Although parts of the cutting beds have now run out of steam, observing the cutting bed above, still awash with life, has brought so much pleasure over recent months, bringing also a colourful realisation of the unexpected bonus of having dedicated cutting beds – although in retrospect it seems daft not to have anticipated it! This bed has been full of blocks of colour and form for several months, with coreopsis, nigella, tagetes, rudbeckia and the dried heads of poppies and briza supporting the powerful impact of five dahlias. One of the dahlias is in a pot and has not made such a stocky plant as the others – note: plant all the dahlias in the ground next year and some in each bed. Not such an easy decision to make is whether things in this bed have done so well because of the soil and position or if was purely the intrinsic nature of the plants. Neither do I know if the success with dahlias will continue in future years but I shall undoubtedly be buying more varieties and pressing on regardless!
Rudbeckia ‘Cherry Brandy’ (below right) is just out of shot on the left of this bed and a real star, although quite floppy. Equally starry is Rudbeckia ‘Chim Chiminee’ (below left) in the adjacent bed, with fascinating petals that begin rolled up and uncurl over a long period.
The rest of this second bed now has little else of merit, with Ammi majus and a stray sweet rocket towering over everything else and a sluggish dahlia in the corner behind the allium seed heads. Note: does this bed still need more organic matter to break up the more compacted soil?
The clary sage in the next bed has responded to being trimmed back by producing more beautiful bracts – note: order pink as well as blue varieties for next year. Ammi visnaga is as sturdy and reliable as last year and is definitely my favourite of the umbellifers. Amaranthus ‘Green Cascade’ has been another star this year and although its red counterpart in the next bed has not done nearly as well both have been in flower since the middle of June so no complaints there!
Out of picture in the left of the bed are a solitary and second rate Zinnia ‘Purple Prince’ and a similarly solitary tithonia: note these were grown from last year’s seed so is it worth using fresh seeds for these in future? Not that I have had much success with zinnias grown from fresh seed either.
You can’t quite see the sweet peas against part of the fence in the above bed but they are visible in the next. They have been a big asset for cutting and although have benefitted from a very sunny position they also suffered from drying out quickly – note: grow a larger quantity all along this fence and water more frequently. The sunflowers continue to shine at the far end of the bed and have also been in flower for a couple of months as has Cosmos ‘Candy Stripe’ – my cosmos never reach the height they are supposed to (3-4 feet) and I have no idea why and the only flowers on Cosmos ‘Polidor’ in the foreground are even shorter. Having removed the large clump of spent cornflowers the two pots with a further dahlia and a chrysanthemum are very visible. Sarah Raven’s instructions for chrysanthemums suggest a 2 litre pot which is what they have are in but seems a bit small to me. This is the first time I have grown them so I shall report back in due course! And all those little black pots? I did wonder whether to remove from them view before I took the photograph but I shall come clean: they are pots of dormant snowdrops bought recently from Avon Bulbs… ;)
The records of sowing and planting out and flowering I have kept this year will prove very useful for planning the beds in the future but – note: work out a planting layout in advance and not just before planting out. I certainly need to make sure that heights of plants are given more consideration than colour – note: consider tall/medium/short beds. A slight flaw is the reduction in details of the records as the season went on, presumably as my days got busier, and flowering times increasingly became recorded as ‘mid July’, ‘early August’, etc – note: don’t be busy… (only joking!). The records do show, however, that the first seeds for this season were sown on 31st August last year and although I have wallflower and stock seedlings sown in June, until last week I had not even thought about seeds for next year at all – so having used eBay for many spontaneous purchases of seeds recently I had a blitz and rectified the situation although none will be sown before the end of August!
Thanks go to Julie of Peonies and Posies who has invited bloggers with cutting beds to share monthly updates on her blog. Do check out the gorgeous photos she has included in her post as well as links to other cutting bed posts. Being able to share experiences and knowledge and support in this way is so useful, particularly for those of us new to the concept of dedicated cutting beds. Even a small bed or patch is worth considering and it has certainly encouraged me not only to grow more from seed but to grow varieties I might not have otherwise considered – and even if you don’t always cut the blooms they certainly bring added colour.