Chances are, you'll already have some useful plants for cutting in your beds and borders - shrubs with evergreen foliage, perennials from which you can cut some stems and bulbs which can make excellent cut flowers. Spring is an ideal time to take a look at your garden and make plans to introduce a few more plants that will look good in the garden as well as provide you with a few cut flowers for the house.

Flowers in Winter / early Spring
Flowers in February using a mix of perennials, shrubs and bulbs from the mixed border

Mixed borders

The key is to include plants with a wide range of flowering times, from early Spring bulbs, through to Autumn-flowering perennials, alongside evergreen shrubs for foliage to ensure there is something to cut throughout the year. You'll want to pack in groups of annuals, perennials and bulbs suited for cutting without affecting the overall appearance of the border. Bulbs are excellent for extending the picking season and can be packed into spaces under shrubs and between perennials. Make the most of any shady spots, planting Hellebores, Alchemilla or Astrantia which tolerate shade well.

Cutting garden bed
Dedicated cutting bed in July

Cutting beds

If you have space, dedicate a part of the garden to growing just cut flowers- raised beds are ideal. This avoids depleting beds and borders, as well as providing a more intensively productive area for the cut flower gardener. You can plant or sow in rows to make weeding, staking and picking easier.

Pots and containers

Pots are invaluable if you want to squeeze in more planting space. Bulbs do well in pots and when they have finished flowering, they can be moved out of sight while the foliage dies down. Creating a 'bulb lasagne', allows you to pack more bulbs in - plant big, late flowering bulbs at the bottom of the pot, cover with soil, add a layer of smaller bulbs which flower earlier and so on up the pot with the smallest and earliest flowering bulbs on the top layer.DSCN0528

Hellebore
Hellebore grown in a pot in the courtyard

I grow some smaller varieties of Dahlia like 'Roxy' in pots for invaluable late season flowers and pots of herbs are great for using as Summer foliage - think Oregano, Lemon balm and mint.
I often buy small pots of Spring flowers in bloom  - Snowdrops Primroses, Hellebores, Anemone blanda & Primulas, from the local garden centre, which I transplant into terracotta pots and have in flower on the table in my courtyard. After flowering, I plant them into the garden borders. Buying a few each year is a good way to gradually increase the number of flowers for cutting in your garden.

Hedges and climbers

Consider planting a mixed hedge in place of a fence to increase opportunities for cutting. A mix of shrubs like Viburnum oplus, Hawthorn, Holly and Dog Roses will provide you with welcome blossom, flowers, foliage and berries at various times of the year. Grow climbers like Clematis or a rambling Rose through the hedge to further increase the number of flowers you can cut.

Guelder Rose
Viburnum opulus (Guelder Rose) as part of a mixed, native hedge

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November in the cutting garden

It had been a rather rainy, but exceptionally mild, November here in Norfolk up until the weekend when we had a taste of real Winter weather - a sprinkling of snow and our first frost. Although the arrival of the first frost does spell the end to annuals like Ammi, Sunflowers and Cosmos, there are still a variety of flowers that you can bring into the house, from forced bulbs like Narcissi 'Paperwhite' to branches of Winter-flowering shrubs. As I write this, I can smell the heavenly scent of Viburnum bodnantense 'Dawn'. The flowers are numerous and a pretty pink colour, and the scent is incredibly intense. I can smell them as soon as I enter the house. This is a great shrub to make room for in the garden.

Viburnum bodnantense 'Dawn'
Viburnum bodnantense 'Dawn' has a delicious scent and is a great shrub for flowers over Winter

I've had some lovely vases of flowers for most of November, including a late crop of Cornflowers, which sprang up, self-sown, and a late crop of the Ammi majus which I struggled to get to grow earlier in the season so the late batch were all the more welcome. My annual Chrysanthemum 'Polar Star' never really got off the ground and my Zinnias have been a big disappointment with only a few blooms to pick sporadically. The true stars for this time of year have been my Scabious - 'Black Cat' and 'Tall Double White' which actually look like they might survive the frost for a while longer. My Dahlias have, I confess, been a bit neglected in their pots, so didn't flower for quite as long as I'd hoped. I have now brought the pots into the potting shed where they will over-winter away from the frost. I will plant them out again, this time into their own cutting bed, which will be devoted to Tulips and Dahlias, where I think the larger varieties will fare better.

Skimmia and Roses
Skimmia, Roses, Scabiosa and Ammi

I've already got flowers on the Narcissi 'Paperwhite' bulbs that I potted up in October. They have a wonderful scent and are very tall and elegant. They need some form of support. I've used hazel twigs and tied in the flowering stems with jute twine to give a natural look.

Over the course of the last few weeks, I have been planting small bulbs (Irises, Snowdrops and Muscari) in some small decorative containers and terracotta pots, every week or so in the shelter of the potting shed. Once in flower, I will bring them into the house for an early Winter display. By planting in succession, I should ensure a continuous display of bulbs for a few months at a time when there are no annuals to pick. After flowering, they can be planted out into the garden borders for flowers next year.

