To accompany this post about my cutting patch, I suggest you have a little soundtrack of Pata Pata by Miriam Mikeba. This song expresses perfectly how it feels to be waking up to warm temperatures, blue skies and new flowers!
I extended my cutting patch this year. Well, Stevie extended it. I already had one raised bed in which I’ve grown dahlias for the last three summers. I got greedy and wanted more. Stevie obliged.
Borage wins the prize for being the most rambunctious.
I always thought Nicotiana were impressive with their speed of growth. They go from hundreds-and-thousands seedlings to outgrowing their first pots in about four weeks. Borage are the same, but they also have armour-plating. Where Nicotiana are soft and sappy, Borage has tough old leaves, which are hard and bumpy to the touch. Like a tortoise shell. Or a knee scab that is just ready to be picked. If you want a bomb-proof batch of seedlings, Borage is for you.
These plants are now at chin-level, and spilling out of the cutting patch. It’s a tidal wave. At the crest of the wave, they have a spume of delicate, diaphanous flowers:
The flowers drop, as whole stars, and can be sprinkled on salads or frozen in ice-cubes if you are having a Sarah Raven lifestyle moment.
The next into flower was the almost-as-exuberant Nicotiana ‘Sensation’. This is a mix of shades with whites, purples, magentas, and some disconcerting white flesh tones. Yes, I know that doesn’t sound attractive. It is the colour of hospital corridors. I am trying to see it as ‘Peach Parfait’ but really it is clogged foundation.
Now you want to see it, don’t you? It even has a tide-mark down the centre of each petal.
Now I feel a bit mean. Sorry Nicotiana.
There are some plants where the colour is sun-bleached:
And some have fully-saturated colour. This one has added sparkle:
I generally prefer to plant in blocks of colour, and avoid anything with ‘mixed’ in the name. But I couldn’t find any solely purple Nicotiana from Chiltern Seeds this year (hint for next year, maybe?!)
Nicotiana get very tall, and are a bit floppy, so I have trussed them with some canes and string, and hopefully, they will not burst their belt. It is a good idea to thin the stems by cutting them for arrangements (this is a cutting patch, after all) but I have been busy with my roses. Also Nicotiana have sticky stems, which I find a bit icky when handling, but I will ‘girl up’ and get on with it this week.
Oh, I should also say, the scent is heavenly, and attracts moths. This is where the white-flesh ones do come in, because they shine at night. ‘Limelight’ is also a brilliant choice, being palest green. Grow Nicotiana where you might sit out late, and you can have scent and moths. Don’t worry. Moths are sensible around Nicotiana. None of that silly flailing in the flame of a candle.
Another really easy annual to grow from seed is Cosmos. These ones, Cosmos bipinatus ‘Double Click Cranberries’, germinated in two days! A record! They don’t ever give me a moment’s worry. They are like the easy child in a family. They are blessed with a sunny disposition and a strong constitution.
Cosmos bipinatus ‘Xanthos’ is just as easy. These were the first to flower. They are shorter than many Cosmos, so perfect for pots. I love the way the petals are rolled into a little cone.
Occasionally flowers do weird things. Cosmos seem particularly prone to zaniness. I’ve had double-headed flowers, flowers where there is only one petal (as in Cosmos ‘Cupcakes’) and now I have a widescreen Cosmos. Borage is glued to the screen.
However, my biggest excitement this week has been the first Zinnias. I’ve only grown Zinnias once before, and I remember them being a bit underwhelming in a border. However, in a raised bed, they are zinging. Here was the first bud, full of scaly promise:
Here is the first flower of Zinnia ‘Cupid Mixture’. I know, another mixture. But I think Zinnias suit being mixed. Like cocktails. This one is Peach Daquiri, but I’m looking forward to all sorts of crazy concoctions.
I recently learnt a common name for Zinnia, which is ‘Youth-and-Age’, owing to the little flowerlets, being dandled on the main flower.
Here is my second Zinnia, ‘Queen Red Lime’. She is fabulous, and she hasn’t even come out yet.
And here is my first dahlia! ‘Totally Tangerine’!
Here it is again, showing the lovely jagged petalloids in the middle. I love that the insides and tips of the tubules are brightest tangerine against the pinker reverse:
There is a party going on in this one bloom. Pata Pata. Summer is here.
Do you grow annuals? Which are your favourites?