The rain has set in for the weekend, the sky is dark and in the garden bright patches of dahlias and rudbeckia glow through the watery haze. It seems a good time to take stock (indoors) and to make some notes for the garden diary I never remember to write when the weather is fine.
I’ve been growing lots of cut flowers this year. Inspired by Flowers from the Farm, a network of growers producing fresh, local, seasonal flowers, I started to plan a micro business growing flowers for local shops and cafés. This year was to be a trial run, seeing what grew well and exploring possible outlets. As things turned out, it wouldn’t have been a good year for starting a new business venture. I’ve also learnt just how much work is involved in growing a saleable quantity of good quality flowers. My cut flowers filled a few buckets each week from April to September, tied into mixed bunches and left outside the gate on Saturday mornings with a ‘help yourself’ message. I’ve learnt a lot and enjoyed the growing so I won’t be giving up the cut flowers but it’s a good thing I don’t have to pay the bills that way.
The creamy yellow stocks smelled lovely, but each plant only produced a single spike with no second cutting. One stem is enough to scent a whole bouquet but I’m not sure I’ll be growing them again. The blue ‘Mr Fokker’ anemones don’t have any scent but they’re worth growing for colour alone. Unfortunately in my newly cultivated beds they soon succumbed to nematodes which distorted the stems, leaves and flowers. Wallflowers give both scent and colour. They don’t fit well in mixed bouquets but, if my Saturday ‘customers’ are anything to go by, a simple bunch of headily scented wallflowers is as popular as a carefully selected mixed spring posy. My cutting beds will be full of different coloured wallflowers next spring.
The borders nearest the house have been starting to look established this year. A cold spring meant the tulips lasted from early April to late May. When the beech hedge grows these brilliantly coloured borders will have a calm, green background and won’t have to shout at the flowers in the cutting beds beyond.
By late May the borders are filling with a tapestry of fresh, green growth and flowers are almost incidental. I encouraged lots of self-sown foxgloves to fill the gaps in these borders and they gleefully took over, crowding out the recently planted perennials.
Next year I’ll be a little more selective with the foxglove seedlings. The tall flower spikes are beautiful while they last but their large, floppy leaves smother nearby plants and leave large gaps when the biennial clumps are removed. In contrast the perennial alchemilla and nepeta weave companionably among neighbouring plants, providing useful ‘filler’ for flower posies for months on end. If either starts to sprawl or smother its neighbours the plants can be cut back and quickly produce fresh, new shoots.
Hardy annuals can quickly fill a border with vibrant colour but, in this garden’s fertile loam, they can take over too. The self-sown echium is a welcome interloper early in the season, its soft blue flowers blending with any colour scheme, but by mid summer I’m pulling it out by armfuls, trying to remember where I last saw that paeony or astrantia plant the echium swallowed.
Crocosmias take a while to settle in and show their true character. Both Crocosmia Citronella (with golden yellow flowers and fresh green leaves) and C.Colton Fishacre (bronze leaves and orange flowers) looked rather meager last year but this year they’ve been lushly beautiful. Paul’s Best Yellow ( a new crocosmia variety) settled in quickly last year and put on a fine display of flowers. This year it was intent on taking over the border and the flowers looked too big and brash against their more delicate neighbours.
At the beginning of September I put out my last two buckets of Saturday flowers. In this year when so much is postponed and uncertain, the weekly flower buckets have anchored me in the changing seasons. What will next year bring?
Click twice on any photo for a closer view.