The cuttings garden in August

We have had perhaps the hottest summer since we moved to Italy.  I spent most of July and certainly the first half of August hiding from the heat and sun.  What made this year’s temperatures particularly difficult was that the night time temperatures were not very much lower than mid-day.  So there was no relief for me or for my plants.  But through it all the cuttings bed has produced masses of flowers for me to pick and enjoy indoors.

Every Monday I have joined with Cathy at Rambling in the Garden for her popular weekly meme and every week I have had several vases to offer.  Plus there have been some flowers picked during the week; so I would say that the cuttings beds have been a huge success.

That said there are things I will do differently next year and some plants didn’t perform as well as I would have expected.

All of these were self-seeded Cosmos from last year

All of these were self-seeded Cosmos from last year

The self-seeded Cosmos have produced very strong plants but many fewer flowers so I will hope that my next year’s sowings will prove stronger than this year.

Dahlia Bishop of

Dahlia Bishop of somewhere but not as ordered!

These Echinacea never made it into a vase but their seed-heads will soon be useful when there are no fresh flowers to pick

These Echinacea never made it into a vase but their seed-heads will soon be useful when there are no fresh flowers to pick.

These Echinacea were grown from a give-away pack of seeds two years ago; they had very long drooping pink petals, which I don’t seem to have any pictures of.

Leonotis leonurus have been a little disappointing but maybe they will surprise me by flowering well later in the season

Leonotis leonurus have been a little disappointing but maybe they will surprise me by flowering well later in the season

This is Dahlia Top mix White, that doesn't sound like a proper name to me, it is also very short so not very useful for cutting, I will probably remove it.

This is Dahlia Top mix White, that doesn’t sound like a proper name to me, it is also very short so not very useful for cutting, I will probably remove it.


These are my very small Rudbeckias, I have no idea why they have done so badly

These are my very small Rudbeckias, I have no idea why they have done so badly but number one job will be to improve the soil.

I have already removed Dark Cosmos from this bed because it was dead or dying along with Ami majus which had finished flowering, the new little plants are Black Tuscany for winter.

Many of the plants are now exhausted and won’t produce many more blooms; and because I was away for so much of June there are no second sowings of anything that might have been planted out now, my one hope is some chrysanthemums that I took as cuttings last autumn, but they were only planted out a couple of weeks ago so they may not have time to perform very well this year; I will have to take more cuttings this autumn and be more diligent in finding a place for them next year.

Tithonia have been producing new flowers every week since early July

Tithonia have been producing new flowers every week since early July

This sunflower must be 9 feet tall and it lasts well in a vase

This sunflower must be 9 feet tall and it lasts well in a vase, plus it seems to have produced more flowers than any of the other sunflowers that were planted this year.

The Cosmos in this bed are really suffering from the heat, there have been a lot of flowers but they are about ready to be removed

The Shades of pink Cosmos in this bed are really suffering from the heat, there have been a lot of flowers but they are about ready to be removed

At the left hand side of the bed are last year’s Sweet William, a couple have begun flowering again, I’ll leave them to see how many flowers they produce next spring; I haven’t sown more seed this year because I was disappointed that they weren’t as perfumed as I had hoped.

The orange Cosmos have surprised me by how many flowers a plant can produce

The orange Cosmos have surprised me by how many flowers a plant can produce

I had been very bad at dead heading the flowers of these orange Cosmos but since I began to be more assiduous they have responded by producing masses more flowers so I will definitely grow them again next year.

Zinnias go from strength to strength; they lap up the heat and pump out the flowers

Zinnias go from strength to strength; they lap up the heat and pump out the flowers

I am a new convert to Zinnias

I am a new convert to Zinnias

I have learnt that Zinnias really love the heat as long as they have adequate water (which isn’t a huge amount) so will probably so the seed a little later next year when there will be more warmth in the greenhouse for the seedlings, may of this year’s young plants died before they were planted out because, I think, it was too cool and shady for them.

Julie at Peonies and Posies will be posting tomorrow with an update on her wonderful cuttings garden and others will join in too, do check them all if you are thinking about starting a cuttings garden yourself or are new to growing flowers to cut for vases.  Julie has a wonderful selection of plants and is excellent at sharing her wisdom;   In this way we can all learn from each other, one of the many reasons for blogging.  Thanks for hosting Julie.

47 thoughts on “The cuttings garden in August

  1. Zinnnias, dahlias and tithonias oh and ranunculus and cosmos (especially that orange one) are now on the list for next year and my ever-increasing cutting bed. It’s become an addiction and it’s making me very happy. Well done for getting so many vases full in that intense heat.

    • Hi Susan, I think I love the cuttings beds so much because I can have flowers in mid-summer. I don’t like to irrigate the rest of the garden; it seems wrong to use water for ornamentals in the garden when so many people don’t have water. My concentrating the plants together in the vegetable beds the amount of water is greatly reduced so I don’t feel guilty.