Paperwhite Narcissi
Paperwhite Narcissi

My Amaryllis bulb, planted last month has a green shooting tip and I'm hoping it will be in flower by Christmas.

November is the best month for planting Tulips but you can go into December with their planting. At this time of year, retailers start slashing the cost of Spring-flowering bulbs so there are opportunities for grabbing some bargains. I've invested in some new varieties this year and what a huge variety of Tulip flowers there are! From elegant Lily-shaped flowers, double Peony-like flowers and showy, frilly Parrot versions. Go for your favourite colours but grow a range of shades and flower shapes to complement each other in the vase. I'm going for the red, frilly, Parrot-flowered 'Rococo', 'Blue Parrot' -  a wavy, mauve-blue flower, 'Angelique' - a romantic, soft pink Peony variety and 'Showcase' which is a large, dark red, double form. I also have a blended mix of Tulips (varieties unstated!) in shades of white, pink and purple which were cheap in the supermarket. In the garden borders, I have the wonderful, and very popular, dark 'Queen of Night', alongside 'Exotic Emporer, 'Purissima' and 'Blue Amiable'. I mainly leave these for the garden display but can't resist cutting a few to bring inside. See my Pinterest page for pictures of all Tulips mentioned.

Follow Home Flower Garden's board Tulips on Pinterest

Hellebores start flowering in Winter and on into Spring and make lovely cut flowers. They don't last long in the vase so I usually have a few potted up and placed on the table in the courtyard outside my patio doors so that I can still enjoy them from afar. If you wait until the flower ages and the stem gets woody, you can cut the bloom and it will survive a lot longer in a vase than when fresh. Other sources of cut material include Winter-flowering shrubs such as Skimmia japonica, Viburnum tinus, Viburnum bodnantense, Witch Hazel and Daphne odora. Try to include at least one of these in the garden as they bring a welcome splash of colour, usually coupled with a lovely scent if you want to cut a branch or two to bring inside.

Hellebore
Hellebore with a sprinkling of frost

I'm looking forward to December now and the opportunity to make some Christmas wreaths with some evergreen foliage and berries from the garden, along with some natural, homemade decorations.

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Green foliage makes an ideal backdrop against which to display your flowers, mimicking how flowers would grow in the garden. It adds bulk to an arrangement, can tone down bright colours and is a useful framework for supporting your flower stems. I always add my foliage first and thread the flower stems among the foliage 'scaffold' when creating a display.

Herbs and annuals as fillers
Ammi majus and Lemon balm as fillers.

Evergreen foliage

Evergreen foliage is ideal, as there is something to pick all year, but it can be hard in a residential garden to find space to grow shrubs and trees. If you are picking foliage all the time, you may leave your shrubs looking a bit bare, so go gently. I have a large, established Viburnum tinus, which we inherited with the garden, which can take a fair amount of cutting. I love the dark green, glossy foliage but I tend to wait until it produces creamy white flowers in the Autumn before using it. It has a wonderful fragrance to the flowers making it a welcome addition to bring into the house in the dark months of Winter. Other good evergreens include Rosemary, Box and any clippings from hedging plants. Experiment with the existing shrubs that you do have. There is a useful article by My Garden School about the best shrubs for cutting.

Great foliage plants

Herbs provide some of my favourite foliage to use during the Summer. Lemon balm, Borage and Oregano will all keep producing new foliage if you cut them. Once they are looking tired in mid-summer, you can cut the foliage back to the base and they will sprout up again giving you new, fresh foliage to use.

Autumn cut flowers
Ammi and Panicum elegans 'Frosted Explosion' adding bulk to this Autumnal display.

Fillers

These include plant material, other than foliage, which provide an interesting backdrop to your flowers. Plants to try include the unopened flower buds of annuals such as Helianthus 'Vanilla Ice', Scabious or Cosmos, which all look interesting in bud form. You can try green flowers like Dianthus barbatus 'Green Trick' with its fuzzy, lime-green pom poms, the tiny acid-green flowers of Alchemillla mollis, Euphorbia oblongata, Bupluerum, Fennel or Dill  or other annuals with tiny flowers such as Ammi majus or Ammi visigna. Some flowers, like Cosmos, come complete with their own foliage which you can leave on the stem (provided it is above the water line in the vase - if you leave on foliage below this, the water will quickly spoil, see Conditioning.)

Cow parsley makes great filler material
Cow parsley in May.

Foraged Wild Carrot or Cow parsley are excellent fillers and abundant in the hedgerows. I've grown the grass Panicum elegans 'Frosted Explosion' for the first time this year and I will definitely grow it again. It adds a lovely airy feel to displays. There are lots of interesting grasses you could try such as Briza maxima (quaking grass) and Agrostis nebulosa.

For further inspiration and pictures of all the plants mentioned in this post, visit the Homeflower Pinterest page.

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