In A Vase On Monday – Windfalls & Mint


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Welcome to ‘In A Vase On Monday’ when I am linking up with Cathy at Rambling In The Garden to share a vase of flowers picked from my garden every Monday.


Although the temperatures have remained high this week there has been a distinct shift in the feel of the garden. Autumn is making its presence known with crispy leaves floating down with every breeze, chickens in the moult, sweetcorn and pumpkins ready to eat and pheasants roaming the garden.

Looking for inspiration for todays vase I decided to make use of some of the many windfall apples lying around the garden. These are never wasted – they will keep in a box and provide bad weather treats for the chickens throughout the winter months. Before they are stored for the chickens, however, I like to use them for display and today decided to fill my vase with them!!


Whilst I could have left them unadorned and enjoyed their simple beauty floating in the vase, there are so many dahlias in flower at the moment that I felt the need to incorporate some of them into my vase. Above and below is a beautiful but nameless cactus dahlia – I have grown it for a few years now and the name tag has long since disappeared – if you recognise it, please do let me know.



On the table next to the vase are a few unused blooms, including the perfectly formed wine purple pom pom dahlia Rococo.


Another favourite pom pom dahlia is this bi-colour named Marble Ball.


Toning beautifully with these wine coloured flowers are the pristine ‘white edged with lilac’ blooms of dahlia Eveline. You can see that I also added sprigs of fresh mint to the arrangement – dahlias have no scent, so I often add herbs to give a gentle fragrance.


I have spent most of the day tidying in the Cutting Garden – removing annuals and half hardy annuals that are past their best to make room to start the annual autumn bulb planting marathon. Whilst much is ready to be removed, the dahlias are looking better and better as the month progresses. As long as the night time temperatures stay above freezing these beautiful blooms should continue to look good throughout October.

In the past I have lifted dahlias after the frost has blackened the stems and stored them in boxes in a dark but frost free outhouse. I have so many growing in the garden now though, that lifting them all would be an arduous task at a time of year when I am ready to hang up my gardening boots for a month or two. This year I have decided to take the risk of leaving them in – cutting back the deadened stalks and covering them with a thick layer of compost. I am optimistic that some, if not all, will survive but I will order some new stock in January to bring on in the greenhouse just in case – any that I do not need can be put in large pots around the terrace for the summer.

I hope you have enjoyed this weeks vase and that you will pop over to Cathy’s blog to see what she and the others have made from their gardens this week. I have a very busy week ahead, but hope to be back for an end of month review later this week.


Ordering Tulips


I have been busy finalising my tulip order over the last couple of weeks and thought it might be useful to have a look how I plan my tulips for the spring. I find bulb buying quite a difficult exercise – always a case of ‘my eyes being bigger than my belly’ as my father would say (or more accurately bigger than my wallet!). I have many favourites that I know will be on the list every year to top up bulbs already in the ground, but there are always so many lovely new varieties in the catalogues and I want to try them all!

When growing tulips I have three categories to plan for:

  • 1. Tulips That Will Grow in Borders In the Main Garden
  • 2. Tulips for the Cutting Garden
  • 3. Tulips for Pots and Container

In the main borders I have colour themed tulip plantings that largely reflect the summer colours of each border. I will plant between 2 and 3 varieties in each bed to ensure a succession of tulips and I bulk buy tulips for these plantings – often 100-200 per variety. I never dig these tulips up and some continue to flower well for years. I find the fringed and parrot tulips the most unreliable and the single varieties the best for good repeating.

Tulips need to be planted at a good depth (about 8 inches deep) in well drained soil in full sun. In damp shady soil they will rot and if planted shallowly the bulbs will split into many tiny bulblets which do not flower for years. I have never had any success with leaving tulips in pots as they always split, so I lift them after flowering and plant them in the ground to die back. It is possible to lift and dry the bulbs and store them for next autumn, but I find this too labour intensive so leave everything in the ground and keep my fingers crossed. By toping up borders every year I know there will always be a few large sized flowers to enjoy.

An example of a colour themed border can be seen below, showing Purple Prince, which is joined by Shirley a week or two later. Both varieties are single earlies, but flower for weeks on end if the temperatures remain cool and compliment each other very well. They flower with the deep purple hyacinth Woodstock and later perennials in this bed will flower largely in the same pink and purple tones.

Tulip-Purple-Prince Tulips-Purple-Prince-and-Shirley

In a large border just before the woodland I grow a succession of three orange tulips, ending with the fragrant tulip Ballerina seen below. These partner well with the zingy greens of euphorbias and are followed by apricot roses and later heleniums, crocosmia and orange dahlias.


For bulk purchasing I find The Gedney Bulb Company very reasonable and their service is excellent.

By way of contrast, in the Cutting Garden I am looking for a greater variety of tulips with a long succession of flowering, but I do not need the quantities of the main garden. I need enough of each variety to fill one or two vases, so I buy in quantities of 25 or 50. If I am trying a new variety I would always opt for 25 to give the opportunity to see how it performs both in the garden and in a vase. A good vase of tulips needs at least 12 stems and 20 will give a much more full and luxurious effect.

