their necks.

Iris reticulata
Iris reticulata 'Pauline'

Jobs to do this month

Jobs for February will include washing the black plastic pots I  use for seed sowing, ready for the new season. I bring them all in, shove them in the bath, and scrub them with washing up liquid and hot water. Seems simpler than doing it out in the cold with a bucket.

Hellebores and spring flowers
Hellebores and spring flowers

I'll sow sweet pea and Antirrhinum (snapdragons) seeds under cover this month (I place my pots on a sunny windowsill). You can sow sweet peas in November and December too, but I always seem to forget this in the run up to Christmas. Snapdragons need a long period between sowing seed and producing flowers (18 weeks) so, while I leave off sowing the seed of other half-hardy annuals until early April, I make a head-start with these. Follow my tips for seed-sowing here or why not enrol on one of my workshops and learn everything you need to know about growing your own flowers for cutting. Everything from planning, through to sowing, harvesting and arranging flowers.

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Happy New Year! It may be cold and frosty outside but don't despair - now is the perfect time to plan your perfect cutting garden for the coming year. Don't just focus on annual flowers, by using perennials, bulbs, tree blossom and shrubs, you can have something in flower year-round.

Here are just some of the flowers I harvested from my cutting garden during 2016 - something for every month of the year.

If you'd like to make 2017 the year when you grow and harvest your own flowers, follow me on social media (using the links top right). You'll gain inspiration and tips on what to sow, grow or harvest each month, or book one of my 'Grow Your Own Cut Flowers' workshops based here in Norfolk.

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