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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With record temperatures for February, we are making the most of the sunny days here in Norfolk. Spring really does seem to have come early with blossom appearing on our apricot tree and pulmonarias, grape hyacinths, daffodils and primroses all blooming early alongside the more traditional February fare of snowdrops, crocus and hellebores.

Snowdrops
Snowdrops

I do have to keep reminding myself that the 'Beast from the East' struck in early March last year and we had so much snow that the shops ran out of milk and bread. There is a chance of the wintery weather returning so it's important not to go too mad and plant out anything frost-tender until later in the year.

Winter flowers
Helleoores, Crocus and Snowdrops

In the meantime, I will enjoy the early flowers, picking a few to bring inside for tiny spring posies and I'll finalise my plans for the annuals that I will grow this year.

I plan to sow some sweet peas under cover this weekend and will start sowing some hardy annuals in a week or two, once March is underway. There are some annuals that I always grow  - cornflowers, marigolds, sweet peas and scabious, but I might not choose the same colours or varieties to grow each year. In this way, each year is different and there will be something new and exciting to place in the vase.

Hardy annuals
Hardy annuals with feverfew and borage in early summer
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Snow On Bird Table
Snow on our bird table

The 1st March signalled the first day of spring (according to the meteorological calendar) but here in Norfolk and most of the UK, it was also the 2nd day of deep snowfall which closed the schools and created havoc on the roads.

The first crocuses, narcissi and Iris reticulata were merrily doing their thing and brightening up the garden but ended up under a cover of 10 cm thick snow for nearly a week.

Just a week beforehand, I had hosted a 'Grow your own cut flowers' workshop and we found lots of lovely greenery and flowers to pick to make the lovely display pictured below.

February flowers
February flowers

The flowers above include trailing rosemary, Daphne odora, Viburnum tinus, Hellebores, and some early flower heads from the perennial wallflower Erysimum 'Bowles' Mauve'. Winter-flowering shrubs have strongly fragranced flowers as they need to attract pollinators and they don't always have large flowers. This is a bonus when cutting as the fragrance of some flowers can scent the whole room.

Once the snow finally cleared it was a relief to see the spring bulbs still in full flower despite their blanket covering of snow. We are now experiencing milder temperatures and, with it, rain (sigh).

Hyacinth
Hyacinths. A taste of spring during the snow

Rainy weather stops any flowers that there are from being cut but I do still have some pots of bulbs in the potting shed that I bring out a few at a time into the house where the higher temperature causes them to come into bloom. I have also started sowing some hardy annuals. The hardest part is deciding what to grow this year from the numerous packets of seed that I seem to collect each year.

Cherry blossom
Cherry blossom

March is a good month for sowing hardy annuals. By the time the seedlings are ready to plant out in about 6-8 weeks time, at the beginning of May, the soil will have warmed up and frost risk will be minimal. Hardy annuals can cope with some low temperatures but I leave the half-hardy annuals like Cosmos and Zinnias until April as I won't want to plant them out until the end of May when all frost-risk has passed. The exception are any that have a long growing phase before flowering such as Antirrhinums which should be sown in March with their fully hardy counterparts so that they will come into flower in June/July with the rest of the hardy annuals.

 

 

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