Friday 23 December 2016

Hoe hoe hoe

Much as I love Christmas, I am excited for it to be all packed away, because then, and only then, can the new growing season truly begin. I am savouring the thought of compiling my seed order, but I refuse to give in to such a delight, until the last remnants of the turkey is eaten, and the last cracker is pulled.

Outside the window all is dank and decaying, but in my head everything is young and fresh and green. I know that there is lots to love about winter, from the beautiful bare skeletons of the trees, to the mist rolling gently in across the fields. I am a huge fan of log fires, cosy nights and good books and enjoy respite from the garden which enable me to enjoy those pleasures. But, once Christmas is out of the way, we are heading towards spring. From the Winter Solstice we are heading out of, and not into, winter. The days begin to lengthen, imperceptibly at first, but lengthen they do. It won't be long before there are the first heralds of the season, and then, before you know it we'll be knee deep in roses and wisteria.

My increasing excitement for the new growing season is due, in part, to a new and cunning plan ... to start a cutting garden to supply the house with flowers through the whole year, if possible. I currently spend between £7 and £10 per week on cut flowers which costs approximately £400 per year. It makes sense on an economic level as well as unmanly other levels too.

Although I grow a garden full of flowers, it turns out I can't bring myself to cut more than an occasional stem for the house. Surely this way, with a designated  patch just for cut flowers, I will be able to wield the scissors without guilt.

I need to learn about how to set up a new cutting garden, and need some advice on what to grow, how to sow successionally and how to provide flowers for as much of the year as possible. There is a wealth of information out there, in the form of blogs, vlogs, podcasts and books. Father Christmas has his instructions and will hopefully be dropping 'The cut flower patch' by Louise Curley down the chimney very soon. I have also put in a request for florist's scissors and snips.

I am already deciding which favourites will be guaranteed a place in this new cutting garden. It is not huge, so everything will have to earn its place. I want to have flowers available all year round, so my planning will have to take this into account. Flowers in mid summer will be easy, but having something to cut in November is a different matter. Steep learning curve here, I think ...

Definites will be cosmos, dahlias and sweet peas, so all I need to do with these three, is to decide which variety I fancy. Hopefully the books etc will supply countless ideas for other flowers/ foliage to grow. I will be growing everything from seed, so the cost will be minimal.

I have allowed myself to start a teeny bit of research, and have been onto the Sarah Raven website, and looked at her 'cutting garden pack' of seeds containing her best-loved varieties. I may take that as my starting point and develop it from there, using my personal preferences. I grow lots of different flowers for the garden already, but because I never cut them, I have no idea about their properties as cut flowers. I suppose I will be growing for longevity in the vase, but have little idea which varieties will be best.

I love Rudbeckias, and they would give reliable  colour late in the season, but will have to research whether they are good as cut flowers. 'Cherokee Sunset' and 'Cherry Brandy' are lovely in the garden.
As for foliage, no cut flower vase is complete without some, and I can actually  use foliage from shrubs in the garden, as I consider cutting it as a form of pruning, so can bring myself to do it !

I would like to grow some foliage plants in the cutting garden, but again, will have to learn what is most suitable for the purpose. Melianthus Major is a glorious plant with wonderful serrated leaves, of a cool glaucus grey. It is easy to grow from seed, and the young plants grow very quickly. But is it suited to life in a vase ? I need to find out !

I try to save as many seeds as I can every year, for many different reason. Obviously there is a cost implication as self collected seed is totally free, and it is also organic. There are no seed miles' involved, as the longest journey these seeds make is up the garden path! Self collection usually equates to more plants, as seed is usually produces in large quantities, and with many plants it can be collected over several weeks, so there is more to turn into lovely plants! I think I have enough sweet pea seed saved from this season, including 'Midnight', shown in the photo above. It is such a dark, rich colour, ad goes beautifully with cream and lilac varieties.

So, I wish you a very merry Christmas and a happy, healthy and peaceful 2017 !