The Cutting Garden Review – February

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Welcome to my February review of my Cutting Garden. After the success of my Giveaway last month, I have decided to try to give something related to the Cutting Garden away with each monthly post as a thank you to all my readers who are so supportive. This month I am delighted that the lovely team at Sarah Raven have donated a Best Purple Dahlia collection for my Giveaway – more about that at the end of the post.

To begin, I promised last month to show you my notebook plans for the Kitchen Garden. It is hard to explain the layout of this area in words and photographs, so I hope that it will help to see it drawn out on paper. The Kitchen Garden is an old paddock divided into quarters and enclosed with a yew hedge. It encompasses my Cutting Garden, Fruit Garden, Vegetable Garden and Herb Garden. The quarter labeled Roses, Herbs and Perennials is as yet undeveloped and the fruit cage shown in the Fruit Garden is being installed next month.

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Within the Kitchen Garden you will find the Cutting Garden, which is divided into a series of square and rectangular beds. The beds are labeled, which helps me plan where my flowers will grow on a yearly basis. The large square beds contain some roses and perennials as well as plenty of bulbs and annuals and are colour themed. I have marked the arches that join the beds over the grass paths. The smaller rectangular beds are used for intensively growing annuals in short rows.

The-Cutting-Garden-February

To keep my seeds organised I have a box divided by season and month and I sort my seeds into the relevant sowing month – that way I just work through sowing small batches of the seeds in the current months section so that I don’t miss anything. This box is just for flowers – I keep my vegetable and salad seeds in a different box.

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You will already know that I am a fan of Sarah Raven – whilst I do not order exclusively from her, I always love to browse through her inspirational catalogues and most of my seeds do come from this catalogue.

The-Cutting-Garden-February

February is a quiet month in the Cutting Garden. The ground is still very wet and apart from a few tulip bulbs making an appearance not much has changed outside since January. I have started weeding the beds and cutting back the roses on nice days, but only when the ground is not too wet. As you can see below to much activity on the wet grass causes a lot of damage.

The-Cutting-Garden- February

Seeds Sown In February:

By the end of February I like to make sure that I have sown all my sweet peas and most of my favourite hardy annuals. I have talked about sowing sweet peas into root trainers before. My hardy annuals are sown into half sized trays and left to germinate in the heated propagator. As soon as the seedlings appear I will move the trays onto the greenhouse staging where it is cooler and when I can see the first set of true leaves I will prick them out into plugs to grow on in the cold frames ready to be planted outside in April.

The hardy annuals that I sow every year include asters, ammi majus, orlaya, blue cornflowers, blue and white nigella, blue and white larkspur, white snapdragons, gypsophila, stocks and salvia blue clary. This year I am also trialing ammi visnaga to give me another form of white flowered foliage for summer bouquets.

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Hardy Annuals Ready To Plant Out In March:

I made my first sowing for this years plants last autumn, when I sowed trays of hardy annuals in the greenhouse (as well as direct sowing a few in the Cutting Garden). These seedlings were pricked out and overwintered in the greenhouse. I moved them into the cold frame in late January and after leaving the frames open in the day for a week I am now leaving them open all night as well to really harden these plants off. I will start planting them out during the first week in March, as long as the ground is not frozen. As their name says, these plants are hardy annuals so can cope with some frost as long as they have been hardened off thoroughly.

The plants at the back are healthy looking plugs of larkspur.

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In the front you can see some very large ammi majus plants.

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In the far left corner are cornflowers and next to them scabious with cerinthe major in the foreground.

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I am really pleased with how well these plants have overwintered – they are now big plugs which I hope will get away quickly when planted outside and provide the first flowers as early as May.

The Cutting Garden In February:

You can see from this view across the Cutting Garden that it looks much the same as it did in January!

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There are signs of life though – throughout the beds the tulips that are planted around the edges are starting to appear. I am hopeful that one or two might be in flower by the time I write my March review.

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The biennials have come through the winter very well – below you can see Sweet Williams and Sweet Rocket – I am not sure when these will flower as I have not grown them before, but hopefully they will be in flower before the tulips are over. Last year I had a bare gap between the first hardy annuals and sweet peas starting to flower and the last of the tulips going over. I hope I have plugged that gap this year with the overwintered hardy annuals and biennials sown last June.

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My experiment with direct sowing hardy annuals in the autumn and protecting the seedlings with a fleece tunnel seems to be working. Although I know that autumn sowing annuals is generally recommended for earlier larger blooms, my past experience has been that seeds that germinate in September or October do not survive the winter on my wet land.

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This year I sowed ammi majus, cornflowers, nigella and larkspur under this fleece tunnel and the little rows of seedlings are doing very well. I will prick out the rows in a week or two and hope that the plants will romp away with the longer days. There are also tulips coming up in this bed – I have a bit of a thing for tulips and fill every space I have with them.