  2. Zinnias are wonderful plants for hot, dry weather. Unfortunately all of my taller Zinnias got eaten by rabbits. The short ones, ‘Orange Profusion’, have bloomed wonderfully but the stems are too short for cutting. Basically my only cutting flowers this year have been Cosmos and Tithonia. Your sunflower reminded me of how much I love sunflowers, but I didn’t plant any this year.

  3. I tried zinnias last year, but the snails and slugs found them irresistible. The dahlia looks like one of the Bambino series (at least that’s what they are called here), but they are more bedding/front of border plants. I’m glad the heat has finally abated for you; nights in the mid-high 20s are very hard to sleep through.

    • You’re right it’s wonderful to be able to sleep at night, it makes all the difference to my energy levels. The Dahlia is similar to the annual ones I grew last year, actually I wish I’d left them in the ground, they had huge tubers when I pulled them out so I’m sure they would have flowered even better than last year.

  4. I was about to say all my zinnias failed this year but then remembered the short bedding ones which are doing excellently. Their stems are not long enough for cutting but they do light up the garden.
    I think your non-blooming cosmos will come along in the fall. I’m not sure why but sometimes they do that, there will be a huge growing, non-blooming plant which doesn’t begin to set buds until it’s nearly the end of fall. Not a good thing for more Northern gardeners such as myself.
    Also, be patient with the leonotis as well, it’s a fall bloomer and if my summers were longer I would absolutely grow it again. As it was a couple weeks after blooming began the whole plant was blackened by frost… I loved it though and I think you will too. It’s another orange for you to work with!

    • But last year when I planted these Cosmos they flowered prolifically all summer, the strong stems and good foliage are great but I hope you’re right about some late flowers.

      • Yes, I don’t know why they do it, even after acting normally every other year. I think it might have something to do with day length, but I’m really just guessing. I’d much rather they bloomed all summer like they should!

  5. You must be relishing the drop in temperature Christina and no doubt sleeping better. You have done so well to produce so many flowers in what must have been challenging conditions to say the least. I wonder if the cosmos’s relative lack of flowers this year could have anything to do with the fact that there has not been much variation in day/night temperatures. I have vague recollections of reading something about cosmos flowers and temperature but the old grey matter is refusing to recollect the finer details.

    • Yes, it’s wonderful to be able to sleep without waking up all through the night feeling hot. The new Cosmos don’t seem to have add the same problem so perhaps its more to do with them germinating later (being in the ground rather than the greenhouse) but I will look into the daytime, night time temperature thing. It is always quite warm at night during the summer but this year was very markedly almost the same as daytime temperatures.

    • Interesting thought about the difference in day and night time temperatures, I’ll look into it; but the new plants produced very profusely at the expense of foliage perhaps that’s why they have finished so quickly. The self seeded ones germinated much later than those in the greenhouse so that has probably more to do with it. something to think about; I may have to sow some of the flower seeds later.

  6. Your efforts with the cutting garden certainly paid off, despite the hot weather. My cosmos still hasn’t bloomed but I think there’re several buds now. I am hoping it likes fall weather. Autumn is when I first ever saw cosmos. Your Leonotis leonurus is great. After you used one in your vase this week I thought I’d have to look for one and yesterday I came upon one (at the Botanical Garden we visited together for just a few minutes late in the day). Was planning to post a picture, but yours is much fresher looking. That’s a beautiful photo of the sunflower–such a blue sky too.

    • The sunflower is so tall I have to take its photograph from below which means to get to see the sky, it was a very pretty slightly pale blue yesterday it’s much deeper blue today and hotter. I saw the Leonotis for the first time when we visited the Phoenix botanic garden, I thought it was a Phlomis because the seed heads are just the same whirls up the stems.

  7. I guess the extra heat you have encourages plants to go over more quickly. Although Cosmos are originally from Mexico so they should be fine with high temperatures, possibly the high nighttime temperatures do have something to do with it. But then you have the perfect conditions for zinnias. Mine struggle in the damp, cool Welsh summers.
    I have had a similar problem with a self-seeded cosmos which didn’t produce many flowers but I think that’s because it didn’t start growing till quite late on. Pleased to see you’ve caught the cut flower bug.

    • Oh I’m completely hooked on the cut flowers. It actually makes a lot more sense here, as nothing much flowers naturally in July and August so cut flowers are the best way to enjoy some colour.

      • I’ve included lots of new varieties in the new book as it certainly seems to be a popular topic now. Hopefully they’ll provide more inspiration. Have a lovely weekend.

  8. Zinnias are on my list for next year, I have a narrow, dry, sun-drenched bed to try them out in, but will have to watch out for snails. My Leonotis hasn’t had enough sunshine and has done very little. I am amazed at how sharp the seedheads are though. We had a properly chilly night in London last night, which was refreshing to wake up to. I don’t sleep well if it’s warm at night so you have my sympathy!

