The cutting garden in September

Time once again to review the successes or otherwise of the cuttings garden.

Like Cathy at Rambling in the Garden I have been very impressed with how good the cuttings beds look in their own right so I am seriously considering using the beds in the new secret garden for some of the plants for cutting, especially the perennials and Dahlias which I leave in the ground, I think it will make the area a pleasant place to sit and once the hedges have grown will protect the plants from the wind. 

I was disappointed with the various Cosmos, grown from seed (from Sarah Raven), all the plants have already been removed; it may be unfair to blame the seed, possibly the beds where they were planted weren’t rich enough but the Zinnias in the same bed are thriving, producing more and more gorgeous flowers, I am a complete convert.  I will sow them a little later next year as I did lose seedlings, due I think to low night temperatures (the greenhouse is only kept to frost free and we had a late spring this year).

Zinnias go from strength to strength

Zinnias go from strength to strength

The bamboo canes with pea netting stretched between was an excellent support for the plants although not very elegant.  I will have to make the staking less visible in the secret garden.



Self-seeded Cosmos from last year’s plants are now producing flowers but still more foliage than flowers; the stems are wonderfully thick allowing for them to be cut very long should I wish.

Self-seeded Cosmos from last year's plants have rather taken over!

Self-seeded Cosmos from last year’s plants have rather taken over!

Tithonia The rest of this bed is now being used for winter vegetables, as Cosmos and Ami have been removed

Tithonia The rest of this bed is now being used for winter vegetables, as Cosmos and Ami have been removed

Tithonia and winter vegetables

Tithonia and winter vegetables

You may be able to see how small the Rudbeckias are in this bed, I will try again but they were a complete disaster this year, but having seen how well they grow for others I feel they are worth a second chance.

Jerusalem artichokes, not part of the cuttings bed but in a dedicated bed of their own

Jerusalem artichokes, not part of the cuttings bed but in a dedicated bed of their own

Bishop Dahlia, I like the colour but it doesn't last well in a vase, I may replace them with something I like more

Bishop Dahlia, I like the colour but it doesn’t last well in a vase, I may replace them with something I like more

Annual Dahlia grown from seed last year, I should grow more of these next year Note: they don't seem to be annual at all!

Annual Dahlia grown from seed last year, I should grow more of these next year Note: they don’t seem to be annual at all!

The Asters here would be candidates for moving to the Secret garden, but the late flowering Leonotis leonurus is better here where it can have tall stakes

The Asters here would be candidates for moving to the Secret garden, but the late flowering Leonotis leonurus is better here where it can have tall stakes

Dahlia and Aster Monte Cassino

Dahlia and Aster Monte Cassino

What have I learnt from this summer?

  • That I love growing flowers to cut
  • It is important to know which plants can be started early (Ami, Antirrhinums and Larkspur).
  • Zinnias are better sown a little later as they don’t like cold nights when they are seedlings.
  • Supporting the plants well pays dividends as the plants produce much longer stems and don’t fall over onto other plants.
  • Planting in blocks than in rows works better for almost everything. It might work better for some of the vegetables too.

Julie at Peonies and Posies will be posting about her cuttings garden soon and others will be leaving their links there so do read them if you have any interest at all in growing flowers for cutting; we are all learning huge amounts from each other.

I’ll be back tomorrow with ‘In a vase on Monday’, what do you think I’ll be picking tomorrow?


32 thoughts on “The cutting garden in September

  1. The cuttings beds do look garden worthy in their own right! I’ve had mixed results from cosmos, but they seem to perk up at the end of the season (which for me is the last month of summer).
    Being without a greenhouse, one of the tricks I use to get my seedlings off to an early start (and this should work in the bright Mediterranean winter light) is to plant them directly in the soil after germinating them inside, but to do so under the cover of the little clear strawberry punnets: these act like mini cold frames and also keep the snails and slugs away. It will only work for hardier seedlings, but it might be worth a go to extend the season as they really romp away once the weather warms and you can get all sorts of flowers out-of-season

    • Good advice Matt but I fear than in my strong light, I would have to put shade covers on all the little containers! I have to be careful in the greenhouse that the plastic propagator covers are shaded otherwise the seeds cook!

    • I didn’t really think about how good it might look in its own right, if I lived in a different climate where cut flowers could be part of the borders I might still prefer to have the dedicated cuttings beds.

  2. Love, love the tithonia and the winter vegetables! I have always enjoyed mixing a few colorful flowers with the veggies. If I ever do away with one or the other, it will be the vegetables, as it is easy to get good vegetables from roadside stands. Perhaps a cutting garden in their place!

  3. Your cutting beds are a marvel, Christina, whatever your disappointments with them. Zinnias also did well in my much smaller cutting bed in the vegetable garden (especially by comparison with the prior year’s effort to grow them in garden beds) and I also plan to grow more of these next summer.

