Gardening; An arranged marriage

In the final part of her series on creating your own cutting garden, Sarah Raven suggests some half-hardy annuals, biennials and hardy perennials that will provide scent, colour and the perfect foliage base for next year's flower arrangements

IF YOU want to be able to pick flowers from your cutting garden continually from March through to October of next year, there are various plants you need to sow alongside your annuals and spring bulbs. To make the patch complete, you need a few biennials, dahlias and foliage perennials, and some half-hardy annuals.

At this stage, your spring-flowering bulbs should be in the post and, ideally, you should be ready to sow your hardy annuals so that they'll grow through the winter and be double the size of those sown in the spring. You should wait until spring before adding half-hardy annuals and dahlias, but late summer is the time to get biennials in the ground and the next few weeks is the best time to plant hardy perennials, too.

First the biennials. Wallflowers in any colour are invaluable for bunches in the spring. They will act as fillers for your arrangements, as background to tulips and hyacinths, and they will fill a room with their incredible scent.

For later flowers, I wouldn't be without Iceland poppies (Papaver nudicaule) or sweet rocket (Hesperis matronalis) with its tall bushy flower stems in mauve or white. This plant has pretty, sweetly-scented flowers followed by lovely seed cases that look like clusters of thin, upward-pointing, bright green beans. A handful of stems provides the perfect foliage base for bunches of flowers at this time of year.

Biennials are best sown earlier in the summer, but if you sow them now under cover, prick them out and pot them on, they'll be ready to go out in the garden in about six weeks. This will be just in time to settle them in before the winter. If you have a propagator, you accelerate germination and can catch up with those sown outside earlier in the year. It's not ideal, but I'm still sowing my biennials here.

If you can't face growing them yourself, buy them. Autumn bedding plants, par- ticularly wallflowers, are widely available. Unfortunately dwarf varieties in mixed colours like Erysimum 'Persian Carpet' are the most popular. These are a bit stunted for flower-arranging, and I prefer to grow panels of a single colour. Try to find single colours, like any of the 'Bedder Group' which come in cream, primrose, orange, scarlet and deep red, or better still go for the old-fashioned, single colours like the crimson 'Blood Red', orange 'Fireking' or purple 'Vulcan'. They'll come bare-rooted in bunches of 10. Check that they haven't been hanging around. They should look fresh and perky - if they look limp or have slimy yellowing leaves, don't buy them and find out when a fresh delivery is coming in.

When you get them home, soak the roots for 24 hours in water and then plant them, spaced from 12 to 18 inches apart.

Perennial euphorbias are the best large-scale foliage plants you can grow for flower arranging. They have substantial woody stems with brilliant acid-green plateaux of flowers, ideal as a starting point for any large arrangement.

There are three in particular that excel. For spring-picking, go for E palustris. It has bushy stems about a metre high. You'll only need between three and five for a whopping great arrangement. In May this is joined by the orange-flowered variety, E griffithii. This has flowers the colour of Heinz tomato soup and looks superb with crimson-black Parrot tulips and the black cornflower Centaurea cyanus 'Black Ball'. E schillingii is the one for summer and early autumn. It replaces E palustris with bushy spikes of brilliant acid-green. If you don't want to use up valuable space in your cutting patch, plant them in groups of three somewhere in your general flower beds. Wear gloves to pick euphorbias: their sap can cause an eczema-like rash.

Try to get all these plants in the ground in late summer or early autumn, but don't forget the half-hardy annuals and dahlias which should be sown or ordered next spring. Without a dazzling display of dahlias and pompom-headed zinnias, and without tobacco plants like the lime-green Nicotiana alata, or the deep crimson, velvety flowers of Antirrhinum 'Liberty Crimson', no cutting garden could be complete.

Sarah Raven has a seed catalogue specialising in flowers for cutting. She also runs flower-arranging courses. Telephone 01424 838181 for details.

Arts and Entertainment
Innocent victim: Oli, a 13-year-old from Cornwall, featured in ‘Kids in Crisis?’
TV review
News
Northern exposure: social housing in Edinburgh, where Hassiba now works in a takeaway
books An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop
Arts and Entertainment
Terminator Genisys: Arnie remains doggedly true to his word as the man who said 'I'll be back', returning once more to protect Sarah Connor in a new instalment

 

film review
Arts and Entertainment
Relocation, relocation: Zawe Ashton travels the pathway to Northampton
Arts and Entertainment
BBC Three was launched a little over five years ago with the slogan: “Three, is a magic number, yes it is.”

BBC Trust agrees to axe channel from TV in favour of digital move

TV
Arts and Entertainment

festivals
Arts and Entertainment

Final Top Gear review

TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty and Carl Barat perform at Glastonbury 2015

music
Arts and Entertainment
Lionel Richie performs live on the Pyramid stage during the third day of Glastonbury Festival

music
Arts and Entertainment
Buying a stairway to Hubbard: the Scientology centre in Los Angeles
film review Chilling inside views on a secretive church
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Williamson, left, and Andrew Fearn of Sleaford Mods
musicYou are nobody in public life until you have been soundly insulted by Sleaford Mods
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dew (Jess) in Bend It Like Beckham The Musical
theatreReview: Bend It Like Beckham hits back of the net on opening night
Arts and Entertainment
The young sea-faring Charles Darwin – seen here in an 1809 portrait – is to be portrayed as an Indiana Jones-style adventurer
film
Arts and Entertainment
The audience aimed thousands of Apple’s product units at Taylor Swift throughout the show
musicReview: On stage her manner is natural, her command of space masterful
Arts and Entertainment
Channel 4 is reviving its Chris Evans-hosted Nineties hit TFI Friday

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Harrison Ford plays Indiana Jones in The Last Crusade (1989)

film
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
A Glastonbury reveller hides under an umbrella at the festival last year

Glastonbury
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Miles Morales is to replace Peter Parker as the new Spider-Man

comics
Arts and Entertainment
The sequel to 1993's Jurassic Park, Jurassic World, has stormed into the global record books to score the highest worldwide opening weekend in history.

film
Arts and Entertainment
Odi (Will Tudor)
tvReview: Humans, episode 2
Arts and Entertainment
Can't cope with a Port-A-loo? We've got the solution for you

FestivalsFive ways to avoid the portable toilets

Arts and Entertainment
Some zookeepers have been braver than others in the #jurassiczoo trend

Jurassic WorldThe results are completely brilliant

Arts and Entertainment
An original Miffy illustration
art
Arts and Entertainment
Man of mystery: Ian McKellen as an ageing Sherlock Holmes
film review
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

    'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

    If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
    The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

    The science of swearing

    What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

    Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
    Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

    Africa on the menu

    Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
    Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

    Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

    The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
    10 best statement lightbulbs

    10 best statement lightbulbs

    Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
    Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

    Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

    Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
    Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

    Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

    It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
    Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

    Dustin Brown

    Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
    Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

    Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

    Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test
    Tour de France 2015: Twins Simon and Adam Yates have a mountain to climb during Tour of duty

    Twins have a mountain to climb during Tour of duty

    Yates brothers will target the steepest sections in bid to win a stage in France
    John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

    Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

    'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
    Forget little green men - aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert

    Forget little green men

    Leading evolutionary biologist says aliens will look like humans
    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop

    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

    An Algerian scientist struggles to adjust to her new life working in a Scottish kebab shop
    Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

    Dying dream of Doctor Death

    Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy