helichrysum ‘hendrix’

My attitude towards orange and yellow is changing. Every year I mellow a little and let a bit more into the garden.

Steve is a big fan of rudbekia. I wasn’t keen at first, but they do suit the softer September and October light.

cottage garden, gardening blog

Rudbekia and verbena bonariensis pair well. The verbena’s gone haywire this year. More on that next time.

So, on balance, I can tolerate some late summer yellow. In fact, I’ll admit that I’ve started to rather like it. But I’ve flatly refused to allow any orange flowers. Until now.

This spring I bought  a packet of helichrysum hendrix seed from Higgledy Garden on a whim. We’d just extended our two main borders and I wanted some cheap and cheerful annuals to pad them out.

Benjamin from Higgledy has a wonderful knack of making all his flowers sound like must-haves. But I went for these because he said they last well into the autumn, and for the past couple of years we’ve been making efforts to keep the garden in-flower for longer. I thought they might help.

cottage garden, gardening blog

OK, it’s a bit unruly. But we’ve never had this much colour so late in the season before. 

And so they did. The flowers are quite papery and robust. I reckon they’ll last until the frosts, so we may get another month out of them yet.

Benjamin says helichrysum hendrix come in ‘an amazing array of colours’. He’s not wrong. We’ve had pinks, purples, whites, crimsons and combinations of those.

We’ve also had bright dandelion yellow.

cottage garden, gardening blog

Dandelion yellow. It’s growing on me.

And we’ve had orange. I’d love to call it copper. Or burnished gold. But it’s just orange, isn’t it.

cottage garden, gardening blog

Orange. In my garden. I never thought I’d see the day.

The surprising thing is, I like it. But if I start considering regimented rows of marigolds for the garden next spring, tell me to have a word with myself.

Advertisements

the best laid plans…

Last year we decided to add a bed of flowers to the end of the veg patch, just for cutting.

I imagined I’d be gathering armfuls all summer long. In fact, I thought we’d have so many that I’d be able to leave surprise bunches on friends’ doorsteps like some sort of benevolent flower fairy.

picked in the rain, cottage garden, gardening blog

I wasn’t quite naive enough to think I could blithely scatter seeds and leave them to their own devices. Instead I sought advice from traditional cut flower grower Benjamin Ranyard of Higgledy Garden. His website is packed with tips, and his seeds are some of the most reliable I have ever grown.

My plan was to start early, sowing seeds in our unheated greenhouse. Then I’d acclimatise the young plants to go out in May. I hoped we’d be picking by the end of June.

At one time I had hundreds of happy little seedlings coming on. Didiscus blue lace, ammi majus, cleome, gaillardia, achillea, larkspur, consolida… I wondered what I’d do with all the leftover plants that we wouldn’t have room for.

Little did I know that the garden would get besieged by rabbits this year. Or that I wouldn’t pick a single flower from the cutting patch.

cutting garden, cottage garden, gardening blog

this is as good as it got in the cutting patch

Only the calendula and borage  I interspersed with the veg to help attract pollinators really thrived. There are a couple of sad-looking earthwalker sunflowers but the cleome (pink queen) look quite stunning. One or two cosmos, centaurea and rudbeckia have soldiered on, despite being nibbled within an inch of their lives.

The truth is, I lost heart after so many plants were eaten rabbits. What’s left has pretty much fended for itself since June, battling against the weeds and a rampant squash plant. So I’m leaving the few valiant flowers for the butteries and bees.

 

starting a cutting garden

country mix gardening blogHaving home-grown flowers in the house is good for the soul. It helps me see past the fact that I haven’t washed the floors or cleaned the windows. And I can almost forget that we still haven’t repaired the roof or done the bathroom.

But I always feel a bit guilty raiding the borders for them. As if I’m cutting their life a bit short, and robbing the bees of pollen.

So this year we’re growing a bed of flowers just for picking. It’s a bit much to call it a cutting garden. More of a cutting patch really – on a scrap of ground by the veg patch where we tried (and failed) to grow raspberries last year.bee verbena, gardening blog, cottage garden

I’ve been toying with the idea for a while and started buying seeds in October. They are mostly cottage garden flowers, good old-fashioned ones that my grannies might have grown. I got a bit carried away and have far too many to fit in the 2 x 4 metre bed.

How to create a cutting garden

While I was seed shopping I came across the marvellous Higgledy Garden. It’s run by Benjamin Ranyard, a cut flower specialist from Cornwall who is pretty passionate about traditional varieties. He is also very generous with tips for novice growers.

I’m not very good at following rules. But I’ve read Benjamin’s article on where to site a cutting garden and how to prepare the beds. I’m going to follow his advice as closely as I can, but no doubt it will come together in our usual haphazard way.

cutting garden site, gardening blog, cottage garden

the site for our cutting garden – a south-facing scrap of ground next to the veg patch

The garden doesn’t have many sunny spots, but I think the patch I’ve chosen gets the seven hours a day that Benjamin recommends as a minimum. It’s right next to where we grew the pumpkins last year – they need lots of sun too, and did OK.

He says to keep away from trees as they rob nearby plants of water and nutrients. Well, that’s impossible unless Steve gets the chainsaw out, so we’ll have to take a chance.

Ideally the patch should be 1 metre wide, letting you reach the middle without stepping on the bed…I’ll just have to stretch. Or perhaps we can compromise a bit of veg space and go for two rows.

Lastly, the soil shouldn’t be too rich, or you get tonnes of foliage and few flowers. It does benefit from a bit of leaf mulch though, which is good news as we’re never short of that.

Bed preparation

I’m itching to get out there and prepare the bed, but it’s so wet underfoot that I think I’d do more harm than good stomping around in my wellies.

We also need to extend the veg patch fence around the plot. Otherwise our mad spaniel will be charging around it, flattening seedlings as fast as they germinate. Benjamin doesn’t say anything about dogs in the cutting garden, but I’m sure he wouldn’t approve of that.

didiscus blue lace seedling, cottage garden blog

we sowed some half-hardy annuals, like these didiscus, before Christmas

So despite my planning, I suspect we won’t be ready to sow seeds direct into the ground for some time yet.

But direct sowing the whole patch might have been too much of a gamble in our first year anyway. I’m going to rifle through my seed packets and see what we can get started in the greenhouse.

Luckily, Benjamin has advice on how and when to sow your cutting garden too.