September in the Cutting Garden
After a long Summer holiday, my children have gone back to school, so let me fill you in on what has been going on in my cutting garden over the Summer and what I'll be cutting this month as we proceed into Autumn.
The hardy annuals, which were flowering so well at the beginning of the Summer, are still producing a good number of blooms but are showing signs of slowing down. In a couple of weeks, I will clear these annuals and plant out my Sweet Williams which are growing on well in the potting shed. These include Cornflowers, Amberboa muricata (which have suffered a bit of mildew on the leaves but are still producing useful blooms) Lupins and Malope trifida. My Larkspur have already been taken out as they were looking very weedy and yellow.
The real stars at this time of year are my Cosmos and Scabious. I have a mix of Cosmos 'Click Cranberries' and 'Rubenza' which, while I love the colour of the flowers, have seemed a bit weedy in comparison with Cosmos 'Purity' which is romping away. It could be that they are being overshadowed by the taller growing 'Purity' so I will grow them in separate beds next year. My Zinnias should be doing really well, but have been a bit disappointing, with some plants failing completely and some just producing the odd flower here and there. They are bulking up slowly so I may be rewarded with more flowers later this month. Zinnia seedlings dislike root disturbance and can sulk if you grow them in pots and then plant them out. This is what I did this year, so next year I will try sowing them directly where they are to grow and see if I can produce better plants.
It's not all doom and gloom though. The big successes this year have been my Scabious 'Black Knight' which I love, with its large dark red, velvety flower heads. In contrast, the less showy but very elegant, Scabious 'Tall Double Mix - white' is a small, pure white, pincushion flower which looks lovely dotted throughout an arrangement. My Didsicus (Blue Lace Flower) have produced lots of lovely lacy flowers and they continue to look good once the petals have fallen off. I have been leaving a lot of them on the plant until they reach this stage as the spidery flower structure is stunning.
I've grown Panicum grass for the first time this year and really like the frothiness of the flowering seed heads. I also have some late-sown Salvia viridis and Ammi majus starting to produce useful foliage and filler material in my cutting beds. I planted these out after taking out the Larkspur and some Bupleurum seedlings which had failed. It's really useful to have some replacement seedlings on hand to replace any plants that fail to perform or fill any gaps. If you sow a few extra annuals when the first batch of hardy annuals are just coming into flower, they should be ready to plant out when other annuals may be going over.
Other annuals worth a mention that are now appearing in my arrangements, are Coreopsis 'Incredible Tall Mix', with its almost Helenium-like flowers in a range of yellows and reddish-browns, and Rudbekia 'Cherry Brandy'. I didn't have much germination success with my Rudbekia, with only one seedling coming up, but I absolutely love it's dark cherry-red blooms and it looks great with the Coreopsis.
I've had a bumper crop of Dahlias this year. I've grown them all in pots and have watered them almost daily when it has been dry, but we've had a lot of rain over the last few weeks so this means less watering. I also give them a liquid feed every couple of weeks as they are hungry plants, especially if grown in pots. Elsewhere in the garden borders, I've been cutting lots of Fennel and Oregano as filler and foliage material, Knautia macedonica, Lavender, Mallow, Verbena bonariensis, perennial Scabious, Heleniums and Japanese Anemones.
I'm looking forward to my Sedum 'Autumn Joy' flowering later this month. The plants are small, as they were planted in the Spring, but I love the form of them and they are great for some Autumn colour in the garden.
Jobs for September
Keep picking, dead-heading and watering where necessary. When annuals start failing - typically the hardy annuals you planted out first - like Cornflowers, annual Lupins, Amberboa and Larkspur, pull them out and compost them and replace them with any bi-ennials that you have grown or can buy from the garden centre. I've got some Sweet William 'Sooty' - a dark maroon/chocolate form and Sweet William 'Single Mixed' with a range of different shades from pale pink to red. Other bi-ennials that make good cut flowers include Sweet Rocket, Foxgloves and Wallflowers.
I will start sowing some hardy annuals (Cornflowers, Ammi and Sweet peas) to over-winter for planting out early next spring once I've planted out my bi-ennials and have more space in the potting shed.
You can also start planting spring bulbs such as Daffodils, Crocus and Muscari, if you have space in beds and borders. Leave any Tulip bulbs until November as they will be less prone to Tulip Fire if you plant them later when the weather is colder. Tulip fire is a fungal disease caused by Botrytis tulipae, which produces brown spots and twisted, withered and distorted leaves. It is so named because plants appear scorched by fire. I've been pouring over the bulb catalogues and it is easy to get carried away but I've been trying to visualise how the flowers will look in the vase together before making any final decisions. I'll cover more on bulbs in my next post.