In a Vase on Monday and cuttings garden update

We have reached the last Monday in October so time to join with Cathy at Rambling in the Garden where she asks us to fill a vase with flowers from our own gardens or surrounding countryside.  This might be the last vase from the cuttings garden too; I’m a bit disappointed that it is almost all over but it is my fault for not staking the Dahlias properly and not cutting back everything to encourage more flowers.  However, I’m sure this will be a lesson well learned and won’t happen again next year.

Cosmos flourishing after seeding themselves

Cosmos flourishing after seeding themselves

There might be a vase of the orange Cosmos because they are full of flower having seeded themselves before I had pulled out all the plants because their stems were all rather short.  I have bought a couple of pots of chrysanthemums in the supermarket; they were virtually giving them away at €3.99 for a large pot.  I’ll use them to pick and plant them in the cuttings bed hoping that I can keep them alive for next year.  It is quite unusual to see chrysanthemums in the supermarket because Italians hate them as cut flowers or in tubs using them only to take to the cemetery especially for the Day of the Dead (Tutti i Santi) which is next Saturday.  I think they were on offer because the suppliers must have got the timing a bit wrong as these will be past their best in another week; I chose the pots with the least open flowers but most were fully open.

Bargain chysanthemum

Bargain chysanthemum

Bargain chysanthemum

Bargain chysanthemum

Last weekend, after taking the olives to the mill we went into town for a coffee and wandered around a little market (a bit like a car boot sale without the cars) and I found a couple of vases.  I’d said to my husband as we began looking to NOT allow me to buy any more LARGE vases, what I need is small!  The first thing I saw was a glass carafe the same shape as the large vase I’d bought for my birthday, that was a bargain at €5, but then I saw a beautifully shaped vase in the same colours as the rug in the sitting room; but it was large!  But another bargain, the seller said he was selling everything at half price so it was €20, I’m hoping it will look good with dried grasses.  I’ll show you that another time.

Today’s arrangement uses the two glass vases that are the same carafe shape but different sizes.  I’ve started to prune the olives as they grew so much during the summer; therefore today I have foliage.  The olive branches give a nice soft outline but needed something else to give some strength so I used some Senecio, I’ve taken cuttings of this to plant in the large island and the slope so I should have plenty of cutting material in future.

Two vases - one composition

Two vases – one composition

Cosmos Pink Sensation, Dahlia Magenta Star

Cosmos Pink Sensation, Dahlia Magenta Star





The flowers included are 2 Dahlia Magenta Star, a few stems of white Aster, Cosmos Pink Sensation, Achillea and Zinnias.  Zinnias will definitely have a place in next year’s cuttings bed as the flowers seem to last for a long time in a vase and on the plant.

Zinnia will definitely have a place in the cuttings bed next year

Zinnia will definitely have a place in the cuttings bed next year

The Zinnias were given to me at the beginning of September as tiny plants, I planted them not actually believing they would flower this year

The Zinnias were given to me at the beginning of September as tiny plants, I planted them not actually believing they would flower this year

I would not have believed how much material the cuttings bed would produce in its first year.  Already I have planted some wall flowers and Sweet William in another bed which will become a second, smaller, cuttings bed next year, I’m thinking of sowing some hardy annuals in this bed, maybe as soon as I’ve removed the zucchini plant that is still producing the odd zucchini.

Wall flowers and Sweet Williams

Wall flowers and Sweet Williams

In the background you can see the second crop of butternut squash my plants produced.  I harvest 7 large squash in August, these are smaller but I’m hoping they have time to ripen.

I have been removing some of the plants which have finished flowering and begun planting some Narcissus.  I watched a Sara Raven video about how she overwinters her dahlias; she leaves them in the ground and mulches heavily on top of them to protect them, she has them under-planted with narcissus; and as they will need to be irrigated during the summer I decided to do the same thing as they will be over before the dahlias come into growth.  I have also been given some rooted cuttings of green chrysanthemums which I will pot on and plant out next spring so that they are bigger stronger plants, after that I will leave them in the ground over winter.

A few Cosmos remain but they needed cutting back severely long before now

A few Cosmos remain but they needed cutting back severely long before now – they’re taller than the olives!

What worked:  Cosmos produced masses of flowers and would continue for longer and produce more if cut back more and all flowers were picked or at least dead-headed.  The annual dahlias also produced well with the same proviso.  Knautia produced huge amounts of flowers but got a bit out of hand – cutting all the flowers produced would keep it flowering much longer.  Lilies in pots produced lots of flowers but lily beetles were a constant pest.

The tangled mess that is Knautia, Aster Monch, and Aster 'Monte Casino'

The tangled mess that is Knautia, Aster Monch, and Aster ‘Monte Casino’

I will hope the Aster ‘Monte Casino’ becomes a bigger patch, even though the season wasn’t long, I loved the effect these created in vase.  Sunflowers were brilliant who knew they were such a productive cut flower – I need to stagger the sowing next year to have flowers up until the frost, this years are all over now.  Rudbeckia again need sowing a little earlier 3 plants is enough.

