I have decided to cut out my cutting garden.
It was a nice idea but if I’m being brutally honest it was the concept more than the reality that appealed. I had visions of myself as Lady Grantham, swanning around with a trug full of blooms before popping by to remind cook that the archbishop is expected for dinner and he has a penchant for quails’ eggs.
In truth the only bishop that has come near my home is in dahlia form and dinner is more likely to be fish fingers, buy hey, a woman can daydream can’t she?
And what of my cutting garden? Well it’s a jolly impressive thing for spring bulb season but I struggle to find room for the cascades of tulips and daffodils that come wave, after wave, out of the ground. And any annuals I try to nurture are swallowed up in their youth by the legions of snails that emerge from my box hedging on night-time raids.
So I’m taking a hard decision and culling all but one of my six beds – this houses the wood anemones that are a perennial delight and last far longer than anything else I planted to fill my vases.
I should be sad but I’m not. You see the simple truth is my entire garden functions as a cutting garden – I just seem to have forgotten this. What’s more, cutting from my main borders provides flowers for the house but doesn’t leave a desert of hacked stems in its wake. In fact I can fill several jugs and you would be hard pushed to see where my secateurs had been.
My ‘integrated cutting garden’ provides almost all I can really need.Firstly I have foliage. This is vital, as anyone trying to balance a flower arrangement will tell you. My own favourite material for this is cotinus or one of the larger heucheras for a purple backdrop, ferns such as Polistichum setiferum for a woodland feel, Arum italicum for two tone leaves and a dramatic shape, Solomon’s seal for arching elegance or Alchemilla mollis for a frothy green effect. Not surprisingly, these plants all provide a useful backdrop in the borders themselves so it’s no hardship to give them space in a garden.
And I’m hardly short of blossoms themselves. I have a range of tulips and alliums which are so happy in my soil they politely increase in number rather than rot away. Although cutting them pretty much ends their garden lives, there are enough to sacrifice a few and still guarantee a garden display the next year. However there are plenty of perennials prepared to fill a vase too. Geranium magnificum is a showstopper for a short month but its less showy relative Geranium phaeum provides a longer lasting alternative. And foxgloves aren’t around for long but you only need one to take a woodland arrangement to a striking new level.
Later in the year, hotter colours show up – Rudbekia ‘Goldsturm’ is a beautiful rich yellow and I wouldn’t be without my new favourite crocosumia – ‘George Davison’.
Then there is the indispensable perennial wallflower – Erysimum Bowles Mauve – in bloom eleven months of the year in my garden and a striking purple that can lift any arrangement.
Oh, and I forgot to mention my echinops, purple loosestrife, aquilegias, perennial cornflowers, thalictrum, astrantias, honeysuckle, roses, lavender, purple sage, and catmint.
In fact why on earth did I bother with a cutting garden at all? Maybe I should use the space to raise quails instead. After all, I wouldn’t want to disappoint the archbishop