The-Cutting-Garden- February

One of the big spring jobs is weeding along the edge of the yew hedges that are growing up to enclose the Kitchen Garden. It is tedious work, but the hedges grow better when they are not competing with the weeds. This is a section I have just completed.

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This is how it looked before with weeds and grass growing into the border.

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I grew five globe artichokes last spring (Violet de Provence from Sarah Raven) and they all flowered last autumn. The decaying heads have looked majestic throughout the winter, but it is time to cut them back now.

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I mentioned this little greenhouse in my January Greenhouse Review. Progress has been slow due to the wet weather, but it is now installed on its base and is ready for the glass to be put in.

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The floor has been dug out. There will be a row of concrete slabs down the centre and a bed on either side to plant the tomatoes and cucumbers into.This extra space will allow me to use my main greenhouse for flowers throughout the summer in future.

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I have mentioned the Fruit Garden in previous posts and you can see it outlined in the plan above. There are at present four beds with redcurrants, blackcurrants, gooseberries, strawberries, raspberries and blackberry bushes. This area is about to undergo a major revamp as I am waiting for my new fruit cage from Harrod Horticultural to arrive. Once the cage is erected the fruit bushes will need to be rearranged to fit within the new space – I will be following the progress of my new fruit cage once it arrives. I am really looking forward to having all of my fruit protected from the birds this year!

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Looking out of the Fruit Garden over the developing yew hedge, you can see the silver birch trees that bring so much pleasure in the winter. I have added another 10 trees to the original 4 that were here when we arrived, so it should be quite a feature when the trunks mature.

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The final quarter in the Kitchen Garden is as yet unplanted. It will be an area devoted to roses, herbs and perennials with a selection of crab apple trees for height. I want to make sure the other three areas are working well however, before I make any more work for myself.

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I am pleased that the lavenders that underplant the espaliered fruit trees are reaching maturity. This avenue should look lovely this year – first with the apple and pear blossom, followed by the lavender flowers and then hopefully branches laden with fruit.

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So that is all I have to report for February. I am looking forward to writing my March Review, when I will be planting new peonies and roses, planting out hardy annuals, sowing half hardy annuals in the greenhouse and hopefully picking a few tulips!

This Month’s Giveaway:

Now onto that exciting giveaway! The Sarah Raven Best Purple Dahlia collection contains a tuber each of 4 of my favourite purple dahlias – Ambition, Thomas A. Edison, Downham Royal and Hillcrest Royal. I grow them all and love them equally. I am delighted that the team at Sarah Raven have offered such a generous Giveaway for my readers this month. Sadly I can only offer this item to UK readers due to shipping restrictions. Sarah Raven have also asked me to note that if for some reason the selected items are unavailable, a suitable alternative will be found. I will add all UK comments to a flower pot on Monday and my son will draw the winner, who will be announced in my ‘In A Vase On Monday’ post.

As I do not like to leave my non UK readers out of the fun, I will run a separate surprise draw on the same basis for any commenters who say that they are outside of the UK. I will send the winner a little surprise something that is related to growing flowers.

Finally, last month a few of you were kind enough to join in with my Cutting Garden Review, writing your own reviews and leaving a link in the comments below. I loved looking at your gardens and hope that you will join in again. If anyone else would like to share their cutting garden experiences, please do write a post for your blog and leave a link here or just add a comment about what you are growing. This really is a case of the more the merrier and I am looking forward to sharing and learning from all our different growing experiences!

In A Vase On Monday – Spring Bulbs

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Welcome to this weeks ‘In A Vase On Monday’, which I apologise for posting on Tuesday. Sometimes life seems set to thwart our best laid plans and this was certainly the case yesterday!

This week spring has arrived in the greenhouse leading the way to a change of mood in the garden. To celebrate the flowering of my potted spring bulbs I decided to move a few of the terracotta pots into more fetching containers.

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These lilac ceramic pots were a birthday gift a few years ago and the large old basket came with the house and lives in the greenhouse for collecting vegetables.

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I was super excited when I went into the greenhouse this weekend and saw that this lovely big pot of Iris reticulata ‘Harmony’ was finally in flower. As I had potted them up so late (late December) they are coinciding with the iris flowers that are now opening in the garden, but I love to see them up close like this and being inside the flowers are protected from the wind and rain that we have been having.

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I find the flowers of Iris reticulata endlessly fascinating and I particularly love the blue of the variety Harmony. You can see photos from previous years here and here.

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I have shown you these crocus before, a few weeks ago when I brought a couple of pots into the house to speed up flowering. These ones have stayed in the cooler temperatures of the greenhouse and are flowering just as my garden crocus are beginning to open. Once the bulbs are in flower the blooms will last longer if you leave them in a cool place, so I tend to leave most of my pots in the greenhouse and enjoy the beautiful flowers as I water my seedlings.

