Saturday, August 11, 2012

The Cutting Garden

A year ago, the generous - and multi-talented - Belinda (Wild Acre) provided a 10-week series on how to grow a cutting garden.  With dreams of her English abundance of flowers all summer, I dived in and made creating a cutting garden my project for this year.  It's time I shared the results - and the lessons learned.

First, the site.
We have always called this "the bowling alley".  When we first moved in, there was absolutely nothing in this long, straight side yard.  Altho there is now a lot planted to break up the empty space, the name stuck.  I did the lay-it-out-with-a-hose-trick, and Round-up and finally spaded it out by hand and added compost, etc.  You know the drill - all last September.  So that I could plant.

Ordered lots of seeds - way too many, of course - but that was part of the fun!

And, then the real work began.
But in a relatively short time, up came the little flower plants - all last fall.  While Belinda had assured me that they would look like weeds, they looked more like little soldier plants to me!  All lined up and waiting to bloom in the spring.
And, bloom they did.  By late May, I was looking at this every morning.
The larkspur, bachelor's buttons, nigella and stock did beautifully and produced their little hearts out. 
Sadly, by July it was pretty much gone. The seeds I planted in the fall did very well, but the seeds that I added in the spring just ignored me completely.

Lessons learned:

First, I love having a cutting garden and it is well worth the time and effort.  I just need to learn some more about what does well in my humid, hot zone.

Two.  Virginia "ain't" England.  Spring is not spring, and summer is not summer.  While Belinda is enjoying an abundance of flowers now, mine have been gone more than least a month.  By the time the zinnias were blooming (in the old garden) everything else was gone.  I never really had a chance to make the big, fresh-picked bouquets I wanted.

Three.  I can't go by what happened this year.  Does anyone remember when spring began this year.  I think it was around February 15th and the "first" summer was in April.  This was not a "normal" year - at least not using previous history as a model.  Was this the new "normal"? or just an odd year?  the answer to that will be very important to gardeners all over the world.
Four.  It's time to start again.  Actually, I have already cleaned out and turned over the bed.  Am ready to spread some compost and feed it, and have gotten the first order of seeds.  Am going to plant more varieties this fall and take one last piece of Belinda's advice.  No soldier rows for me this year.  I shall plant in swaths and let them look for wild when they come up.  i know what they look like now and won't mistake flowers-to-be for weeds.

Thanks, Belinda.  It was great fun.  You have created a monster!


  1. Let's keep our fingers crossed this was an odd year. If this is the new normal I might as well plant cactus. You think I am kidding????

    The spring flowers are wonderful. I think you will have even a more abundant year next spring. Bonnie

    1. Iknow very well you are not kidding. The major challenge is finding things that like it hot and dry ... and that i like!

  2. Don't you just love gardening? Either the weather is not as expected, or what you think should thrive does not. You always learn something and it's great having the opportunity to try again. Experimentation is fun, and you did have some fruits of your labors.

    Can't wait to see next year's cutting garden.

    1. I do love working in the garden. The joy of retirement will be having more time to doit. I allready haave a plan for working jazzercise around yard time.

  3. Oh Webb what a great post. I've wondered what happened to your cutting garden.

    and I'm always so impressed by someone who follows a plan unlike me, Ms. Spontanity.

    I have such seeds and will attempt to plant them in the fall this year.

    Thanks for the kick in the rear.

    xo jane

    1. No one needs a kick less than you. My other reetirement plan is to take a class in arranging ... maybe before then.

  4. At least you got some nice blooms out of it. I wouldn't be discouraged because you didn't get as many blooms as you dreamed. I think it was just a bad year for trying something new, what with all the drought and heat.

  5. Oh Webb, you are so welcome and it is so exciting that you are creating a cutting garden! There is so much trial and error and dealing with the vagaries of weather, isn't there, but it is the only way to get to grips with your own climate and conditions. I have been trying to think what might extend your season in your much hotter climes, and I wonder if it is worth checking out what works for U.S. flower growers like Erin? Adding a few perennials for late summer like echinacea, japenese anemones and verbena bonsariensis for example might work well, if you can eke a tiny bit more space, or annual varieties that bloom later, maybe cosmos? Will you try some bulbs too - drumstick alliums are KILLER glam for midsummer!

    I hope you haven't been disappointed that some of my cutting garden experience hasn't travelled well across the pond, but I know you will find the perfect combos to give you the patch you want - the journey is half the fun isn't it? Bxx

    1. Belinda, not discouraged at all! MGT has a huge point. Our summer was early and hot, so stuff generally bloomed early. I did plant some drumstick allium and loved them, but they were done in April. A storm got the echinacea and the japanese amemones bloomed in June! I think nice thoughts of you every day - really!