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And ‘sow’ it begins

Full blog post with allotment update coming soon!

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Sunny sowings

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My top ten annuals for cut flowers

So here are my top ten annuals that I plan to grow on the allotment and for cut flowers in the garden.  These flowers are hopefully going to be the backbone of the cut flower beds and I have chosen them on their suitability to be cut and placed together in a vase but also simply on my love for these flowers. So here they are. I would love to hear what other annual flowers people couldn’t do without in their garden.

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GREATER QUAKING GRASS

This is such a beautiful grass and it’s currently growing nicely in my little plastic greenhouse. I think it will look so pretty with arrangements either on mass or in smaller posies with cornflowers, nigella and scabious seed pods. As I really want this in the garden this year, I have planted it from seed in a couple of pots but I have also saved some seed into the ground in late April.

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Greater Quaking Grass

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HELIANTHUS (SUNFLOWER HA)

I have chosen a few different sunflower seeds to grow but the one I’m most looking forward to seeing is ‘Vanillia Ice’.  A prolific flowerer with creamy white petals it’s smaller than the jolly big sunflowers. I have just sown these seeds in old egg carton box’s. The plan is to start them in the cold frame and then plant them straight into the ground once they reach a decent size (i’m hoping the egg carton will then decompose once in the ground!?).

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Sunflower ‘Vanillia Ice’

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CALENDULA (HHA)

I had no idea that the marigold was such a diverse little number. I have been using calendula oil for skincare for years but have a new appreciation for this vibrant chap having seen the wonderful variations in which it comes. Excellent as a cut flower and great for bees and butterfly’s, I’m trying out a few different varieties for the allotment and garden my faveourite being ‘Needles and Pins’ a bright frilly marigold that will add some eccentric colour into the garden.

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Calendula Officinalis (English Marigold)

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LARKSPUR (HA)

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Consolida ‘Dark Blue’ (Larkspur)

These are annual delphiniums and apparently have slightly more staying power than there perennial pals both in the garden and in a vase. I’m growing them from seed and have a dark blue and purple mix that will hopefully stand out when grown amongst roses and mixed in with ammi.

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NIGELLA (HA)

One of my faveourite cottage garden flowers. This boho beauty looks like an actual gem in the garden. I have a soft spot for flowers that have a rustic charm, that are slightly unruly and a bit messy. I’m sowing ‘Moody blues’ and ‘Persian Jewels’ which I know will add lots of pretty colour to the cut flower patch.

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Nigella ‘Persian Jewels’

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AMMI (HA)

I am sowing both Ammi Majus and Ammi Visnaga. Majus is a fan of lacy, white flowers and is a slightly more delicate than Visnaga which is like the beefy big brother with a major soft side . They both have dashing good looks and will look so pretty with every single flower on this list!

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Ammi Visnaga
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Ammi Majus

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CORNFLOWER (HA)

Bright bee and butterfly beacons that are so pretty and give that English cottage garden charm to the flowerbed. I’m going to grow them with my poppies and cosmos and also on the allotment where they will have there own dedicated patch.

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Cornflower ‘Blue Boy’

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SWEETPEA (HA)

Who doesn’t love Sweetpeas? Rediculously pretty and with a delicious scent there are so many different ones to choose for both the allotment and garden. I have gone for a colourful mix of long flowering bad boys that I know will look beautiful in and out of the garden. I’m hoping if I take good care of them they will reward me and flower throughout the summer. I’m growing them from seed for the first time and am hoping for better success than previous years where I have gone for buying seedlings.

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Sweetpea ‘Blue Lagoon’

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ZINNIA (HHA)

The show stopper of my annual collection. These guys will add some serious impact to the cut flower beds and like the dahlias will add some amazing colour and variety to my garden. Like a few on this list I have never grown them before so it will be interesting to see how I get on. As half hardy annuals I plan to grow them undercover until they are strong enough to handle the elements. I’ve just finished sowing them into propagators so I really am learning as I go now.

