What a difference a month makes! When I last wrote about the Cutting Garden in March, I was waiting for the first flowers to bloom.
A few weeks later and my Cutting Garden is overflowing with tulips – my own mini Keukenhof! Not only that, I also have a number of biennials coming into flower and autumn sown hardy annuals growing well, so it looks like I will have avoided the flowering gap that I had last year between my tulips and the February sown hardy annuals which do not flower before June.
I will post separately on the different varieties of tulips that I have grown – today I just want to enjoy the bounty! These tulips are a mix that I have purchased from the Gee Tee Bulb Company and Sarah Raven.
Even the rhubarb has exploded this month – pushing the top off my forcer and providing two harvests of beautiful pink stems already!
The Honesty that I planted out last autumn has started to flower. This is a new flower for me, so I will be interested to see how it does in a vase and how long it flowers for – I will report back next month.
If you have been following this series you might remember that I showed my Cutting Garden plans back in February. On these you could see the four large square beds that make up most of my growing area. As you look at the photos of the tulips above you can see how I plant them – about 5 bulbs deep in rows around the edges of these square beds. By planting around the perimeter in this way I can weed between the bulbs early in the season and then harvest the flowers without needing to walk on the beds. I tend to stick to planting in rows and blocks in the Cutting Garden as it makes it easier to harvest the flowers and replant areas that have gone over.
Looking at the same bed from a different angle, you can see that the centre is still empty. This space is reserved for dahlias, which will be planted out in early June. The four big beds have a box hedge edging and then the tulip borders. Inside the tulip borders I am building up a collection of David Austin roses that are interplanted with the hardy annuals grown in the greenhouse over winter. I hate to cut too many roses from my main garden, so am looking forward to having the freedom to pick freely from my favourite bushes in the Cutting Garden. That leaves the central area for the dahlias which will be planted in June. In two of the beds I have biennials in the centre which I will remove when it is time to plant out the dahlias. Once the tulips have died back or been lifted (I try to replant a section of each bed each year to ensure a good selection of flowers), I will overplant the edges of the beds with both hardy and half hardy annuals.
In amongst some of the tulips you can see a few buds of the allium Purple Sensation. I grow a lot of this beautiful purple ball in the main garden, but want to have some that I can cut without worrying about depleting my garden display.
The peonies are putting on growth very quickly. I am waiting for a few rainy days to soften the soil so that I can interplant them with my gladioli bulbs and then I will wind string around the wooden sticks to provide support for the heavy peony flowers and foliage.
These are the Sweet Rocket plants sown last autumn and ready to flower any day now. Again this is a new plant for me, so I am looking forward to seeing how they perform.
These larkspur plants were also sown last autumn, overwintered in the greenhouse and are now growing into good sized plants. I have planted out all my hardy annuals that were sown in the autumn and am making a start on the February sown hardy annuals, which are now being hardened off in the cold frames.
The sweet pea frame is ready with the jute netting support that I used last year. The jute netting is from Agriframes and is the best product I have come across for supporting sweet peas and the climbing bean and pea crop. You can see some weed fabric has been used to cover the soil under the frame. In past years I have had a huge problem with weeds germinating in this area and getting tangled up with the sweet peas. I tried this fabric last year and it solved the weed problem. The sweet peas are ready to be planted out, but I am a bit behind following last weeks wedding preparations – hopefully they will go in over the weekend.
Most of my half hardy annuals are now sown and are ready to be pricked out. I just have the zinnias and sunflowers left to sow. Last year it was May before I got around to sowing these and they performed very well in the late summer and autumn, so I am happy to wait a week or two yet. The important thing at this busy time of year is to pace yourself – there is no point in starting off more than you have time to care for and plant out. Also watch the last frost dates – I would rather wait an extra week or two to plant out my half hardy seedlings than risk losing my plants to a late frost. This has happened too often in the past for me to do it again. I now always wait until June to plant out anything tender, which would include half hardy annuals and dahlias. There will be plenty of biennial and annual flowers to follow the tulips this year, so I am in no hurry to rush the growing season.
Just before I finish I had to show you this photo from my greenhouse today – I have sweet peas!! My winter varieties from Owl’s Acre Sweet Peas are starting to flower and smell delicious. These are a good two months earlier than I have ever had sweet peas before, so well worth the effort.
Finally I have a lovely little book for this month’s Giveaway. Called ‘Some Flowers’ and written by Vita Sackville-West in 1937, this book has been recently republished by the National Trust and includes beautiful colour drawings by Graham Rust of all the plants described by Vita. A great resource for anyone who loves gardening, Vita describes the characteristics and growing preferences of 25 of her favourite plants. To enter the draw just leave a comment on this post. The draw is open to everyone and will be made on Monday evening just before I publish my ‘In A Vase On Monday’ post.
I love to hear about everyone else’s growing experiences, whether you have a dedicated cutting area, a spot in your garden beds, or just a few pots. If you are a blogger, please do think about writing a post and leave a link here. Otherwise just a comment to tell us all what is working, or not, with your cutting flowers – I look forward to hearing from you!