Rudbeckia - worth the space, but finishing now

Rudbeckia – worth the space, but finishing now

The Jerusalem artichokes produced masses of flowers over a relatively short season but will also, hopefully, have produced a crop – I don’t suppose I could get rid of them even if I wanted to!

Dahlia Magenta Star has completely collapsed under the weight of so many blooms

Dahlia Magenta Star has completely collapsed under the weight of so many blooms

And what didn’t produce so well: Antirrhinums needed to be sown and planted out earlier and supported to keep the stems straight, I have used very few of these because of the bent, short stems.  The Echinacea I grew from seed were too small to flower this year so they took space but weren’t productive, hopefully next year they will flower for a long season.  Cornflowers were sown too close together and so didn’t perform very well; I will grow them again and try to give them more space.  The Bishop dahlia didn’t last at all well in the vase, I’ll leave one plant but remove the others to give more space to other plants.  The Gerberas’ stems were rather short and I didn’t feel that they combined well with other flowers in a vase; I may try lifting them and placing them in the greenhouse to over-winter but if they don’t survive I don’t think I’ll try them again.

Antirrhinums needed staking

Antirrhinums needed staking

Do visit Cathy’s post to see what others have found in their gardens today to put in a vase.  Thanks for hosting Cathy and for thinking up this inspirational meme.

42 thoughts on “In a Vase on Monday and cuttings garden update

  1. The two vases together are really effective – and such soft colours too. I like the use of olive in the vase. Your cutting garden has done so well this year – I am impressed! Today I’m finding it hard to get inspired after rain and cold temperatures (5 degrees at times) at the weekend.

    • I think it will be very hard after this week; I rather expect foliage, grasses and berries in various combinations for the next few weeks. I’m sorry it has been so cold for you this weekend. The days have still been sunny albeit cooler than before. But blue skies and sun go a long way to making me feel good what ever the temperature.

  2. Quanti bei fiori ancora, comunque! Hai ragione, i crisantemi da noi si usano solo per il cimitero, ma in questo periodo se ne trovano veramente tanti! ed il posto migliore è proprio dai fiorai del cimitero! Io ho ottenuto quello verde da una talea fatta con il fiore reciso! ed una bella collezione c’è da Simonetta, anche a lei piacciono molto.
    Cos’è Sweet William?

  3. I love your two vases, so elegant. Your cutting garden has been fantastic this year. What a success, I was so impressed when I saw it.
    I keep seeing zinnias on people’s blogs and I can’ t imagine why I have never grown them. Next year we will all be growing them, and showing them in vases, I expect.

  4. Your cutting garden has done ever so well for its first year, you must be pleased with it.
    I have just finished reading the book “The Olive Harvest” by Carol Drinkwater and it reminded me of your posts about your olives. She has written 2 other books “The Olive Farm” and “The Olive Season” She is an English actress, living in the south of France and her books are about the life she and her husband lead on their small farm and are very readable, you might enjoy them.

    • Yes, I am pleased. It has been fun to grow things in the cutting garden that I wouldn’t consider growing in the garden. I’ll look for the books, I’m sure I would enjoy them, thanks for the recommendation. Have you ever read ‘Extra Virgin’ by Annie Hawes. She moved to Liguria some time ago, she is very funny, I often laugh out loud. She makes some very keen observations about Italians that are so true!

  5. I love your two vases making one really delicate arrangement. Beautiful. It sounds like you are going to have a lot to think about with your cutting bed, but at least you know what you have to do for even better results next year. At least you have the wallflowers in – I haven’t managed to do that yet and hope I’m not too late to find some. They have such a lovely scent.

  6. Your vases, as usual, are wonderful – cheerful with a touch of summer yet in their feel. I need some carafe vases like those myself.

    Your cutting garden has been amazingly productive, Christina. I’m quite impressed. Do you read the Floret Flower Farm blog at all? It’s written by a floral farmer/floral designer based in the Pacific Northwest but she offers loads of tips on growing flowers for cutting and her arrangements are stunning.

    • Thank you Kris, you are very kind about my arrangements. I am very pleased with the cutting bed and only wish I had done it before, it was something I thought about right at the beginning of planning this garden but it was always sidelined for something else. Thanks for the recommendation, I haven’t seen that blog, I will look now.

  7. Enjoyed reading your thoughts on the cutting garden. It has been highly successful for you this year. I’ll look forward to your wall flowers–I don’t see them much around here. Lucky shopping trip to the little market and nice arrangements showing off the eye-catching vases. I like the color of that achillea. You still have quite a lot blooming.

    • The little market was good, I’ll have to go more often, I do need some small vases. But it is flowers I’m going to need in the next few months, There are quite a lot of flowers in the garden but not ones that will be good in a vase, the Achellea was an exception to this.

  8. Love those carafes as vases, Christina, and using the pair together is really effective – great to read about the relative successes of the individual contents too and of your cutting beds. I shall do a round-up of mine soon too – it has been a real learning curve, and hopefully it won’t be long before autumn sowings and overwintering and all these organised acticvities are second nature. I meant to sow some wallflowers, but am probably too late for flowers next year, but at least I have got some early sowings well under way. The potential from the cutting beds is worth the trial and error – and bouncing ideas off each other has been really helpful throughout the process.

