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2022 didn't exactly get off to an auspicious start - we got a flat tyre on New Year's Day, then, the very next day, someone backed into our car while they were parking and dented the door.

Cherry blossom
Cherry Blossom in February

By mid January, Covid cases at our daughter's school were soaring and children were dropping like flies. Just when we thought our Rosie was going to be lucky, she tested positive. Just as she was due to go back to school after 8 days, I came down with it and then, nearing the end of my isolation period, my husband succumbed. Luckily we only had cold-like symptoms as we have been triple vaccinated and I'm not sure we would have realised my daughter had the virus if we hadn't been testing every day.

With this latest period of isolation ending tomorrow, I am crossing my fingers that we can make a new start and I've been using this time for planning ahead - not just which annuals I will grow this year but new ways of growing.

June flowers
Home grown  flowers

As I write, my husband is making use of this down time to install some grow lights in the potting shed so that I can start my annuals off earlier. I haven't tried this method before but I've had a lot of bookings for natural flower arranging workshops this spring so I am keen to get sowing as soon as possible so that we can be harvesting flowers as early as possible.

The cutting garden has been freshly dug over and a thick layer of new compost has been incorporated. We didn't have a very thick layer of soil as the beds were sited on top of where some old outbuildings had resided. There was a lot of rubble lurking under the initial depth of soil. In the end, we removed about 30 bags of rubble from just 2 beds measuring about 3m x 1.2 m. I am hoping that this year should be a bumper year for our flowers.

Wedding Bouquet Preservation

Being confined to the house has also spurred me into action - I've been able to use the extra time to plan a new Home Flower Garden service which I have been considering for a while now - pressing wedding bouquets.

Wedding bouquet
Pressed Wedding Flowers

Brides can send their bouquets by post after the big day and I will carefully dismantle it and lovingly prepare each flower for pressing. The flowers will be left for 4-6 weeks to dry naturally. I will then recreate the bouquet.

pressed wedding bouquet
Pressed Wedding Bouquet

So, as the nights draw out and the weather warms up, daffodils and tulips are pushing their noses up through the soil, the snow drops are out in little flurries in the beds, the Iris reticulata are starting to bloom, the hellebores are gearing up for their amazing display. Spring here we come!

 

 

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The flowers took a while to get into full swing this year and it was August before I felt that there were an abundance of flowers to cut. It's a complete joy to be able to pick something from the garden every day, whether it's a handful of sweet peas or a bigger bunch for a more ambitious display.

Home grown flowers
A bunch of 'just gathered from the garden' flowers

Larkspur 'Misty Lavender' tops my list of the annuals that I have grown this summer. It has a gorgeous, muted lavender colour which manages to be quite vintage in feel. In the flower press, it fades to a soft grey which is an unusual colour for a pressed flower. I like it this way but will also be microwave pressing some to preserve more of it's lavender hue.

Larkspur
Larkspur 'Misty Lavender'

I've grown a lot of cornflowers this year in traditional blue but also some white and pink ones to ring the changes.

Summer annuals
Cornflowers, sweet peas, scabious, triplet lilies and cosmos.

Statice (Limonium) makes a lovely cut flower but is also grown to use a a dried flower as it keeps its vibrant colour well after drying. I bought a mixed pack of 'bright shades' but apart from a deep blue one they are all white or lilac. They do seem to be toning in nicely with my larkspur and cornflowers so I shouldn't complain.

Colourful annuals
Statice with cornflowers and cosmos.

 

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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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