Higgledy Flower School 2016. #3. What Flowers To Grow In The Cutting Garden.
Yesterday we looked at how to prepare beds in our cut flower garden…and oh what fun we had…deep joy! Now picture yourself if you will…it’s early April and you are at your cutting plot…the mid morning spring sunshine is gently warming the earth…one hand on your fork, the other clutching an elevenses sherry…plans are racing through your head…what to grow in these wonderful looking newly made flower beds of yours…
Now…if this isn’t your first year of growing cut flowers you would also be looking over with great pride (and some amazement) at a bed or two of biennial flowers that are starting to come into flower. (See: ‘First Batch Of Honesty 2015’) Biennials are flowers that are sown in early to mid summer but don’t strut their flowery funky chicken until spring the following year. In my own cutting patches they herald the start of the harvesting season. Flowers like Foxgloves, Hesperis, Wallflowers, Honesty and Sweet William are delightful chaps to have bouncing about in a spring garden. (See: Ten Reasons To Have A Dedicated Biennials Patch) Biennials are bright and wonderful, fantastic for cutting and will provide your vases with heaps of flowers until your annual flowers kick in. We will have a more in depth look into the delicious world of our chums the biennials later this week.
April is the time we start sowing our annual flowers…I have a soft spot for annuals…they are the rock stars of the cut flower garden…they live fast and die young, filling our lives with colour and excitement as they throw themselves with abandon into the world. We can generally split annuals into two camps…hardy annuals…and half hardy annuals. The difference is simply that half hardy annuals will keel over and die if they come face to face with a frost. Half hardy annual flowers are more likely to be native of lands that are closer to the equator and are not keen on the colder (and wetter) aspects of UK living…consequently we have to either sow the seeds after the frosts have done their thing (usually about mid May for most of us…later in Scotland of course) or sow them before the frosts but keep them protected from it, usually in a greenhouse or on a windowsill.
Hardy annuals are the work horses of the cutting patch…these fluffy footed Shires will provide you with flowers from late spring until the first frosts in November. Hardy annuals are not just easy to grow but are also among the most productive. They will keep producing flowers as you harvest the little cherubs…eventually they will become exhausted but in the mean time they will produce ‘a lot of bang for your buck’…as our American cousins like to say. Unlike Half Hardy Annuals, we can make a sowing of Hardy Annuals in late August and early September…Autumn sown seeds will flower earlier than spring sown ones.
Examples of Hardy Annuals: Cornflowers, Nigella, Calendula, Ammi majus, Larkspur, Eschscholzia (California Poppy), Scabious and Godetia.
Half Hardy Annuals take a little more care to get started but produce flowers that could be described as being more flouncy and exotic. I tend to start sowing in early April, under glass and will plant out the seedlings in mid May or even later…let things really warm up before planting them out
Examples of Half Hardy Annuals: Rudbeckia, Nicotiana, Helianthus (Sunflower), Cosmos, Cobaea and Zinnia.
Lastly…you should think about a patch of Perennials. I tend to keep just one bed in my patch dedicated to perennial flowers because there are only a handful I think justify being there…also like most folk, my space is limited…and per square metre of earth they are not as productive as annuals or biennials. Most annuals will keep producing more flowers as you harvest them over the season whereas perennials may only give you one or two flushes of flowers.
HOWEVER…perennials are easy to maintain…they come back to visit year in year out and are very reliable and they have forms and structure not available from annuals so they play a part in the flowery portfolio at the Higgledy Garden.
I will take each of the above categories of flowers and discuss them at greater depth throughout the rest of the week.
I hope this has been of some use.