Cutting Beds and Cutting Down

Julie at Peonies and Posies intends to post an update on her cutting beds on the last Friday of the month and has suggested others join in with her – there may not be much happening in them at the moment but these memes are helpful and supportive on so many levels, and with several of us being pretty much novices at growing things specifically for cutting  sharing our experiences will definitely be beneficial.

I have doubled the number of cutting beds here, tucked down by the greenhouse and all originally vegetable beds. As I have only ever ‘played’ at growing veg and not taken it very seriously it was no hardship whatsoever to give over two of them to develop as cutting beds a year ago. The largest one had already been subsumed when we abandoned the original greenhouse in a now shady part of the garden and located a new one in what was the sunniest part, and another went the same way last year with the second and smaller greenhouse. The remaining beds are slightly raised, with a timber edging and reclaimed brick paths.

IMG_4092There was a small success with sunflowers, cosmos and ammi in these two beds last year, but seedlings generally had been hampered by that dodgy compost and lack of diligence with watering and feeding – but this is how we learn and I have put it down to experience.

The nearer of the two beds  currently has ranunculus corms, all showing healthy growth, and some trays of pansies grown from seed in October which I haven’t yet found a home for, such was their excellent germination. The far bed has seed sown centaurea and poppy, some of the batch being planted in borders elsewhere and some still in the greenhouse once I realised how much the slugs were enjoying the fresh poppy leaves. Inbetween the two is the first leafy batch of Paperwhites, awaiting interment on the compost heap.

IMG_4091The other two beds are at right angles to this, against the wall that separates this part of the garden from the rest. The one in the corner was home to some very elderly rhubarb whilst the other performed a dual role last year with courgettes, squash, orlaya and ammi. The rhubarb was kicked out and will have its own bed within the fruit cage. The corner bed now has various allium bulbs and some of last year’s potted tulips which may or may not flower again. My intention is to plant out seedlings amongst the bulbs later in the year – again, this is trial and error. The other bed has a number of refugees, waiting proper homes – a couple of tiny clematis, the hellebore Moonbeams, Sweet Williams rescued from pots, and other bits and bobs.

Reading Julie’s and Christina’s posts has made me realise that some organisation of the beds would be helpful, whether I go down a colour or height or other theme. I have the seeds ready in planting month order, so it shouldn’t be too onerous to go through and plan a rough planting scheme – a task for one of this week’s anticipated chilly days perhaps.

IMG_4094Cutting down? Well, the ceanothus wasn’t so heavy that it couldn’t be lifted up albeit with  two hands, but it was evident that it was too heavy to ask the fence to support it, particularly as it isn’t our fence, and it has had to go. The adjacent Hydrangea petiolaris, being deciduous, is unlikely to have the same problem as its growth is far less dense. Hopefully I can find a shapely replacement for its neighbour that can be trained across the fence and kept in check whilst still a youngster, but in the meantime I have yet more border space! The ceanothus, the remaining frost survivor of three, was planted here when the boundary was a conifer hedge and the soil was too dry and poor to grow anything else successfully, but since the conifers were replaced with a fence there is more potential for growth and it is worth enriching the soil to do so.


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25 Responses to Cutting Beds and Cutting Down

  1. Julie says:

    Thank you so much for joining in Cathy – I have really enjoyed having a look at your cutting garden before it gets covered with flowers! Well done for finding these beds to allocate to cut flowers and clearing out plants that are in the way of this aim. I really struggle with ceanothus – I have also lost 2 to frost and have one left (if it makes it through the winter). You are clearly off to a good start this year with bulbs and ranunculus in growth and seed sowing organised. I think you will find it helpful to treat your space a bit like a vegetable garden, with plants organised by colour or size and planted in short rows – this makes it easy to pick and if a plant goes over the row just needs pulling out and replacing with young plants of the same or a different variety from the cold frame or a row of direct sown seed. In this way you can make the most of all the space you have. I intend to make 3 sowings of hardy annuals this year – the first around now, a second sowing in May and then a final sowing in late September for the plants that will overwinter. I am looking forward to seeing how your cutting garden changes throughout the year!

    • Christina says:

      Your Ceaonothus probably died because their roots were too wet when it was cold. They (as many other plants) are much more sensitive to the cold when the ground is wet than if it is free draining and dry. That said Ceaonothus do just sometimes die for no reason what so ever!

      • Cathy says:

        I have forgotten which winter it was, but the icy winds blackened them and some trachelospermum and they never recovered, as you say the ground may well have been wet which wouldn’t have helped

    • Cathy says:

      Oh me too, Julie! I shall probably do 3 sowings too, as I am particularly pleased with the autumn sowings I did and can see from my seed packets there are others I could have sown then too.