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When you look at this picture you can understand why the bees are so attracted to these stunning flowers – I have some white crocus in flower in a pot outside and they are full of bees already.

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I love the flowers on this pristine helleborus niger and decided it deserved a more showy pot than the black plastic one it was growing in! It is so interesting to watch the stamens increasing in length and opening out as the seed pod starts to form.

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I have included this quite blurry photo of the iris as it looked to me more like a painting than a photograph.

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I really love growing spring bulbs in my greenhouse – it is one of the highlights of my gardening year! I enjoy them just like this in the greenhouse on my daily trips to water my plants, I will be bringing them into the house to add a burst of spring colour over the next few weeks and they make a perfect present when I need something quick to take to a friend. I am already making plans for next years greenhouse bulb order and I will certainly be trying Christina’s excellent idea of forcing tulips next winter.

I must say a big thank you to Cathy at Rambling In The Garden for hosting this lovely meme and I hope you will pop over to her blog to see what she and the others have made this week – although as I am so late you may well have already done that!

I will be back on Friday with my monthly look at the Cutting Garden and I am very excited to tell you that the lovely team at Sarah Raven will be sponsoring a giveaway this month, so be ready to leave a comment to enter the draw!

In A Vase On Monday – Spoilt For Choice

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Welcome to this week’s ‘In A Vase On Monday,’ where I join Cathy at Rambling In The Garden in her challenge to find something from the garden to bring into the house every week. This week I am also joining in with Styling The Seasons – a monthly invitation to share our seasonal decorating inspirations.

Large-Twig-Arrangement

February for me is all about simplicity and seasonality. The garden is still bare but atmospheric, so for indoor decorations I have avoided any of the beautifully bright and cheerful shop bought bulbs and looked only at what I can forage from my garden and greenhouse. There has been plenty of inspiration to be found throughout the month and to add a wintery romance to our house I brought my ideas all together for my Valentine’s Day dinner party.

Today I thought I would share these arrangements with you. Although they are all very simple arrangements in the daylight, when lit by candles and fairy lights at night the house really did feel a romantic place to spend a Valentine evening in. Above you can see the view as you enter my hallway – these towering branches have replaced the glittering twigs from the Covent Garden Flower Market that I used in December and will stay here until April when they will provide the framework for my Easter tree. In the meantime I will add blossom in March to lighten the look.

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Also in the hall I have these two vases of ranunculus with twigs cut from a philadelphus bush. The ranunculus are silk, so will probably stay here until my tulips in the Cutting Garden start flowering. The beautiful cabinet you can see belonged to my husbands grandmother.

Pink-Ranuculus-and-Twigs Snowdrop-Arrangement

I decorated the dining table on Saturday with lengths of ivy interspersed with these small vases of snowdrops – somehow snowdrops seem to me to be so much more romantic than red roses in February. You can see that I still have vases of pussy willow  in the house – pussy willow lasts so well that I do not mind buying it and it feels so wintery set against the bare garden landscape.

Snowdrop-Arrangement Snowdrop-Arrangement

Ivy-On-A-Mantle

I also added lengths of ivy to the mantle.

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I placed my bowl of hawthorn and hellebores made last week on the coffee table that stands in front of the woodburner in the drawing room – it looked lovely lit by the candles below. The hellebores were freshly cut on Saturday.

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The camellia that I brought inside from the greenhouse is very close to flowering and looks lovely against the large windows in the drawing room.

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This arrangement made a few weeks ago is still looking good – I have added a fresh vase of Paperwhites, but the hydrangeas and pussy willow are the same.

Paperwhites-Hydrangea-and-Pussy-Willow Paperwhite-Narcissi

And finally, if you made your way into my kitchen on Saturday night you would have seen (and smelt) this lovely relaxed jug of Paperwhites. I bought the jug on Friday and love its colour and shape – perfect for this time of year.

Paperwhite-Narcissi

I hope you have enjoyed this look at the arrangements I made for Saturday’s dinner party and that you will forgive me for not making anything extra today. The weather has been lovely for the last couple of days, although it is raining quite hard as I write. The longer days coupled with the higher temperatures are bringing a very spring like feel to the garden and I can sense the hold that winter has had on my affections gradually slipping away. The borders will soon be erupting in early spring colour and I cannot wait to get outside with my scissors!

Styling the Seasons is a lovely concept that I have just come across by Katy from Apartment Apothecary and Charlotte from Lotts and Lots. Anyone can join in – just share your monthly styled surface (or in my case surfaces!) on your blog or social media tagging Katy and Charlotte and using #StylingtheSeasons. There are some lovely spring looks being displayed by a variety of bloggers under the heading Styling The Seasons – you will find lots of inspiration!

I hope you will pop over to Cathy’s blog to see what she and the others have made from their gardens this week. 

 

 

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