The first tulips to flower in the Cutting Garden this year were these very bright tulip Cilesta (in flower at the same time as the forsythia).


Below you can see tulip Cilesta growing with Jan Reus, Dordogne and Apricot Beauty in the Cutting Garden:


The next photo shows how I plant the tulips around the edges of the large cutting beds. In this way I can avoid treading on the often wet ground when picking and if the bulbs are left in to die back I can avoid disturbing them when planting summer flowering bulbs and dahlias in June. Tulips for the Cutting Garden are purchased from The Gee-Tee Bulb Company, The Clare Bulb Company and Sarah Raven.

Spring 2014 was the first time I have grown tulips in the Cutting Garden and I started the season intending to pull the bulbs up with the flowers and plant new stock this autumn. That is how a commercial cutting garden would operate. For my purposes I soon realised that this was too labour intensive and I have left most of the bulbs in the ground. The Cutting Garden is very wet through the winter, but bakes in full sun during the summer so it will be interesting to see how well the bulbs repeat here.


My favourite orange shades from last years cutting beds were the stately Apricot Impression,


The scented Ballerina,


And the frothy Orange Nassau,


My favourite pinks last year were Gander’s Rhapsody,


Lilac Time,


The late double tulip Angelique,


And the dark pink double tulip Chato,


My all time favourite white tulip for both cutting and in my main borders is tulip White Triumphator,


Last year I also grew the similar but shorter Tres Chic in the Cutting Garden,

Tulip Tres Chic

I also love the reds for cutting – here you can see tulip Carnaval de Nice (white with red streaks) which is a perfect partner for the dark red Rococo or Kingsblood.



Another favourite red is the very long lasting Jan Reus:


My final colour variety in the Cutting Garden are the very dark (almost black)  tulips of which the late double Black Hero is my absolute favourite.

Tulip Black Hero Tulip-Black-Hero

I rarely dig tulips up in the main garden – I just order a few extras for each bed every year and if a bed performs particularly badly I will plant all new stock the following autumn. This year I need to restock the white tulips under the pergola, but I will just add 50 each of Purple Prince and Shirley to the South Terrace, which looked very good last year.

The accepted wisdom for planting tulips is not to start too early – late October and November are the best planting times and even into December works well. I like to have most of my tulips in the ground by the end of October though, before the weather gets too dismal, so I will start planting in early October. I plant in groups of 10 spread randomly across the border that I am restocking. In the Cutting Garden I plant all of each variety together for ease of picking in the spring.

Having finished the Cutting Garden and main borders I just have the pots left to consider. The colour theme here changes each year – this year I can feel a pink inspiration coming on. Any bulbs unplanted at the end of November will find themselves in pots in the greenhouse where you can steal a couple of weeks on the season.

I have a few untried varieties to trial this year in the Cutting Garden, so am looking forward to sharing some new tulip photos in the spring! I would love to hear what your favourite tulips are and any tips you have on growing them.


In A Vase On Monday – Glamour in The Woodland


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Welcome to ‘In A Vase On Monday’ when I am linking up with Cathy at Rambling In The Garden to share a vase of flowers picked from my garden every Monday.

This week I wanted to take the opportunity to show you a dinner plate dahlia which has been catching my eye in the Cutting Garden for a few weeks now. Unlike the lovely sounding Cafe Au Lait, the uninspiring name of this one  – Mom’s Special –  meant that I was slightly reluctant to order it back in February.  I kept finding myself drawn to the lovely photo in the catalogue though and decided to give it a go. Unless you like enormous dahlia flowers (and I love them), this is not the dahlia for you! She really is producing bloom after gorgeous bloom the size of a large dinner plate.


After cutting my bounty I wanted to make the most of the lovely evening light by photographing the arrangement outside. Looking for a suitable spot away from direct sunlight I came across a chair that I had put in the woodland yesterday, when I needed  a cup of coffee and a break from gardening. I have not photographed the woodland since the heady days of spring and you can see that in the late summer it is little more than weeds – a complete contrast to the Cutting Garden where these flowers were cut from neat beds.  It is cool and private though so I often spend a few minutes sitting in the shade there when I am gardening. As winter approaches it is all due a good weed and mulch with leaf mould, ready to look its best during the bulb season.


To support Mom’s Special in this vase I have added the anemone flowering dahlia Blue Bayou, cosmos Purity, amaranthus and the airy flowers of knautia.

Dahlia-Bouquet Dahlia-Mom's-Special Dahlia-Blue-Bayou-And-Cosmos Dahlia-Bouquet Dahlia-Mom's-Special

After the storm last Friday and drizzle all day Saturday I have been making the most of the damp conditions to start preparing my beds for planting bulbs and biennials. There is plenty of weeding to be done and I have started splitting and moving perennials that I earmarked for renovation earlier in the summer. All my bulbs are ordered and I am waiting for delivery so that I can get on with planting them. Last year I spent much of the cold damp Npvember kneeling on the wet ground planting bulbs and I am determined to be ahead of the game this year!

I hope you have enjoyed this weeks vase. I will be back later this week to show you the beds that I have been working on and to talk about my spring bulb order. For tonight I hope you will pop over to Cathy’s blog and see what she and the others have made today.


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