In an uncertain year with more downs than ups, the good old British weather has been very up and down too. As a result, my dahlias are only just sprouting out of the ground and the recent wet spell has summoned slugs which have munched some down to stubs!! Suffice to say, I feel a bit flummoxed and behind. My autumn-sown annuals all damped off and then the spring-sown replacements have been incredibly slow growing. My summer flowers are about 2-3 weeks behind compared to last year.
On a more positive note, my self-sown Nigella have been plentiful and for such an easy to grow annual, they make a wonderful cut flower, complete with their own feathery foliage. The roses are in full flow - we have a wonderful small-flowered rambler called 'Open Arms' growing over an arch and numerous roses in the hedge. The Alchemilla mollis, poppies and perennial wallflower are swarming with bees and the first sweet peas and cornflowers are just unfurling. I have planted out stocks, statice, cosmos and Chinese asters, hoping for flowers in July.
We had a lovely display of foxgloves. I love the peachy (apricotty?) tones of Sutton's Apricot. If you harvest the main flower spike, you will get smaller, more delicate flowers on side branches a few weeks later. They are displayed below with sweet rocket, Nigella, oxeye daisies and Gladiolus communis subsp. byzantinus which have naturalised in our mixed border.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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