British Flowers

British Flowers Week

It is British Flowers Week in the UK. An event runs from 19th-25th June 2017 and is all about celebrating British Flowers and our cut flower industry. It is also an excuse to feature some of our most gorgeous flowers for cutting on the blog.

The Cut Flower Garden or Pickery at Easton Walled Gardens
The Cut Flower Garden or Pickery at Easton Walled Gardens

Here are seven favourites from the hundreds of cut flowers we grow in our Pickery every year. Do you agree? Let us know via our facebook page, twitter or instagram where we post as @ewgardens If you would like more information on any of the flowers shown tweet us and we will do all we can to help.

Our Top 7 UK flowers for cutting:

  1. From the hardy Perennials:

Astrantia

Astrantia in the Cottage Garden at Easton Walled Gardens
Astrantia in the Cottage Garden at Easton Walled Gardens

The ‘star’ flower and the only hardy perennial on this list. Flowers in May and early June and again later if you cut it back hard. The flowers can be used for arrangements immediately or dried for winter use.

Other perennials that will give you great results for the cutting garden include Geum ‘Mrs Bradshaw” (keep cutting and it will flower almost continuously through the summer) , Coreopsis grandiflora and the perennial rudbeckias.

2. From the mass of daffodils you can choose we have picked:

Narcissus ‘Sir Winston Churchill’

Narcissus 'Sir Winston Churhchill' flourishes in short grass
Narcissus ‘Sir Winston Churchill’ flourishes in short grass

A multi-headed, easy to grow daffodil flowering in mid April. I have chosen this variety because of its beautiful cream double flowers flecked with smaller petals the colours of a peach melba. But what really makes this daffodil exceptional is its sweet scent. There is nothing cloying about the scent – it is very clean. Hard to believe a daffodil can smell this good!

Narcissus 'Sir Winston Churchill' in the courtyard
Narcissus ‘Sir Winston Churchill’ in the courtyard

3. Sweet Peas

Lathyrus odoratus

EWG 1.7.14.-40 Sweet Pea heaven at Easton Walled Gardens

The queen of the cut flower garden. It was too hard to chose a favourite from the 100 varieties we grow every year so here is a general guide: If you want really strong scent chose a grandiflora such as ‘America’, if you want really big flowers chose a modern variety such as ‘Gwendoline.’ If you want lots of garden flowers and all the scent, choose a semi-grandiflora such as ‘Albutt Blue’, ‘Watermelon’ or ‘Kingfisher.’

100 varieties of sweet peas are grown in our Pickery every year.
100 varieties of sweet peas are grown in our Pickery every year.

For more information on sweet peas click any of the links below:

Our six favourite sweet peas

Visiting our sweet peas

Growing your own sweet pea tips

Autumn sown sweet peas

4. Clary Sage

Salvia horminum

Salvia horminum or Clary Sage in the pickery at Easton Walled Gardens
Salvia horminum or Clary Sage in the pickery at Easton Walled Gardens

Overlooked by big commercial growers but exceptionally good for growing on an allotment or smallholding, this sage is a great favourite with visitors once it starts to flower in June. The colour comes from adapted leaves or bracts; the flowers themselves are tiny. Use the white form for delicate posies of white and green. I think the pink forms are harder to use but the blue adds zest to any arrangement. Once it starts to flop, cut hard back and it will spring back for another round of late colour.

Blue Clary Sage is great with sweet peas and cornflowers
Blue Clary Sage is great with sweet peas and cornflowers

5. Sunflowers

Sunflower ‘Earthwalker’

Sunflower 'Earthwalker' with fennel
Sunflower ‘Earthwalker’ with fennel

A branching, tawny sunflower that throws many superb flowerheads perfect for cutting on a grand scale. If you just love them for the garden this is an excellent variety for the back of a border and the goldfinches will love the seed heads.

Late summer in the Pickery at Easton Walled Gardens
Late summer in the Pickery at Easton Walled Gardens

6. Zinnia

Large headed rather than bedding zinnias are best for cutting. They come in mixes such as Early Wonder, Giant Scabious mix and the individual colours can be found in the Benary series.

Red Zinnia at Easton Walled Gardens

Zinnias last for ages in water and can be used to bring an exotic flavour to your arrangements. We sow in May and harvest from mid august until the first hard frosts. Increasingly we use these strong flowers to combine with soft grasses.

Pennisetum bedded with Zinnias has created a fascinating combination that visitors love.
Pennisetum bedded out with Zinnias has created a fascinating combination that visitors love.

7. Dahlias

Dahlia ‘Honka Red’

Dahlias 'Tutu' and 'Honka Red'
Dahlias ‘Tutu’ and ‘Honka Red’

This is a fabulous, long flowering dahlia for striking arrangements. The tubers last well over winter when lifted and provide a continuous flow of flowers from August to October. The red is particularly good with the yellows and orange hues of autumn.

Dahlias in the Pickery
Dahlias in the Pickery

Green Manure

How to sow green manure

We have found that sowing a green manure between crops of cut flowers or vegetables makes for a much better harvest the following year.

Here’s our simple guide to sowing green manure in autumn for digging in the following spring.

