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Thursday, September 24, 2020
Sunday, September 13, 2020
Before the 110 degree heat, before the choking smoke, before the fires that are devouring people's lives, I had a cutting garden full of lovely things.
Okay, some were not so lovely any more. But they were loved. And it's a cutting garden. so it doesn't have to look good. At least not all the time. And yes those are onions and yes I cut them.
I would go down in the mornings with a cup of tea and a big basket, and cut until the basket was overflowing. I'm sure when I clean up the garden in late fall I'll find a forgotten teacup or six. Gardening is filled with happy surprises.
Some David Austin roses, hopeless as cut flowers but so graceful and fragrant. A long sprig of duck foot ivy. An intensely blue bush clematis. The raw material.
Hot pink hollyhocks have reseeded everywhere. For the first few years I harvested seed and coaxed it along. Now? I throw the spent stalks where I want hollyhocks and dig out the extras.
This year I got a whole crop of weird looking pointy purple and green tomatoes I didn't plant. And a huge crop of potatoes in the flower bed above the pool, growing happily under that hot pink holly hock. Surprisingly pretty foliage, and not bad as a cut flower. Weird fact: the flowers tell you what color the potatoes are. White flowers for white, pink for red and lavender for blue.
Next year: Daisies invading the dahlias? Masses of sweet peas? I can dream. Sweet peas are not especially happy with me, and the birds love to pull them up, but I did have one pale pink sweet pea volunteer in the gravel and flower away. It set seed. I am hoping for great things.
There will be sheets of low blue forget-me-nots in spring, and hellebores volunteering between the stone steps. I'm tossing out handfuls of nigella and poppy seeds and hoping they will be happy.
I know I'm lucky my garden is only smoky, so many have lost everything. I'm hoping some day the fires will stop. And I am grateful for all the things that grow.
Saturday, August 29, 2020
Before the pandemic, before the lockdown, inspired by my friend Jane and her fabulous cutting garden in East Hampton, I planted a modest cutting garden. At the very bottom of our garden, where there used to be a lawn. With inadequate drip irrigation...there was a lot of cursing and hand watering at first.
Some things from seed, most from 4 inch pots.
Some left over from last year (the Thomas Edison dahlias), some gifted by friends.
Tall blue salvia uliginosa, light and airy Nepeta six hills giant, a stiff mystery plant from Portugal with hairy lavender flowers, beginning to go to seed.
So what have I learned?
First, the descriptions on the plants in the nursery (fabulous cut flower! Trouble free! Blooms all summer!) are often written by someone who either has never grown a thing, doesn't own a pair of shears, has never had a flower arrangement last for more than one day, or is on drugs. Or is paid to exaggerate.
Those plants that emphatically do not make good cut flowers? Dug up and given away. So the second lesson? Be ruthless.
Next: If you're growing it from seed it will likely set seed and expire - here, as the summer heats up. In your garden, perhaps as fall approaches. But in the heat of our long summers so many beautiful things - huge blue scabiosa from Annie's Annuals, fragrant sweet peas in rich burgundy, mallows and hollyhocks - all gone to seed. And yes, I was diligent about dead heading. It's been over a hundred here for more than a week. If I could go to seed I would...
Shasta daisies are on hiatus. Cosmos have mildewed and quit. Coreopsis soldiers on, but I am not in the mood for school bus yellow flowers. Not in the heat; not after months of them.
Roses are still going but they do not last nearly as long in a vase as the dahlias.
Salvias shed. Inside, it looks like an invasion of blue bugs under the arrangement. I sweep the spent flowers into the sink a few times a day, and keep food out of their range. Blue flowers and breadcrumbs? No.
I've learned a lot about cutting and conditioning too.
Leaves get stripped, especially those below the water line. Stems re-cut and quickly dipped in Quick Dip, a flower conditioner, then into warm water and placed in a cool dark spot for conditioning. The laundry room if the dryer isn't going. The guest closet. A dark bathroom. The wine cellar if my husband isn't looking.
What do you grow for cutting? What's blooming in your garden? What makes you happy?