Gardening Magazine

Annuals for the Cutting Garden

By Notcuttsuk @notcuttsuk

Night time temperatures are becoming warmer now although of course there is still the possibility of frost for at least the next month if the days are sunny and clear. I have a pack of horticultural fleece on standby in the porch so that I can cover any tender plants now that the greenhouse is home to my tomato and pepper plants!

Hardy annuals are just that – hardy compared to the more tender bedding plants such as French Marigolds, Petunias and Lobelia. They can be sown directly into the ground where they are to flower unlike half hardy annuals which need to be raised in a propagator and grown on under protection until the weather is warmer and they are less likely to be harmed by spring frosts.

As many of you will know, Mrs McGregor is a big fan of hardy annuals for her flower arrangements. They are cheap, fast growing and reliable, giving plenty of flowers through the summer months and filling the gaps for blooms when many perennials are not available. Most need very little preparation before arranging and many look great in a vase on their own or with just some greenery to accompany them.

The classic annual is the Sweet Pea and my plants are doing well and ready to be planted outside on wig wams of bamboo canes. Although they are usually grown on the allotment, this year I am putting some in the cutting garden in a nice sunny patch so that we can enjoy the scent from the blooms and pick them more often to stop them going to seed. I will start by digging a trench and filling it with rotted manure. I like to add a good sprinkling of pelleted chicken manure to this and give it several cans of water before replacing the soil over the top. Sweet Peas like a rich soil and plenty of moisture so I treat them like runner beans! The plants then go into the layer of soil, two to a cane and are pinched out to make them produce more shoots. For showing, the cordon system is often used where one strong shoot is taken up each cane. This gives longer stems to the flowers but produces less flowers overall. Quantity is certainly required here as I love to fill the house with Sweet Peas and do not have the time to spend on show quality blooms!

Cornflowers are another favorite and I have sown some ‘Polka Dot’ seeds in short rows. They are a pretty mix of greyish white, purple and pink shades and along with the more traditional deep blue sorts should produce plenty of blooms. Calendula are always reliable and the citrus coloured mix ‘Fiesta’ have sturdy double flowers that will last well once they are cut.

Biennials such as Honesty should also be sown now. Although they will not flower until next spring they are well worth the wait for their translucent seed cases which are so beautiful in arrangements dried or fresh.

A bigger cutting garden is definitely needed for all of these old favourites!

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