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Zinnia elegans Queen Lime

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COSMOS (HHA)

Cosmos has to be number one. My mum grew it for my wedding so we could make some of the flower arrangements ourselves  . It looked so pretty and was incredibly reliable both for growing until late August and for how well it handled being thrown into a vase and transported to and from our wedding venue. I know it will be an invaluable addition to my cut flower beds and I plan to grow as much of it as possible. As well as pretty Cosmos Bippinatus ‘Purity’ and ‘Antiquity’ I’m trying out ‘Double Click Rose Bon Bon’ pictured below as I couldn’t resist going for a slightly more flamboyant variation of this lovely flower.

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Cosmos Double Click ‘Rose Bon Bon’

This post includes both hardy (HA)  and half hardy annuals (HHA). I have now sown all of my half hardy annuals, they are all undercover and will be planted out once they have been hardened off and the chance of frost is minimal. I have been very good and held off sowing my hardy annuals as I want them to be as low maintence as possible.  The plan is to sow them directly into the ground or in bio pots which I can plant out in the ground once the seedlings have developed in a protected place. By delaying sowing my hardy annuals I can focus on my half hardy lot. There is going to be A LOT of pricking out and potting on! I also know that if I want the hardy annuals to stand a good chance in my beds I need to wait until it has warmed up a bit.

For more information on when to sow seeds and for some great growing guides I thought Ben’s page of the Higgledygarden.com were fab!

http://higgledygarden.com/how-to-guides/

All images and links can be found on my Bloom and Branch Pinterest.
Floral number photographs copyright Branch and Bloom
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Lift off!

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A night of flower fun

IMG_2111So its all very well making all these plans to grow  cut flowers but then what do I do with them? I’m really enjoying teaching myself  more and more about different flowers and how to grow and condition them for life in a vase but when it comes to floristry I really want to get some ‘hands on advice’. So last night was the first of my ventures into working with flowers. Last night’s workshop took place at the Bouquet florist in Cheddar and was led by mother and daughter team Carol and Claire. It was such a lovely evening, creating spring flower creations. There was even wine, nibbles and cupcakes (my kind of workshop!) and the best thing was taking home our flowers that are now sitting proudly in my living room!

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IMG_2328After talking us through the different flowers and our objectives for the evening we were able to make a spring inspired wreath and hand tied bouquet to be placed in a vase. This was particularly good to learn how to do. I had always wanted to know the best way to put a bouquet together and it was great to see how to place the flowers and the technique used to get that lovely twist of the stems in the vase.

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On offer to play with were anenomes, ranunculus,tulips,iris,narcissus, freesias, wax flowers, ‘Ox-Eye’ daisies and hyacinths.

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IMG_2338I loved making the wreath as we could choose from a gorgeous selection of different foliage and flowers and be as creative as we liked. I went for a bit of height with my design using salix and broom and kept to a yellow and green theme with the narcissus, yellow roses and ‘Billy Ball’pom pom flowers.IMG_2339

What a lovely thing to do on a Wednesday night and such a nice introduction to creating floral displays.

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Plant list: shrubs and perennials for cut flowers and foliage

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Writing and re-writing plant lists, researching different varieties, reading books and looking online for inspiration has been a wonderful excuse to learn more about gardening and the way I would like to shape and design our garden. For sometime I have known which cut flowers I want to grow at home and on the allotment and therefore I wanted to plan the rest of the garden to compliment my cut-flower ambitions. The plants in the garden need to seriously multitask. I need plants with good coverage, be relatively fast growing (considering I’m starting my beds from scratch) have good foliage and be useful for my cut flower arrangements. I would also prefer plants that helped out native wildlife. So good pollinators are on the winning list. However …. as much as I try to stick to my carefully thought out shopping lists I do tend to get a bit carried away when I see some pretty looking flower seeds or an interesting looking shrub or perennial.

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What will you be trying out in your garden this year? Here is a look at some of the plants that I will be stocking my garden with.

