Although the weather has been unusually wintery so far this Spring, thoughts are turning to more summery days, and I know for me and for many, to a garden brimming with flowers and colour. Yes please!
For those wishing to grow flowers to cut for the first time, but do not have an allotment, kitchen garden or working area to set aside for such cultivation, the only answer can be to create a patch or patches within an existing arrangement of flower beds, with the addition of pots.
I found when I first tried to create a cutting patch in my family garden, creating a new border to do so, that an allotment style approach in just the one flowerbed, with regimented rows for cutting just looked a bit odd in such close proximity to the other more naturalistically planted borders.
Furthermore, the planting of annual seeds, the netting and enthusiastic cropping left unsightly bare patches all summer that contrasted unfavourably with the rest of the garden. It all just jarred a bit visually, so over the last few years I have made a few changes to the way I plan the planting of my flowers-to-cut that have made the visual flow of the garden much easier on the eye, and made the cutting patch fit in much better with the rest of the garden.
So, if you are wanting to grow cut flowers in a way that looks decorative in the same way as your other flower beds, seamlessly fitting in to the style of your garden these are my cutting patch by stealth tips:
- Instead of planting in, (the most efficient for cutting), regimented rows, look at the planting style in your other borders and replicate loosely – so if you tend to plant in block, swathe or ribbon shapes, do likewise in your cutting patch. If you plant in height order front to back, or make use of tall but airy plants that allow viewing through differently scaled plants, (using, say, verbena bonariensis or fennel), reflect that in your new cut flower bed. The only style that really doesn’t make life easy is a very dotted approach, it is hard to know what is growing where in the seedling stage, bigger plants can end up swamping smaller ones, and picking a number of the same type can mean trampling all over the flower bed.
- Take consideration of the colour schemes in the closest flower beds, or in the garden as a whole, and decide if you want the new bed to blend in or provide a contrast, either way, making it work in scale, colour and style to the rest of the garden. The only colour clashes that I have found hard to like in my garden are pastels next to hot colours – clashes between equally strong and punchy colours can be exhilarating though.
- Keep support stakes, wigwams and netting either as hidden or as decorative as possible.
- Crop sensitively – not hacking plants to the ground for their flowers, but a few from each plant to keep the shapes attractive and natural looking. This can make a huge difference to the look of the cutting patch and health of the plants.
- Instead of creating paths through your flowerbed, as you might do for ease of harvesting in an allotment or kitchen garden, try using stepping stones that are more discreet but avoid you trampling the soil.
- If possible, keep planting seeds in pots or trays or gutter pipes in the wings throughout the growing season so that annuals that have finished cropping can be replaced by good sized seedlings that can romp away to fill unsightly gaps. Choosing plants that cut and come again over a long season is helpful too – and remember for most annuals to keep cutting to promote more growth – when you are away from home for a few days or weeks ask a friend or neighbour to snip away for you! Cosmos, sweetpeas and cornflowers respond dramatically to regular snipping and can flower for weeks on end if not allowed to go to seed.
- Although you may want good sized areas in your cutting patch for cut and come again annuals, I have really enjoyed adding some bulbs and perennials around the edges or in designated areas that work well in my planting scheme, extending the flower season and the type of flowers available to me. euphorbias, ornamental grasses, achilleas, dianthus, dahlias, scabious, astrantia and bulbs like narcissi, tulips and alliums have been indispensible in my cutting patch border. Don’t forget that growing lots of flowers in large pots is another way of adding to the cut flower quota of your available space, just make sure the pots are big enough to contain enough plants to provide enough to cut without totally denuding. Layered planting of bulbs and then later annual seedlings is a good way of providing successional flower production in pots. Just keep them well fed and watered as it is a lot of growth in a small quantity of soil.
- Finally, adding plants you want to grow to cut amongst existing herbaceous flower beds is a great way to grow cut flowers by stealth – no new flower bed required, just slipping in handfuls of annual seeds like nigella or hesperis, a group of dahlias or some tulips or alliums – whatever you desire as cut flowers – into existing schemes. Just plant enough that you won’t feel too pained cutting some of them! Many of them will self seed and naturalise successfully in future years. Growing annuals, perennials and bulbs with an eye to cutting in my decisions has mean’t so much variety in material to pick, and lovely arrangements of mixed flower types, whilst creating a garden relatively easy to maintain and able to provide plenty of colour from April to November.
In these ways, I have ended up growing less flowers that do not cut successfully and more that do in every one of my flower beds – and I snip away most evenings of the summer from each one as I dead head and take in the scents and colour. Although they seem far away right now, I cannot wait for those moments again this year. I’d love to know if and how you grow flowers to cut, and what has worked really well for you – sharing tips is a brilliant way to learn so thanks in advance!
Thanks for reading!