You will need:

  1. A clear bed dug to a fine tilth. (Not as hard as you think if you have just removed this year’s crop.)easton-walled-gardens-img_2421
  2. An enthusiastic pair of hands. (In this case, Harry.)easton-walled-gardens-img_2422
  3. Seeds. (Here we are using hungarian forage rye. Being from a different plant family, it won’t harbour diseases that might affect next year’s sweet peas. Mustard is another good choice.)easton-walled-gardens-img_2425
  4. Some old CDs, short bamboo canes and string.easton-walled-gardens-img_2428

Method:

Scatter the seeds across the bed on a day when there has been some rain in the night but the temperatures are still mild.

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The image below shows roughly the rate at which we sow.

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Lightly rake over the bed so that the seeds are covered.

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Attach the string to the top of each bamboo cane and hang the CDs on the bottom. You should end up with a ‘fishing rod’ shape with a CD attached to the end. The CDs will spin in the wind.

Place these at regular intervals to deter birds.

Other enemies:

Mice and voles can take your whole crop but our TOP TIP is to fill a small tin with corn and place it nearby. The mice will happily eat more of this and less of your crop.

After about 10 days it should look like this!

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Allow it to grow all winter and dig and chop the crop into the soil next spring. (About 2 weeks before planting out your summer flowers or vegetables.)

Why it works:

Green manure works on our free draining soil because it locks up the nutrients in the rye leaves throughout the winter.  When we dig in the green plants, we keep the nutrients near the surface.

If we leave the ground bare, winter rain causes the nutrients to leach out into the subsoil where they become inaccessible to crops with shallow root systems.

By next summer, this bed will be filled with our grandiflora sweet peas. With all this extra food available to them they will look fantastic!

 

 

 

 

September Colour

Colour in the garden in September

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Autumn doesn’t just have to be about autumn leaves, it is possible to continue to use flowers as a foil to the spent foliage around them. A lot will depend on when the first frosts hit your area (here, as early as 31 August or as late as October) but in sheltered areas of the garden, the mild days of September create the perfect environment for late perennials and tender annuals to flourish.

To show you what I mean here are some pictures of the gardens in September that might offer inspiration for your garden.

First up, what happens if you don’t plant for late colour. Here are the terraces. All the colour is drained from them and it is just the picturesque seed heads that remain. This is what happens to our native plants if they are not cut down and nothing is added. We will make hay once the final seeds are ripe.

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The seed heads of wild carrot are particularly interesting and make the perfect shape for spiders to hang their webs off on a dewy morning.

Adding colour

The light is great now so adding some colour makes all this decay a lot more interesting.

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In the long borders, asters and rudbeckias are particularly useful. This is the perennial Rudbeckia fulgida with Agastache ‘Black Adder’ in the foreground. The purple spires are putting out their final flowers of the season and are given a lift by the yellow daisies behind.

Dahlias are excellent too for late summer colour. We use yellow ‘California Sunset’ in the long borders (see them giving the borders a lift in the photo above) but anything we like in the Pickery. Here is a new colour scheme which is giving us great satisfaction.

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This is Dahlia ‘Preference’ with Pennisetum orientale ‘Karley Rose’. On the other side of the path is an exquisite arrangement of Dahlia ‘Wizard of Oz’ with a Chrysanthemum called ‘Pink Danielle.’

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It took me a while to be convinced of the value of grasses in an English garden but there are certain varieties that don’t make you feel like you have stumbled into a prairie and these tend to blend beautifully with big late flowers.

Cut Flowers

The cut flower beds in the pickery are still bursting with colour. They provide interest and lots of flowers for the tea room, history room and coach house. Here we consider the overall effect as well as their usefulness in flower arrangements.

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This sunflower is ‘Earthwalker’ which is a branching annual with lots of classic sunflower shaped heads, unusual chestnut and gold petals and dark chocolate seed heads – these will be very popular with the goldfinches next month. The white phlox is late this year, it decides for itself whether to flower in high summer or autumn.

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A similar colour scheme is achieved by bedding out pockets of annuals in the cottage garden. This is a white Ageratum with the humble double marigold. In the background, Dahlia ‘Red Honka’ shines against the light. See how it lifts the papery seed heads of the long-spent honesty. Although these are in the cottage garden, everything you see in flower here is excellent in a vase.

Another faithfully good annual and cut flower for this time of year is Cleome. The light creates translucent petals in pinks, mauves or whites and the intriguing seed heads add interest later on.

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Repeat flowering

The roses throughout the gardens are reinvigorated after deadheading and some of them like Rosa ‘Grace’, ‘Lady of Shalott’ ‘Graham Thomas’ and ‘The Mayflower’ are in flower again.

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The roses aren’t alone, some clematis are still flowering. Our success with clematis is variable but one or two are now becoming reliable additions to our garden. Here is Clematis jackmanii in one of four pots on the cherry plat.

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Containers

The pots around the pickery, cottage garden and tearoom are at their peak. Plectranthus of various types and coleus make huge vases of silver and deep red matt leaves. The solidity of the pots is lightened by red and white stars of flowers (Zinnia ‘Red Spider’ and Gaura lindheimerii respectively) and by Petunia exserta whose orange-red flowers peak out from below the foliage.

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If you would like to take a virtual tour of the gardens in September, click here.