    • Seeing what others grow in their cuttings beds or use regularly in vases has been very helpful indeed. I’ve learned so much from the cutting bed and this meme and it is such fun! thank you Cathy.

  9. Hi Christina, the wallflowers are looking great. They are one of my favourites. I recently had some success germinating annual wallflowers from seed (so many of the old fashioned favourites can be hard to get in Australia, I’m usually left to source half a dozen seeds from EBay!) so it will be interesting to see what comes of those. I really like the de-brief of what worked and what didn’t; one the hardest things I find is to actually take stock of what I have done from year to year in the garden, which is one of the reasons I find blogging is so useful – there’s always a record 🙂

    • That was one reason I started the blog although the relationships with other gardeners is now the most important reason. Flower seeds are very hard to come by in Italy too; I often buy when I’m back in the UK to visit family and friends. Most companies will also send to Italy but one never knows for sure if they will arrive. Australia is rightly very strict about plant material entering the country but I don’t know what their policy is on seeds.

  10. Your bouquets look beautiful together Christina, I love the light and airy feel to them too. And a very interesting review of your cuttings garden, I feel prompted to put some wallflowers in now. We are having another high in temperatures, 20 degrees at one point today.

  11. I love your carafe shaped vases Christina – very unusual. Your flowers are lovely – such a shame that it is nearly over this year. Still you have much earlier flowers than I do to look forward to so your lean months will be very short! I enjoyed reading your review of your cutting garden year – I am working up to a similar post. You have had such success this year – you must be really pleased with how well it went and you are already ahead with your wallflowers and sweet williams for next year. I am looking forward to seeing how it all develops!

    • It is all a very steep learning curve as there is no information about creating a cuttings garden here in Italy; it seems Italians only buy flowers from the florists to take to a hostess or the cemetery! I’ve just read things about English conditions and tried to adapt them to here. I have found your information very useful so I’ll read your review with interest.

  12. I do love your carafes! Such a wonderful shape! And a lovely mix of flowers and foliage. I was interested in your review of your cuttings garden. It’s good to assess what has and hasn’t worked and to make notes for next year. It’s how we improve – and I’ve taken a few hints from it as well! Thank you! Cosmos definitely seems to be a widespread hit.

  13. I’m glad you will be planting more Zinnias next year. They are one of my favorite annuals, though I love the orange ones best. Beautiful, loved by butterflies, and stands up well to hot, dry weather!

    • I’ve bought mixed Zinnias so I hope they’ll be some orange as well as all the other colours; when I’ve seen them all I can choose which I like best for the following year.

  14. Christina I really adore visiting with you to see what you are growing. I spotting those squash ready for harvest. And so many flowers. You have inspired me to sowing more flowers in pots as I have no area fit for a cutting garden right now…perhaps I will find a spot in my redesign. But I have great containers I can use for this purpose.

    And your vases…oh my I love the wispy feel…so delightful and airy. And I really like that large vase and now you have 2. I am on the lookout for bargain vases too, But I have so many I have not used this year…next year I hope to be even more creative in using containers and vases.

    • Pots are good for growing lots of things; lilies are possibly even better in pots so you can either plunge them into a border to add sparkle or use them to cut. The same with tulips, alliums and I grow my carrots in pots because my ground is too stony! I’m glad you liked the vases this week, it is going to get much harder to find flowers, we will have to be inventive.

  15. The shape of the vases is very appealing. I like the small opening with larger base for flower arranging, but find it difficult to get completely clean. Is there a secret?Thanks for the rundown of what worked and what didn’t. As for lessons learned, I seem to keep relearning some of them over and over.

    • As to the lessons learned, next year will really prove if I learned anything or not. You’re right about the shape of the vases, I think I’ve read you can use grains of rice to swirl around to help clean inside.

  16. Haha, you gave me a nice little laugh when you confessed to your latest vase purchases!
    You sure did learn a lot in just the first year of your cutting garden. Amazing how many different types of annuals you experimented with. Have you grown snapdragons before? I think you’ll be impressed by how well they will do in the cooler weather… mine would be nicer, but it gets just a little too cold here for them to carry through.
    I was at a nursery this weekend and saw a few potted olives with fruits. My first thought was how spindly and weak you would think they were… yet to me here in the cold north they looked like an exotic horticultural miracle!

    • New projects are good because you can always learn – from others and from experience; the cuttings garden gave me an enormous amount of pleasure and I learned about new plants and, strangely maybe, more about the climate here and how it effects how I garden. You’re right the snapdragons are flowering quite well albeit not straight and not on long stems. I will improve their position and support and hope to do better with them next year.

  17. I love your twinned vases, and their light and airy contents. My snapdragons are still flowering profusely, but they do need sowing early, and I had similar issues with collapsing dahlias. I’m hoping I will still find some to pick today, but I really like the idea of underplanting dahlias with narcissus, I will have to try that. And likewise do better at cutting back and deadheading to encourage more flowers and bushier growth.

    • I think I have always undervalued cutting back (Chelsea chop or later). This year I cut back the Gaura in August and it is looking fabulous now, so I will do it earlier next year.

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