Shrubs

Hydrangea Limelight, Confetti and Macro Zorro (Rosa)

When I used to think of hydrangeas I used to think of big vibrant blue and pink balls. I had no idea that there are so many interesting varieties out there. I ha e chosen these three for the garden. I love the lime green colour of ‘Limelight’ and think it will look stunning with pink roses. ‘Confetti’ and ‘Macro Zorro’ are two lace cap Hydrangeas completely different in style. Whilst ‘Confetti’ looks ridiculously pretty and classical ‘Zorro’ on the other hand looks like the black sheep of the hydrangea world, rebelling away from the 1970’s version of hydrangea that had put me off this shrub for so long.

Viburnum Opulus Roseum

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I can’t wait to see this ‘pom pom’ flowering shrub bloom in the garden. The beautiful, soft flowers start off green and turn to white. Both the flowers and the deep green leaves can be used for cut flower arrangement in the vase.

Flowering Quince ‘Pink Storm’

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A bright blooming oriental looking shrub that looks as well poised as an orchid in the garden. I love this deep coral colour and the waxy thick petals that form these compact blooms.

Perennials

Japanese Anemone

I pick these flowers a lot at Mums house and know how valuable they are for floral arrangement in large jugs and based. Informal and relaxed, they have a rustic charm and compliment roses and other cottage flowers beautifully.4dad7112b26e8e4e9c64d555688bc55d

Pink Astilbe

I had Astilbe in my bridal bouquet and have wanted to grow it ever since. I’m growing mine from a root cutting and it’s looking pretty good at the moment! It tolerates shade so I’m hoping it will add some pretty tones in my north facing bed along with the Hosta’s and the pastel pinks of the Foxgloves that I have just planted.

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Astrantia ‘Shaggy’ and ‘Ruby Cloud’

I also had Astrantia in my bouquet when I got married and grew it in my old garden. It’s great for bees and looked so lovely in the garden and in a vase. I’m looking forward to trying these two types of Astrantia for cut flowers in the new garden.

Salvia Mainacht

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A crowd pleasing garden staple. This will look great in my west facing bed with clematis and roses growing behind it. Deep purple flowers that cut really well and are great for bees and butterfly’s! What not to like?

Alchamilla Mollis (Lady’s Mantle)

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This is a must for filling in spaces in the borders. The perfect foliage for cut flowers and looks and feels very tactile. I love looking at it on a rainy day when droplets of water ball up on the leaves and look so beautiful.

Euphorbia Polychroma

Acid green, striking flowers and waxy deep leaves Euphorbia is another one that will add contrast to floral arrangements and I think will work well with the bigger more prominent blooms from the garden.
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Hollyhocks – Tall Mix
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I have never grown hollyhocks before and to be honest they are not my most favourite perennial but they do have that cottage garden charm and will add nice height to the the cut flower beds and I’m going to grow them on the allotment.

Aquilegias – Mixed

A  flower I can rely on! Very important for my novice green fingers. I love growing these! So many different varieties and colours. The seeds scatter so easily after their lengthy flowering period and they can cross breed and create unexpected blooms in the garden the following year.

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Scabious ‘Perfecta Alba’and ‘Ping Pong’

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So you may have guessed I have a bit of a soft spot for flowers that featured on my wedding day but hey we’ve been getting sentimental about flowers since the history books began! I had scabious seed pods from the stunning ‘Ping Pong’flower and I’m so pleased I’ve been able to find the seeds to sow to see if I can grow them and the frilly ‘Shaggy’ scabious at home as I would love to put them with my cut flower arrangements.

Peony ‘Sarah Bernhardt’ and ‘Coral Charm’

I adore peonies and when looking at which ones to put in the garden these two stood out. I’m growing them from root cuttings so they might take a while to establish and flower but I know that they will be worth the wait!!

Solomons Seal

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A shade loving plant that I think will look lovely in a vase. I love the delicate hanging flowers so simple and graceful against the glossy green foliage. I couldn’t resist buying one so I’m looking forward to seeing how it grows.

Korean Feathered Reed Grass

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To me this is the perfect looking grass for a garden…tall, fluffy and oh so nice to look at! I reckon this grass will go with just about anything and will contrast really nicely with some of the perennials in this list.

