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Rain, lots of rain. Good for the garden, if not the spirits. March heralds the official start of spring and it's also the month to start sowing seeds. A rewarding task, especially if you can do it inside in the dry. I have a small potting shed for the actual seed sowing but I move the pots inside onto my sunny windowsills so that they get the heat required for germination. So far I've sown sweetpeas, calendula 'Orange Flash', larkspur and a mix of colours of cornflowers. I'll sow more hardy annuals over the next few weeks.

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The cutting beds are full of emerging bulbs and I've been cutting some spring flowers to make tiny spring posies. Grape hyacinths make wonderful cut flowers-  having a surprisingly long stem and a delicate scent. I grow the bog -standard blue form and also dark blue Muscari latifolium which has just 2 sheaf-like leaves rather than the sprawling leaves of the common form. Another well-behaved grape hyacinth is 'Siberian Tiger', a white form which isn't as invasive. Baby's breath is a gorgeous pale, powder-blue variety (pictured above).

Other flowers for picking this month include daffodils, primroses, scillas, species tulips and pulmonaria. Pulmonaria is a great spring flower to tuck under a hedge or in a shady spot. Its blue and pink flowers work well in a tiny spring posy.

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Spring posy of grape hyacinths, primroses, tulip turkestanica, scillas, wall cress and pumonaria (just out of shot)

My dark purple trailing pansy has been flowering ever since October when I bought it from Beth Chatto's garden nursery in Essex. Pansies aren't everyone's cup of tea but they do make great winter flowers and I think they look lovely displayed in a terracotta pot.

We have a table in our courtyard which can be seen through the pation doors. It's an ideal spot for displaying pots of seasonal flowers and I aslo keep some pots of herbs on it (mint, tarragon and purple sage).  At the moment, we have pots of grape hyacinths, crocuses, a hellebore and a primula. Anything that is in flower at the right time can be displayed in a pot and then either planted out into the cutting garden or moved out of sight once it's past its best, ready for another year.

Pots of winter flowers
Pots of flowers on our courtyard table.

I hosted my first 'Grow Your Own Cut Flowers' workshop of 2019 and we had a dry, if very cold day, on which to pick our flowers from the garden. We picked and displayed white and dark red hellebores, Viburnum tinus for its white flowers and glossy green foliage, a few stems of flowering currant, some trailing stems of Trachelospermum jasminoides, rosemary in flower and some annual stocks which had survived all winter in the cutting garden.

March flowers
March flowers from workshop

My student, Patsy wasn't keen on the idea of growing tulips as you have to put up with their rather unattractive foliage after flowering but I think I sold her on the idea of edging her cutting beds with the species tulip Tulipa turkestanica. This variety has small, twisted leaves (which don't take up a lot of space) and beautiful pale yellow star-shaped flowers. If you leave some flower heads on, they form beautiful seed pods which are decorative in their own right.

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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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Time to say goodbye to January. I always find this month to drag on just a little too long. Last year, we did 'Dry January' which made it seem even longer! This year, we've learned our lesson and are going to do a dry February, it's no coincidence that it is the shortest month.. This January we've experienced some proper winter weather in Norfolk, with beautifully crisp, frosty mornings.

Winter frost
Winter frost in our garden

January for me is a time to reflect and plan. I've been poring over flower seed catalogues, making lists and planning what will go where.  This year, I've particularly enjoyed the Chiltern Seeds catalogue which has lovely descriptions and lots of useful advice. If you visit their website, you'll be able to view pictures of each flower variety and search by colour, height and other useful factors. Just be warned that you may be tempted to buy far more seed than you have space for.

Bulbs and early flowers

I always pot up some spring bulbs during the Autumn in the potting shed to bring inside for floral displays throughout the winter. So far I've had Amaryllis, Iris reticulata, Paperwhite Narcissi and miniature daffodils in flower but I'm looking forward (somewhat impatiently I might add) for the Hellebores and Snowdrops in the garden borders to open out into flower. I think Hellebores are my favourite winter flower as they are so elegant. They make great cut flowers although they can be a bit temperamental. If you find yours wilt once cut, they can often be revived by re-cutting the stem and searing the end in boiling water for 20 seconds before placing in cold water up to their necks.

Iris reticulata
Iris reticulata 'Pauline'

Jobs to do this month

Jobs for February will include washing the black plastic pots I  use for seed sowing, ready for the new season. I bring them all in, shove them in the bath, and scrub them with washing up liquid and hot water. Seems simpler than doing it out in the cold with a bucket.

Hellebores and spring flowers
Hellebores and spring flowers

I'll sow sweet pea and Antirrhinum (snapdragons) seeds under cover this month (I place my pots on a sunny windowsill). You can sow sweet peas in November and December too, but I always seem to forget this in the run up to Christmas. Snapdragons need a long period between sowing seed and producing flowers (18 weeks) so, while I leave off sowing the seed of other half-hardy annuals until early April, I make a head-start with these. Follow my tips for seed-sowing here or why not enrol on one of my workshops and learn everything you need to know about growing your own flowers for cutting. Everything from planning, through to sowing, harvesting and arranging flowers.

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