        • September on Sicily should be wonderful. Where are you going? If you want any recommendations for places to see, let me know. Sicily is one of my favorite holiday destinations. Great good value food and so much to see and enjoy. Sicily unpacked is still available on iPlayer and is a good introduction to some of the art and food.

          • Yes please to any recommendations. We’re going to Taormina and Palermo, but we have a hire car booked so we can go exploring. I can’t wait as I am desperate for a proper holiday. Would particularly welcome any suggestions of gardens to visit, although expect it’s not a great time of year. We are staying right next to the Botanical Gardens in Taormina. Thanks for iPlayer suggestion, we’ll watch that tonight. Dan

  9. I’m very impressed with your cuttings garden, Christina, especially give the hotter-than-normal temperatures you’ve experienced this year. Your effort inspired me to dedicate the raised planters in my own vegetable garden to flowers this spring. Although my beds are much smaller, I’m sufficiently pleased by the sunflowers and zinnias produced this summer to try planting more flowers when we move into our cool season here. Re the Rudbeckias, I’ve had a a similar experience with runty-sized plants off and on but haven’t been able to pinpoint the cause – you think it’s soil condition?

  10. Your cutting garden is inspirational Christina. I’m definitely going to try zinnias next year, my allotment neighbour has a huge swathe of them and they look fantastic flowering en masse, although I suspect that this summer in the South east of the UK has provided ideal conditions for them and in a cooler and wetter year they wouldn’t do as well. Hope you have a cooler September and can make good progress with the re-design of your garden.

  11. I am amazed by how well your cutting garden is still doing despite the heat Christina – most of my hardy annuals went over in July after just two weeks of a heatwave! Zinnias are always the last seeds that I sow as they really do like the nighttime temperatures to be high before they will grow well. I think you would be best direct sowing them in mid to late May. I think you are right that your cosmos is late because it was self sown – if you germinate the seeds in the greenhouse next year you should have earlier flowers but the plants might go over sooner – your existing cosmos may well flower more prolifically in September. It is always hard to balance gardening and holidays isn’t it – I planted a lot of things very late this year – dahlias, gladioli, cosmos etc as I didn’t want to risk it all flowering whilst we were away. In the main my plan seems to have worked but I lost my sunflowers and the gladioli are well behind – it will be interesting to see if they flower or if I was just too late in planting them. Thank you for posting about your cutting garden again this month and for all your kind words about mine!

    • The dark shades Cosmos were germinated on the greenhouse and they are almost over. The self seeded ones were originally from some cheap Italian seed, last year they were germinated in the greenhouse and flowered for ages, into September if I remember correctly.

  12. Lots of interesting discussion about cosmos amidst your cutting bed review – the other thing with mine is lack of foliage. Yours are SO bushy in comparison! The possibility of temperature differentials having an impact is really intriguing too. It is so useful to hear how bloggers have got on with different plants, although of course growing conditions will make a big difference – I know we have had a dry and warm summer here but nothing like yours or some of the US bloggers’. It is has been such a useful learning experience this year, hasn’t it? Thanks for sharing your cutting beds in August, Christina

      • That’s so interesting, Christina, and in truth how ‘fresh’ is fresh seed? One of the sites I bought seed from recently stated how long their seed was viable for and I shall look back at my records next month and see if there was any possible correlation between success and fresh seed. I am hoping some of my annuals self seed and I am specifically saving seed of some too.

  13. No wonder you have such beautiful bouquets! I planted orange cosmos years ago when I hoped to have a wildflower garden. In general the area was a failure, but the orange cosmos was a fabulous performer. I still have an occasional seedling sprout.

  14. I have grown zinnias for the first time this year and they have made strong healthy plants. The trouble is the buds are so slow to open here. I suspect they need more sun than I can provide, specially now when rain seems to be a daily occurrence. Tithonias are just gorgeous, what lovely tall ones you grow. Cosmos is so useful as a cut flower and comes in an ever increasing choice of colours. I’ m looking forward to seeing what you grow next year.

    • Yes, zinnias are definitely sun-lovers! The buds open quickly here, there are always some to pick, I’ll grow more next year and maybe some specific colours, although I like them all. Sorry you’re having lots of rain; it’s hotted up here just when I need to plant the new area and would love it to be cool and wet!

  15. An impressive collection you have grown, really successful. If you could push a little of the sunshine to us it would be great. We are having day after day of grey wet weather. Your flowers are looking wonderful in the sunshine and I will try Zinnias next year after the comments above.

    • I find gravel works very well; I use a weed suppressant membrane under it and find that if weeds do seed into it they are very easy to remove and if the plants that have seeded are ones I want they are also easy to lift with all their roots to pot on.I think of woodchip more as mulch than for paths although I may use it in the new mini woodland I am creating.

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