Tubers, Bulbs and Corns

Gladioli  ‘Green Star’

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What a stunner! I love the acid green flowers of this gladioli and can’t wait to pair it with some vibrant dahlias! I’m going to plant lots of gladioli as they have just good vase life and if I grow a succession of plants hopefully I’ll have plants throughout summer.

Anemone ‘De Cean’

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Anemones are my second all time favourite flower (poppies being number one). These gorgeous flowers always look stunning in arrangements and I love how these unique blooms emerge from the tightest of buds. They slowly unfurl as though being woken from a deep sleep. When they finally wake up – wow what a lovely sight.

Allium ‘Moly’

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I came across these alliums and thought they would look lovely in the cut flower patch. I don’t often go for yellow flowers but I think these will work really well with some on my annual cut flower choices.

Dahlia – Cut Flower Varieties (see Dahlia blog post ‘Venturing into the psychedelic’)

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This blog post focuses on shrubs and perennials but I’ll be writing about my annual cut flower list soon! All images and links can be found via my Branch and Bloom Pinterest account.

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Garden casualties

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Inheriting broad beans

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Hello March!

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For me March is the beginning of spring. The promise that brighter, lighter times are ahead. Don’t get me wrong although the optimist in me is willing on the sunshine I’m not naive enough to know that the warmth of the sun can be swallowed up by a great grey cloud in a heartbeat and you can suddenly feel as though you have been plunged straight back into the depths of winter.

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This notorious and changeable March weather can also confuse our native plants, lulling them much like us into a false sense of security. Triggered by warmth and the promise of sun they push themselves above ground, vulnerable and beautiful in equal measures. With hard frosts still able to zap the life out of these springs blooms it can be a tense time in the garden.

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Anemone coming to life even after being attacked by Puzzle last week!

Having made it through the winter months where things can be a bit dull in the garden I have had to try very hard not to get too over excited especially with a brand new garden to get stuck into. I’m doing my best to harden off even my most hardy bunch of new plants and letting them get to a size where they can hold their own in my beds. By doing this I will hopefully save myself too much heartache although I’m sure there is going to be a fair amount of that this year!

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Pink Astilbe
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New life springing into action on the floor in my greenhouse.
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The wonderful alien like form of a Dicentra appearing from the compost

Even if you play by the rules I know it’s going to be impossible to mitigate all the risks that come with gardening whether these foes come in the shape of slugs, bugs,  birds or even bunnies!! There are so many things that can tamper with the most well thought out plans but I’m going to do my very best to take a natural approach to pest control. I think we have a responsibility to protect our wildlife and so I will look into different ways to be as organic and natural with my gardening as possible. This is my pledge hear me roar! Don’t get me wrong I’m not saying I wont be running across the allotment rake in hand after the local bunnies (Mr Mcgreggor style) if all my flowers get munched but I want to try and do the right thing here by taking a more live and let live approach.

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Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter

So back to what is happening in the garden. As it’s still a bit early for flowers on the allotment I’m sowing as many seeds on my windowsills and in the greenhouse as possible and I have recently planted my Dahlia tubers into pots and trays hoping they will shoot by April.

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I have just received a big selection of plants from Sarah Raven and Peter Nyseen. This was extremely exciting and again I plan to strengthen them up before planting them into the beds but it’s wonderful to think how they will all look in the garden in a few months.

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I am currently on frost watch having just put the first set of sweet peas out in the greenhouse. If the weather is kind, there is nothing lovelier than watching buds and shoots evolve from under the ground or from the woody looking stems that have been left barren and bare over winter. In the sun they act as a shining reminder of longer warmer days and in the grey damp weather these new blooms in early spring are a sight for sore eyes bringing with them colour and hope that the winter is drawing to an end.

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Clematis Montana Elizabeth
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I couldn’t resist buying this beautiful double headed Hellebore for the north bed. It looked so beautiful even on a wet, rainy day in March
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Camillia Nobilissima. The first plant to bloom in my new garden