Cutting Remarks in August

IMG_5686Although 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.

cuttingAug.1The 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?

IMG_5687The 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!

IMG_5688Out 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.

cutting.Aug.2You 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… 😉

IMG_5689The 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!

cuttingAug.3Thanks 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.

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20 Responses to Cutting Remarks in August

  1. Amy says:

    Thanks for the advice on planning by height, Cathy! My cutting bed is probably a year or two away, but I’m collecting ideas… 🙂 Looking forward to seeing those snowdrops too!

    • Cathy says:

      Just a thought about the heights, Amy, rather than advice – and of course it could be all tall ones at the back and medium/short to the front.

  2. Liz says:

    Hi Cathy,

    No cutting bed here, but definitely something I’d like to do in future. Although I’m thinking more along the lines of patches of cutting flowers in each border.
    My experience with sweet peas is that they need a lot of water. Like, a lot. Otherwise the stems get shorter and they become scraggly quickly. I think it might even cause mildew but I’m no expert.

    • Cathy says:

      It’s interesting about the sweet peas Liz, as the ones here and elsewhere that are against a fence have gone that way over time, but those on a trellis with a bed on both sides have been fine and the stems are just as long – definitely moisture related although I haven’t specifically watered the latter.

  3. gardenfancyblog says:

    Hi Cathy, Thanks for sharing your update of your cutting garden — I redid mine this year and am similarly making notes about what worked and what didn’t, and I’ll post about it in the next week or so. It’s really interesting to see works for other gardeners. I’d be interested to hear your thoughts about which flowers are best in the vase too — I’ve noticed that some of the things that grew quite well outside didn’t last well inside or look nice, or they were a pain to strip the leaves from, etc. Always we strive to improve…. 🙂 -Beth

    • Cathy says:

      Oh, do make sure you let us know when you are posting about it as I can’t look at every blog I enjoy all the time 🙂 I shall probably do a more detailed update next month and include thoughts on what did and didn’t work and relating it to vases as well. There are certainly some that didn’t make it to a vase but I may well still have enjoyed having them. It is indeed a continuous learning curve 😉

  4. Anna says:

    Never mind the cutting garden Cathy I want to know what your new snowdrops are! No seriously it’s illuminating to read your observations and thoughts Cathy. Thanks for sharing them. I admire your detailed record keeping which will no doubt prove so useful in the future. A note has been made to self here is to give the green amaranthus a try next year.

  5. I’m very tempted by the idea of a cutting garden, like Amy I’m gathering ideas that are so helpfully provided in posts like yours Cathy. It would be wonderful to have such a range of seasonal cut flowers, my garden has a good selection of late flowering perennials and I do raid those. Rudbeckia chim-chiminee is a cheery colour.

    • Cathy says:

      The rudbeckias have done SO well Kate and were a doddle from the start. I have enjoyed having these beds of annuals and dahlias even if I haven’t cut them – so perhaps I might rename them in future!

  6. Christina says:

    My notes on flowering times is also spasmodic but I can also check back on my ‘vase’ posts. I haven’t sown anything yet either but it has turned very hot again so I’ll try to wait a bit longer it is really difficult to germinate seeds when it is way above 30° C.

    • Cathy says:

      And I suppose in terms of weeks from sowing to flowering ‘mid July’ for example is just as useful as ’15th July’!! Sorry about year heat – it’s a wet Bank Holiday here today which will skew the August rainfall statistics somewhat!

  7. How organised you are, so impressed with your record keeping. My sweet peas were slow to start, started flowering just as we went away, by the time we were back they were straggly and covered in pods. Despite cutting pods off, watering and tying on they were poor from then on. Few flowers and then powdery mildew. Don’t think I shall bother with them again or at least until I am of the age where I do not take a holiday!

    • Cathy says:

      What a shame about your sweet peas – it is only recently that I have been successful with them, but perhaps that coincides with having finished work and having more time. I suspect a less dry summer would have been more sweet pea friendly…

  8. Julie says:

    What a great post Cathy – it is so helpful to include your ‘notes’ and your detailed records look like a fantastic resource. I am a little concerned that your first seeds were sown on 31st August last year – I have only just ordered mine as well so now feel late – I will set myself a deadline to sow before the next greenhouse review! One of the beauties of a cutting garden is that you have the opportunity to clear almost everything out in October and I think you will find next years flowers will benefit if you enrich the soil again before planting anything new – cutting flowers are very greedy. It also helps if you cut the leading stems in the early days to produce bushier plants. I am quite ruthless with my cosmos and zinnias and I think I get bigger plants with more flowers as a result. I am looking to hearing how you get on with your chrysanthemums!

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