I have to admit that I'm a bit of an impatient gardener and, early in the season, tend to be found out in the garden coaxing (ok, maybe threatening) flower buds in the hope they will open just a little earlier as I can't wait for the annuals to start flowering.

Summer Flowers
Borage, Sweetpeas, Feverfew, Cornflowers, Triteleia and Ammi majus

Come early Summer, however, when the cutting garden is in full swing, there is so much to pick that I often wish things would slow down a bit. If I were running a cut flower business, then I would be cutting most blooms before they are fully out, just breaking from the bud, to prolong their cut flower life. A true cutting garden would be rather devoid of actual flowers out in full bloom.  As I pick just for the house, I can afford to let some flowers bloom and be left for the enjoyment of all the bees, butterflies, hoverflies and other insects that come to feed on the pollen and nectar. As the cutting garden is near the house, you also want it to actually look good in addition to being a 'cut and come again' bed for cutting.

Larkspur, sweetpeas and cornflowers
Larkspur, Sweetpeas and Cornflowers

As long annuals are dead-headed they will keep flowering for you for 2-3 months so I pick every day or so throughout the summer months. I cut the flowers, straight into jugs of water, in the evening when it is cooler. First thing in the morning is best, but I am busy wrestling my youngest into her school uniform at that time so I leave it until the evening when life is more relaxed. I cut them, trim the lower leaves and leave them in tepid water up to their necks overnight, before arranging them (informally) the next day.

Filler flowers
Flowers grown as 'fillers' - Alchemilla mollis, Ammi majus and visnaga, Euphorbia oblongata and Dill

I grow a range of annuals and perennials in the cutting beds so that I have a mix of foliage, 'filler' flowers (small flowers that create a backdrop for showier blooms) and larger, statement flowers like Roses and Dahlias.

I vary the annuals that I grow from year to year as there is always a new variety to try or something I am intrigued by when looking through the seed catalogues in the winter months.

I always grow Sweetpeas, Cornflowers, Ammi, Scabious, Larkspur, Cosmos and Zinnias in some form. This year I'm also growing Calendula 'Snow Princess'  (a pale yellow form of Marigold) and some white Antirrhinums (snapdragons). The other cutting beds house Lavender, Roses, Dahlias and a few perennials such as Guara, Achillea, Salvia, Coreopsis, Alchemilla mollis, Thrift and Oregano.

Pressed flower art
Pressed Flower Picture in my Etsy shop

I am also growing some 'everlasting' flowers (flowers that dry to a papery feel and keep their colour and shape well) as I want to experiment with making some dried floral wreaths for indoor display. Will these will eventually for sale in my Etsy shop alongside my pressed flower pictures. I've gone for Helichrysum bracteum 'Scarlet', a lovely deep red colour, Helipterum roseum 'Pierrot', white with dark centres and Acroclinum 'Double Giant Flowered Mix'which come in white and pink forms with a yellow centre (used fresh here with Cosmos, Ammi, Sweetpeas and Scabious).

Everlasting flowers
Acroclinum and Helipterum everlasting flowers can be used fresh or dried in displays.
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Although it's only October and we are experiencing some lovely Autumn weather here in Norfolk, my mind can't help thinking ahead to the Winter and the first frost which will spell the end of my annual flowers and dahlias.

There will still be flowers to pick from the cutting garden to display in the house over the winter months (Hellebores, Snowdrops, Cyclamen etc..) but production does inevitably slow down. A lovely way of prolonging the season is to display the dried seed heads of flowers grown in the cutting garden.

The spectacular, explosive seed heads of Allium christophii dry with a fabulous purple tinge to the flower spikes. Sprayed silver, they make great hanging Christmas decorations but I do prefer them 'au naturel' for displaying year-round.

Allium seed head
Allium christophii

Smaller, but still impressive, are the seed heads of Scabiosa stellata 'Ping Pong' which I have grown for the first time this year, purely for their seed heads. The actual flowers themselves are a rather underwhelming wishy-washy lilac colour whereas the seed heads, with their papery cups encasing each seed, are very unusual.

Scabiosa stellata 'Ping Pong'
Scabiosa stellata 'Ping Pong'

Poppies dry easily and are very sculptural. I love the frilly end cap.

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Nigella or 'Love-in-a-mist' produce lovely balloon-shaped seed heads, some with attractive vertical strips.

Nigella seed heads
Nigella seed heads

How to dry your own seed heads

Allow some flowers to go up to seed and pick the seed heads when they are fully ripe but before they start to degrade and weather. Mature seed heads of poppies and Nigella will rattle, Scabiosa 'Ping Pong' will feel papery, whereas the heads and stems of Alliums will have started to fade in colour. It's important to harvest them on a dry day as any moisture will cause them to go mouldy. Pick with as long a length of stem as you can (you can cut them to size later). Tie the stems together in small bunches (singly for large Alliums) and hang them upside down in a warm, dry place such as a shed or airing cupboard. They should be ready in 2-3 weeks.

 

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