  2. Christina says:

    As far as I can see the major problem with growing plants from seed is that you end up with far too many and it seems impossible to throw them away when pricking out! Hopefully the situation becomes easier as one learns what kind of germination to expect from each seed and how quickly the seedling grows into a viable plant. Hopefully each others experience will help with this. E.G. Amis majus germinates very quickly and the seedlings quickly grow and need pricking out and then planting out. Planting mine in September was a huge mistake although if I’d realised how hardy they are I might have planted some out to over winter accepting that they might die, but at least they wouldn’t be taking up a whole shelf in the greenhouse.

    • Cathy says:

      Fortunately I now know that one of my friends will lap up any excess seedlings and I don’t think I threw anything away last year! I have autumn sown Sweet Williams that could have been planted out instead of sitting on a shelf – don’t know why I didn’t – and a couple of them are in bud which certainly wasn’t expected!!

  3. It does take a couple of seasons to get the germination rate right and plant the right amount. I haven’t met a gardener who can throw away plants, they end up going somewhere…It would be the same as if you asked a gardener to throw away the extra baby chicks.

  4. Matt says:

    This is great

  5. I am such a newbie to cutting beds as I generally cut from my perennials, but I do want a cutting bed. Problem, where and how to build it. So for now I may have containers as my cutting bed until I work out better logistics. And as Christina said in her comment, I am also learning about planting from seed. I do start some flowers indoors, but most outside and for pollination of the veg bed. But this year, i want to grow them just for cutting.

    As I arranged all my seeds by planting month and have it all worked out on my calendar, I am also trying to decide how to group and plant them. I agree Cathy that this meme will help us learn more about cutting gardens and I look forward to these posts.

    • Cathy says:

      My original desire to have a cutting bed was to grow things that wouldn’t fit in with the colours of my borders – that was pre-Monday vases! Sharing thoughts and schemes and experiences on our blogs is certainly making me a more experienced and informed gardener 🙂

  6. gardenfancyblog says:

    This is a timely post, Cathy, as I am re-doing my cutting beds this year. I need to think about what I really must have in them and how best to arrange things. Thanks for the inspiration! -Beth

    • Cathy says:

      Thanks Beth – I have learned that it makes sense to have some sort of planning otherwise you end up with more seeds than you have room for or forget to sow them till too late 🙂

  7. Chloris says:

    Every ceanothus I have ever grown has died or got killed by frost eventually. With yours gone, you now have a nice space for something else.
    I am looking forward to seeing how your cutting garden develops. It is a great idea to have a space dedicated to flowers for cutting.

    • Cathy says:

      And I might be tardy in replacing it! But no, it was good for colour and bees and it will be nurtured more than previous ones were, so it will get replaced this year.

  8. wellywoman says:

    Exciting to see your cutting beds. For me it’s purely about ease of use and cramming in as much as possible. Height is the most important criteria so other plants don’t get shaded out and then I like to plant grasses and small bulbs around the edges. Looking forward to seeing your come together. 🙂

  9. Thanks for sharing this as it is also interesting to read others comments. I have had some raised beds built ready to start a cutting bed. Any must haves?

    • Cathy says:

      I am still a cutting bed apprentice, Dorris, so not the best person to ask – but on my experience from last year definitely cosmos and Ammi visnaga. Oh and sunflowers, so you can keep an eye on them and fend off slugs! Just keep reading people’s cutting bed posts and comments – that’s how I have been extending my knowledge.

  10. Oh, you all seem so well organised with your cutting beds! I’m still at the “thinking” stage – what to grow (I have several ideas there) but, more importantly, where to grow them. I must be more decisive, and get going!

    • Cathy says:

      Oh, I am not organised, Ali – just talking about being organised! But yes, I did buy seeds in advance during the year, as I saw or read about them, rather than than having to think about it all in one go – and I did some autumn sowing which I haven’t done before, except for sweet peas. I think it will pay off for earlier flowers and will do more of it this year – I have had my year of ‘thinking’ and ‘practising’!

  11. Cathy says:

    You are so well organised! I haven’t even bought my annuals yet. I like the idea of finding a method to organise the cutting beds. Will watch with interest

    • Cathy says:

      Buying seeds from eBay was recommended to me by a blogger last year which made it easy for me to buy seeds as I thought of them or when I saw a plant on someone’s blog. I have now topped up with some from my local garden centre which always has them at half price in January!

      • Cathy says:

        A good tip about ebay. I was wondering about snowdrops on ebay, but too cowardly to try!

        • Cathy says:

          I have bought snowdrops on ebay too but after spending more than I should have done once (and paying more than they would cost from a specialist catalogue) the first time I now would only buy them on a ‘Buy it now’ basis, at a fixed price.

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