I’m in the process of creating my first cut flower garden which I’d like to share so anyone thinking of doing the same can follow along. So far I’ve been growing all sorts of Summer Annuals, Lupins and Delphiniums from seed and taking cuttings of Chrysanthemums and Dahlias. In case you missed the first 2 parts the links are below.
Over the weekend I’ve been busy planting up the beds and it’s actually starting to look more like a cut flower garden every day.
The area I’m using was mostly weeds and rubbish and not really being used for much, so I thought I’d try and turn it into something rather more pleasing on the eye, and at the same time create some scent at the bottom of the garden.
As this is my first attempt I don’t have any particular planting plan in min, but I do know I’d like it to look as natural as possible, and produce as many blooms as possible in the space I have available. I’m thinking sweeping drifts of colour, nothing to uniform, growing in small compact little beds. This way I can get close to the flowers from all 4 sides and get even closer to all that gorgeous scent! But before I can enjoy any of that there’s some hard work ahead.
A couple of weeks ago I prepared 6 beds approximately 3m x 3m and dug in plenty of well rotted compost. The clever little worms have now done their stuff and worked all that compost into the soil, so now it’s time for the fun bit!
Each bed will have a mixture of annuals grown from seed in the polytunnel and an array of standard cottage garden favorites. I’m using Chrysanthemums, Dahlias and Lupins as the framework plants along with mixed varieties of Sweet Peas to create some height. For those who are regular readers of my posts you’ll know where possible I like to use hazel poles in my garden. They make great supports and give the garden a really natural organic feel.
Preparing the ground.
We garden on chalky soil in Hampshire which means we have to work in lot and lots of organic material, at the same time trying not to dig too deep so as not to turn up too stones and flints that his area is famous for.
I think we must have shifted at least a ton of flint and stones since we started the garden 3 years ago. All of which we’ve tried to recycle around the plot, either as post ballast or foundations for the many paths in the garden.
Spring is the perfect time of the year to take Dahlia and Chrysanthemum cuttings so if you’re also thinking of using them in your garden I have a few tips which should help improve your chances of success.
I’ve been taking a succession of cuttings since late March and they’ve grown into great little plants, and apart from a little compost they were free!
Success with cuttings can be a but hit or miss, but you can increase your chances of success significantly if you’re able to provide a few basic requirements. I’ve created several posts on how to easily take cuttings, so if you’re never tried before I’d say they are definitely worth a read.
The key to success with softwood cuttings
Commercial growers provide a fine spray of water at least 15-20 times a day onto the plants and manage to achieve almost 100% success. Of course we can’t afford such a system and we’re not operating at that scale. You can buy modest little kits that do the same thing, but with a little effort and for a small investment you can make your own, and it costs a lot less than shop bought.
Rather than go into the details of a misting system now I’ll put together another post on how to be successful with softwood cuttings along with a set of plans for making your own misting system. I plan to make my own and if that goes ok we’ll produce a short video for the RG YouTube channel.
Last autumn when the dahlias finished flowering I dug them up and stored them in boxes overwintered in the polytunnel, with a little soil covering the tubers (roots) over winter. Pleased to say they survived and in April I tried my hand at taking a few cuttings. I managed to get a few to root, but all round a pretty poor show to be honest.
Despite the lack of success with my dahlia cuttings I still have the original plants that I’m pleased to say have put on loads of healthy new growth. Dahlias grow to quite a size and do need staking. They also need lots of water throughout the season so I’ve prepared the planting holes with plenty of organic matter to help retain the moisture. I’ve also thrown in some wet straw for good measure. It will rot down eventually which will help with improving the quality of our soil.
Protect your dahlias
Slugs and snails like to eat your lovely green dahlia leaves, so you will need to guard against them. We’re lucky to have the chickens to keep our slug population under control, but the only snag is the chickens are also partial to dahlia leaves! So we have no option but to net them or they will eat the lot in one sitting.
Dahlias grow into fairly large plants and have a tendency to block the light out from everything else around them. To avoid any problems later I’m growing the dahlias in a single plot on their own.
I have fond memories of growing dahlias as I used to enter the dahlia category at my local summer village show with my dad when I was in my early teens.
As well as the main stars of the show I’m filling in with annuals like Nigella (Love In A Mist), Cosmos, Calendula, and Brompton Stock. These are all what are typically called traditional cottage garden flowers, and they should provide plenty of cut flower material throughout the season and are really easy to sow and grow from seeds. The seedlings I pricked out a few weeks ago have now grown into decent little plants so I planted them out over the weekend.
The plants look a little sparse now but I’ve planted them with plenty of space so they have room to grow. In just a few weeks we should have quite a show, all being well. They will need to be kept watered over the next couple of weeks as the roots are fairly close to the surface and tend to dry out.
I’m planning on adding a few rose bushes into the mix, along with a few Delphiniums and Verbena, but they will have to wait until I have a few more penny’s.