Winter berries
Viburnum opulus berries

Winter interest

We've had a few snowy days here in Norfolk this month which has caused much excitement among the smaller members of the family. An otherwise fairly bare garden looks wonderful cloaked in a dusting of snow. We like to spare a lot of seed heads and skeletons from perennials such as fennel and Sanguisorba (rather than cutting them down after flowering) as they look so nice with a covering of frost and provide some winter interest.

cut flower bed with snow
Cutting bed

In the cutting beds, I like to keep the sweet pea obelisks in place along with the metal supports that I use as they look quite sculptural in the beds over the winter months. Hidden under the layers of snow and soil are spring bulbs, including lots of tulips. Dotted about are biennial foxgloves, wallflowers and sweet williams that will survive the winter frosts and bloom in the spring.

Christmas Wreaths

I always make a fresh flower wreath for the front door from anything flowering in the garden in December. This can vary from late-flowering Chrysanthemums sheltering in the potting shed, the almost constantly flowering perennial wallflower Erysimum 'Bowles's Mauve' and winter-flowering Viburnums. I usually use a base of clippings from the Christmas tree as quite often the lower branches need removing in order for it to fit into its pot or else I use yew cut from the hedge at the front of the house.

Fresh flower Christmas wreath
Fresh flower Christmas wreath

You will need to use either a moss base or a foam base which has been pre-soaked before use. It may need a good soaking every now and again to keep it moist so that the fresh flowers last the whole of the Christmas period. Cover this generously with the Christmas tree trimmings. Our tree is a Nordmann Fir and every year we choose it from the Elveden Estate where, for a small contribution to charity, it is pulled to your car by adorable Newfoundland dogs bedecked in tinsel and bells. This year we were a bit too late for the dogs as 6 year old Rosie spent so long choosing an outfit which was not at all appropriate for the frosty weather. We had to make do with a quick pet of the dogs that were being loaded into their owner's cars and Rosie pretended to be a dog and help pull the tree to the car. Not quite the same, but she was placated.

Back to wreath-making.. Over the base of fir, I added Viburnum tinus. With its delicate white flowers, it's a favourite winter foliage plant in the garden. I then added a few sprays of large and small rose hips from our hedge. I finished with some Leycesteria formosa which has racemes of flowers with dark pink bracts which look very seasonal and a few sprigs of Viburnum bodnantense. This variety of Viburnum is a fabulous winter-flowering shrub with fragrant clusters of flowers appearing before the leaves on bare stems. I often clip a few branches to place in a jug where it will scent a whole room.

Winter displays and crafts

There is little to do in the cutting garden over the winter months but every time I venture out to the compost heap with the green waste from the kitchen, I take a look at what is flowering and snip something to bring inside and display. Cyclamen, winter-flowering shrubs, Holly, Ivy, evergreen foliage and the first Hellebore flowers are all brought in regularly so that their beauty can be appreciated inside.

Crochet nativity
Crochet nativity

The time freed up in the winter is taken up with crochet projects. Last year, I made this little nativity scene (I decided that one shepherd was all I had room for). My next project is a crochet Snape figure from Harry Potter as requested by my Potter-obsessed daughter - wish me luck!

If you are looking for a Christmas gift for the gardener in your life take a look at my pressed flower pictures made from our cutting garden flowers in my Etsy shop or consider a gift voucher for a Home Flower Garden workshop.

Merry Christmas and see you in 2018!

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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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