The Orange Tip

Category: the picking beds

Integrated Growing


After last year’s let down in the cutting garden I have vowed to give it my all during the coming spring and early summer. The failures, of which were many, I put down to a handful of combined problems. We had a warm spring and dim, wet summer; great for the bulbs, but less than ideal for seed grown annuals. I made mistakes also with the preliminary growing stages; not enough room to harden off young seedlings and therefore taking too long to move them from greenhouse (where they put on fast, tall and leggy growth) to ground. My watering regimes were also too sporadic and often too frequent; leading to rotting tubers and damping off of seedlings.

So, this year I am taking the following measures: 1. Careful and detailed approach to watering – making sure not to water when unnecessary. 2. Moving seedlings quickly on through the new cold frames and out into the beds, starting each day with an hour or so in the greenhouse/propagation area. And most importantly, 3. Getting started early. This means making the most of the warm spring rather than depending on a hot and bright summer.

Therefore, for the first time in my three years with the cutting garden, I am sowing annuals into the spaces between the bulbs before they have even begun flowering. In both years past I have waited to get the bulbs out prior to planting in the annual flowers. The flowers were started in the greenhouse and ready to go in by this point (usually around late May to mid June), but they were limited in number according to how many I had been able to store or pot on. They were also at the mercy of a hot greenhouse. This time I have been moving the plants on quickly through the greenhouse, hardening them off in the cold frames and then getting them into the gaps between the bulbs. It has meant paying more attention to the plants in all stages; watching for the signs and adjusting the temperatures in the growing spaces accordingly, but the results should (hopefully) be worth the effort.

I have also begun direct-sowing some of the seeds. So far these have included: Ammi majus, Papaver somniferum, Calendula ‘Indian Prince’, Californian poppy, Nigella, quaking grass (Briza maxima) and cornflowers. I have planted out a first row of Ammi majus seedlings, as well as Cosmos and white Larkspur. Next will be the Cleome followed by Zinnias and Dahlias.






Although invariably a favourite of every other gardener, Cerinthe has only more recently become a plant I enjoy growing. It takes quite a while to get going and only really fills it’s allotted space by early Autumn, but once it has, the long drooping stems pay back their return in abundance – and make an ideal filler in a cut flower mix. I saved a handful of the last stems before composting the now enormous bulk of Medusa-like clumps. The foliage is very similar to that of the Sedums, the small flowers like comfrey or Pulmonaria.


Reached that time of year again when, irrespective of the weather, I’m doing nothing but planting bulbs. Our annual order arrived last week, containing over 1,000 tulips and around 4,ooo daffodils, as well as a fair handful of others including Muscari, Alliums, Snowdrops, Iris’ and early flowering gladioli. I’ve had a helping hand for a few days with getting the daffs in earlier than the others, most of which are now planted, thankfully. So from now until December I’ll be pushing on with the tulips – getting them lined out in the picking beds and spreading them round the main borders and pots.

Last year’s rough planting plan for bulbs in the picking beds

Summer Escaping


Morning Thistles

Blue and Yellow

One of the rows in the cutting beds that I’ve been anxious to see flower this Summer comprises two perennials I grew and placed last year. Both the globe thistle (Echinops ritro ssp. ruthenicus) and fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) were sown from seed last Spring, and grown on into 3 litre pots before planting into a row before Winter for cutting this year.

I have, like many gardeners, always been drawn to yellow and blue planting combinations, but hadn’t seen these two particular plants together before. They make an unusual choice as cutting-bed plants however, even though both flowers last well in a vase. So my intention was to have a go and put them in, and if they didn’t work they’d make a welcome addition to the long border in the following year.

Now that the two plants are out in flower together I’m actually very pleased. I think the colours are fantastic; both off-brilliance and of similar height, size and hue. My only regret is perhaps planting so many of the echinops! But they’re all destined for the long border now anyway, so nothing lost, and the bees love them. In fact its a good way of temporary growing for border stock in general; doing a thick row of a particular perennial in the cutting beds one year, bulking them up while removing top flowering growth, and then moving them all out into the borders for the next.

Another good, strong and reliable yellow also loved by bees is this form of Buddleja globosa, which I grew from a cutting a couple of years ago. It’s already enormous.