Ideas for the Cutting Garden

With the clocks having gone back yesterday, there was time over an early cup of tea to work my way through the new Dobies Annual Flower Catalogue for 2013 – seeds, plants and equipment. Such a profusion of choice, one is hard-pressed to decide what to order. Being systematic seems sensible, thinking of the areas of the garden in which decorative plants are at there best; gaps to be filled, or a total revamp. Best to order as quickly as possible for desirables sell out quickly.

Our garden in the north Cotswolds has been sadly neglected this year as we have spent more time travelling than gardening, and there is one area that would be perfect as a ‘cutting garden’. The thought of a continuity of fresh flowers in the house always appeals, from tiny posies and bulbs in the Spring, to the abundance of Summer and, come Autumn, flowers and seedheads that can be cut and dried. (The bunch at the right contains hydrangeas, feverfew and shrivelled michaelmas daisies.) And so I searched through the catalogue for items that caught my eye, with this in mind. 

Stunning flower heads
Hydrangeas dry easily for their ‘flowers’ are actually paper bracts; they fade through various stages of colour – and even their flowering colour will vary according to the nature of your soil. The new ‘You and Me Passion Blue’ will reach a height of 4ft (1.2m) – perfect in a mixed shrubbery or even a pot on the patio. Supplied in a 5-litre pot. Ref 234780.

Equally easy fresh or dried are most grasses which can be grown from seed. Four varieties are available through the new catalogue, and one that looks truly intriguing is  ‘Wangenheima Vulcan Grass’. Its long wiry stems are topped with flat, fan-shaped seedheads that develop herringbone-fashion with age. Height 60-90cm (2-3ft). Ref 429007.

Roses have been voted by readers as their favourite flower and no wonder for repeat-flowering varieties can still be in bloom on Christmas Day! Petals can be dried once they fall (just separate them and lay on a cloth-covered tray) – lovely for pot-pourri, too as they retain their scent for years. Petals are edible, so long as they haven’t been sprayed. Repeat flowering shrub roses will usually succeed in areas where hybrid teas and even floribundas prove tricky; try Rose ‘Cardinal Hume’ with its strong musky perfume in a mixed border. Supplied as a bare-root plant. Ref 233875.

A spring-time delight - and good for early bees, too.
Unusual in its colouring is Euphorbia ‘Black Pearl’ – yellowy-green blooms with a central black eye, and flowering early, from March to May. Easy to grow, too and stunning in a mixed border, being fully hardy, and tolerant of both heat and drought. The stems of euphorbias exude a milky sap and need ‘conditioning’ if using as a cut flower. Dip the newly-cut ends in an inch of boiling water for 10 seconds, before plunging them into tepid water. Height 80cm (32ins). Ref 231121.

Joy to greet the eye on a winter's morning
Finally in today’s  ‘cut-flower’ selection, how about something quick and really easy: Primrose ‘F1 Select mix’ are available as plug plants, ideal for a tub by the back door or infilling gaps where frosts have killed your annuals. Plant dwarf bulbs amongst them, and you’ll soon be able to gather a miniature posy to arrange in a wine glass or something similar. Ref 227751, 227631 and 227691 depending on size of plug. Now back to the catalogue - there are endless possibilities for the 'Cutting Garden'.

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