I wrote a post in January about how to grow a cut flower patch. Of all garden projects, making a cut flower patch is the most straightforward and instantly rewarding. You get the joy of raising seedlings, and within three months can be cutting flowers.
This was my cut flower patch on the 19th May, on the day that I planted my seedlings into the beds (you might also be interested to see tulips growing in this patch immediately before).
I sowed sweet peas around obelisks at the end of March, when the tulips were still growing in the beds. This is my favourite way of growing sweet peas: far less faffy than sowing into loo rolls and transplanting.
The other annuals (cosmos, phlox, salvia, scabious, cornflowers, amaranthus and morning glory) were sown in March and raised indoors until the risk of frost had passed (for us, this is early May).
Annuals grow at an astonishing rate. This is the cut flower patch six weeks later, at the beginning of July:
You can see that I have put sticks into the corners of each bed, and along the length at intervals of about a metre. I then tied string between to make a sort of cat’s cradle. This supports the plants as they grow. If you don’t provide any support, there is a danger that the plants all topple into one another in heavy rain or strong wind. I have also watered the patch each week, as we have very little rain in summer. In return for my modest efforts, this patch has started to reward me.
This is the first time I have grown Ipomoea (Morning Glory). This is Ipomoea ‘Grandpa Otts’.
These are not so good as cut flowers, but they are a lovely sight in my early morning visits to the cutting patch. By midday, each flower has exhausted itself and curls up for a nap. The next day there is a new crop of flowers. Here they are mid-morning, looking a bit bat-like and gothy.
Morning Glory are eager little seedlings. They very quickly scaled their support, and they have started to feel around for adventures further afield.
The next to flower was annual phlox. This too is a first for me, and could not have been easier to grow. They germinated quickly and reliably, and put on strong growth.
They are living up to their name, Phlox drummondii grandiflora ‘Brilliant’. They provide a sea of pink, frothing out and over in the middle bed.
The confectionery pink of the phlox is lovely with sweet peas. Here it is with Lathyrus odoratus ‘Champagne Mix’. I love the dark eye of the phlox, and the perfect five-petalled shape. Each flower falls off cleanly, looking quite lovely scattered around the base of a vase.
Cosmos is just as easy to grow. I am growing two new varieties this year. This is ‘Xsenia’. It has a slightly orange tinge to its pink flowers, which I find intriguing. It is not as floriferous or vigorous as the wonderful ‘Xanthos’ I grew last year. The jury is out.
Cosmos bipinnatus ‘Velouette’ is another new variety for me. I love the candy stripe of white and cherry-pink. Unfortunately not all plants have come up with this variation. Some are mainly just a dull cardinal red. I have ruthlessly pulled these up. It is almost inevitable that you plant too close in a cut flower patch. A little mid-season ‘editing’ gives breathing room to those plants which remain.
I am also trying out a new variety of cornflower, Centaurea cyanus ‘Classic Magic’. You see this is the joy of a cut flower patch: you can grow new varieties every year. You can never get bored!
I didn’t grow sweet peas last year. Oh, I missed them! I am remedying that by growing four varieties this year. This is Lathyrus odoratus ‘Champagne Mix’.
Morning Glory might have got off to a quick start, but the sweet peas have more than caught up. Where Morning Glory twirls itself up a support as quickly as possible, sweet peas grow out as well as up. They spread in all directions, twisting this way and that, doubling back if you tie them in, turning their heads if they get distracted, trying it another way for a while… They are the contortionists of the plant world.
They like to make friends, holding hands with one another, and anyone else who might come their way. I love the way their tendrils echo one another, as if they are dancing in a chorus.
I love to visit sweet peas when they are glittered with dew. This is ‘King Edward VII’.
And this is ‘Midnight’. This is my favourite. Its flowers are huge. The unripe petals are at first double cream swirled with blackcurrant. Maybe damson. The cream is then swallowed up by ripest, deepest damson. The petal texture starts off satiny, and turns to silk. And oh, the scent!
I love to see how a new sweet pea flower develops. When you cut a flower (and you should: this promotes new flowers), a new bud shoots from the base, uncurling with a leaf, and tendril, and a new flower. Sweet peas are endlessly generous.
If you snip all the flowers, the sweet pea plant will replenish itself within a couple of days. I am struggling to keep up with my four teepees. Every couple of days everyone in the house gets a jar of sweet peas by their bed. There is a big vase on the kitchen table, and another in the living room. I am taking them to work, giving them to the post lady, the milkman…
It is impossible to arrange sweet peas badly. They just fall into elegance. Did I mention the scent? Don’t tell the roses, but I think sweet pea may be my favourite flower scent.
They are fun to mix up with other cut flowers too. Here they are with salvia in one jug, and with cosmos in another.
A new day, a new bouquet. That’s the beauty of a cut flower patch.
If I could only grow one cut flower, it would have to be the sweet pea. The magic of growing something from seed, the delight of seeing coiling tendrils, curling bud and delicate flower, the satisfaction of having blooms to cut, and clouds of scent to fill a room.
Simple pleasures. Endless delight.
The Mindful Gardener welcomes your cut flower queries!
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