    • In our climates most plants won’t flower without water so the vegetable garden or a dedicated bed that is irrigated is essential to have flowers. I find I am satisfied with structure and form in the rest of the garden if I have some flowers to pick for the house.

  4. Do you have black fly on your Ammi, Christina, I grew Ammi majus, and pulled the whole lot out as it ended up smothered, maybe that’s not an insect you are plagued with with your hotter temperatures. I found cosmos to be a little disappointing too this year, I think it was ‘purity’ grown from SR seed, but think they just do not like a lot of rain.

    • The Cosmos didn’t suffer from too much rain here! I don’t get a lot of black fly, ants ‘farm green fly on certain plants, I usually kill the ants and then the wasps take care of the green fly! But my Ami was finished a while ago, I need to make a late autumn and a late spring sowing next year.

    • I don’t find Salvias have a very long vase life. I did think of using Salvia ‘Indigo Spires’ to the arrangement today as the deep blue would have worked well with the yellow of the Jerusalem Artichokes, larkspur would have been even better if I’d had some!

  5. You’re so good with your staking, everything looks lovely, tall and straight. I have to confess that some of my Zinnias are very wonky – part of the problem with them being down the road, I always forget to take string with me!

    • This is the first time I have ever got it right! Do try next year, it does make a huge difference to how it all grows, I had far more broad beans and peas because the staking was right this year.

  6. Oh if only the plants could talk (well, I am sure they do..) and tell us why they hadn’t done so well!! Your zinnias have been wonderful and mine an utter failure, but I will try again – nay, I WILL grow them again, successfully! 😉 It has indeed been so useful to share our experiences and I have learned such a lot from other bloggers even though we all garden in different conditions. I have found hazel twigs really useful for staking this year as they are so pliable but of course there is a limited supply in the garden although at least I know not to recycle the prunings now! Thank you so much for your review, most interesting!

    • I use bamboo because there is a ditch for allowing water to run off the fields around us on the border of our property but outside the fenced part and there is a huge stand of bamboo, just shows the different conditions as it wouldn’t grow in the garden! Hazel looks great (well becomes invisible very quickly) so I’d use that too if I had any. It seems the zinnias need lots of heat especially when they are seedlings it seems they don’t stand cold nights; I lost quite a few at that stage but I always grow too many seeds so I had enough! It is helpful sharing information and knowledge as long as we all talk about the failures as well as the successes.

      • Thanks for added feedback on the zinnias, Christina – I have checked back and mine were sown in March, so I will take that on board next year and start them later. Oh, and definitely better to admit the failures!

  7. Your Jerusalem artichokes look lovely and reminded me that the ones I planted to see if they would flower did not appear. They were from the supermarket and so perhaps treated not to shoot! Must try again. Amelia

  8. I always fail dismally with zinnias, so am envious of yours, like Cathy! I wouldn’t be surprised if it was a bad batch of cosmos seed, mine were pretty rubbish this year too, and lots of other people have had trouble, not sure how many bought from SR though. Good staking is definitely key, isn’t it, and one reason for having a dedicated area. The pea netting works really well but I don’t want it in my main borders. Look forward to seeing what you grow next year!

    • The pea netting can work in borders if you don’t go crazy and put it as high as I did this spring. If you do it early before perennial growth it is soon hidden. I first saw it at Cliveden in their herbaceous borders but ‘see’ isn’t really correct because you could only see it where one particular plant had failed to grow, the rest was completely hidden.

    • Yes, you’re right Frances. In my climate it isn’t possible to have flowers in summer unless they are irrigated madly which I refuse to do. Concentrating on a small area it is possible to give the water they require. You should try to think of a way to do something similar, except you’d be trying to create a small very protected area where you could at least enjoy gardening even when it’s cold and wet; I don’t know how you’d do that but I seem to remember there was a lovely wall that you could maybe work from?

  9. The more I read about other people’s cutting gardens the more excited I feel about my patch at the allotment. I think I may have to rein in some of my enthusiasm otherwise there will be no space left for food. Zinnias and rudbeckias are on my seed sowing list for next year. It is so good sharing information, thanks Christina.

  10. How interesting to read about peoples’ successes and failures in the cutting garden. My biggest problem with zinnias and cosmos is slugs and snails who look upon the seedlings as caviare. I love the Tithonia, definitely one to try again next year. I have my doubts about Sarah Raven, people complain about poor germination or too few seeds. I prefer Chilterns or Plant World seeds.

    • I had excellent results with SR’s giant white antirrhinums but her seed is often more expensive than others. I used to use Chiltern seeds all the time and have made a list for spring as they have things I can’t find anywhere else.

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