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.

 

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those pesky wabbits

616px-Young_wild_rabbitA few weeks ago I spent a happy few minutes with my daughter watching a rabbit nibbling weeds by the compost bin. She’s a big fan of Peter Rabbit and his cronies.

When Steve saw, he told me it spelt disaster for the garden. I muttered something about Mr McGregor and ignored him.

How naive I was. We’re just back from a week’s holiday and our neighbour tells me he has seen up to four rabbits at a time skipping around the veg garden. They’ve had a go at the peas, but it seems to be the new cutting patch alongside the veg that has really taken their fancy.

Just before we went away I decided to take a gamble, putting out some of the young plants we’d grown from seed in the greenhouse. The rabbits couldn’t believe their luck.

newly planted cutting patch, cottage garden, gardening blog

before the rabbits came

Now many of the plants have telltale marks of rabbit teeth: it looks like they’ve been neatly snipped with scissors. I’ve discovered rabbits have strangely selective tastes. My Earthwalker sunflowers are untouched, while Vanilla Ice has been razed to the ground. Cosmos are clearly a favourite, but only the ferny leaves. They have left me the stalks. The consolida Snow Cloud that I was growing for the first time – and very much looking forward to – have been virtually destroyed. The gaillardia and cleome don’t have a mark on them.

This should just be a temporary setback rather than the end of the cutting patch. I had spares of most of the plants, except the consolida, and I think there’s still time to sow a few more batches of seed.

We’re supposed to be getting a new fence to keep the dogs off the veg garden and cutting patch. I’d been planning something pretty and cottagey. But perhaps a rabbit-proof fence will be more appropriate.

Or am I being over-optimistic to hope that now we’re home – and the dogs and cats are at large in garden again – the rabbits will stay in the fields.

 

Wild rabbit photo from Wikimedia Commons