The Cutting Garden began its life as rather an afterthought. The loader had scraped away soil to level the surface for the potager, using it to fill the low northeast corner so the Lady Cottage could sit level. This left a big gash, and I’d first planned to build a stone retaining wall, but after considering cost, I asked the skid operator to just make a nice, gentle slope instead. The result was a scraped slope where nothing at all, not even weeds grew the first year. Basically I just ignored the area, concentrated as I was on getting the potager established.
The next year, some surplus annual zinnias and gomphrena were relegated to the area, where they struggled to stay alive. That autumn, I began considering the area for a Cutting Garden. I’ve always been reluctant to cut flowers from my borders and gardens, except for the occasional broken or bent stem, or in the case of “May Queen” shastas there is such an abundance that a few blooms cut would not be noticed. This area is as far from the house as I garden (except for the berry rows) and behind the potager’s fence, so if flowers are cut it wouldn’t matter.
The next spring, as I cleaned up the gardens around the house, extra clumps of “May Queen” shasta, black-eyed susans, gloriosa daisies, and a couple of daylilies that needed to be moved went into the area. A thick layer of newspaper was put down and mulch added on top. I put in a few annuals leftover from planting the other areas, and called it a Cutting Garden.
The result wasn’t bad, but if you remove the yellow daylilies, there’s not really much left to cut for a bouquet except a few black-eyed susans, a handful of orange zinnias, and a few stems of blue salvia. But, it did prove to me that the area had more promise than I’d thought. At season’s end after clean-up, another thick layer of newspaper and another layer of mulch was added. The earthworms were doing their job to improve the soil. As seed orders were made for 2019, a bit more consideration was actually given to the Cutting Garden’s make-up, rather than just settling for the leftovers. There needed to be flowers available earlier in the season, and more variety
The garden was indeed fuller last year, and adding the feverfew made a big difference in having earlier bouquets, and gave me some white to work with after the “May Queen” shastas were finished. Sunflowers were added, and larkspur seeds were sprinkled. A “Copperhead” amaranth was grown just for the Cutting Garden, but it wilted as soon as it was cut, so I didn’t find it a good candidate for bouquets. Now that I have “confined” time I should research it. Maybe there is a technique required, like heating stem ends, that makes them work. “Matsumota Apricot” aster was also grown just for the CG, but was disappointing. It will get another try this year, because there are lots of seeds left, and I think it needed a bit of fertilizer and more water than it got early on. Here is the garden a month later.
Again last fall, another layer of newspaper and mulch was added and while the earthworms worked, more thought was given to additions for the Cutting Garden in 2020. Perennials were the first consideration, because as I get older the number of annuals needs to be reduced. First on the list was another tall shasta daisy, but one that would bloom later in the summer. “Exhibition” was chosen, a 36″ tall semi-double with strong stems that blooms over a long season. I love daisies, and like the feverfew, white goes with everything. Yarrow “Coronation Gold” is another old favorite, with its domed golden yellow heads that look just as good dried for winter bouquets as it does fresh, and it can take poor soil, so it can go in the newly added north end. “Adobe Orange” coneflower is a bit shorter, only 18-20″ but that is long enough for cutting. These were mostly ordered for the Front Garden, but a few will go into the Cutting Garden as well. “Flamenco” kniphofia, grown for its flame-like spears to provide a vertical element can also take poor soil, and while it doesn’t bloom over a long period, it is striking when it does. I’m also adding some perennial sages “Dark Dancer” and “Adora Blue.” I love the “Blue Bedder” salvia, but it doesn’t always make it through our winter.
During the beautiful days last week (it’s going to be COLD and ugly this week!) the Cutting Garden got a good cleaning and a tidy top edging. The established perennials are making a good come-back. A few daffodils that were moved in when dug up as dahlias were planted last May in other gardens are providing a few spring blooms. I may add more, but since there are hundreds in other gardens and just picking those that get bent stems in our winds provides all the bouquets needed, maybe not. I’d love to add lots of tulips for cutting, but this is an area near the main deer thoroughfare, and they wouldn’t stand a chance. Tulips are basically deer candy.
As you can see, nearly another foot was added at the top, and a 6′ section at the north (far) end was added to solve a mowing issue. So, the Cutting Garden is now about 75′ x 6′. Happily, there are lots of baby larkspur (“Miss Jekyll White”) seedlings emerging, some of the “Blue Bedder” salvias are returning, and the feverfew has expanded. The only new annuals to be added this year are two celosias, “New Orange” cristata and “Sunday Series Orange” plumosa. But since the soil is improving, and there is ample compost in the bin the usual annuals (zinnias, cosmos, sunflowers, gomphrena, etc.) will be planted a little closer. For a full list of this year’s Cutting Garden crops, click on the banner below the header on my home page.
I’m excited to see how it all works out and to be able to compare a photo of this summer to prior years. More and more people are growing food at this time, and I totally understand that. I’m growing more food, too, but this year I feel a deep need to grow more flowers to feed my soul as well.