Meet my friend, Michelle, and her fabulous, energetic, outdoor-loving 3 year old twins, Jude and Dylan. Last year Michelle and the family moved to a lovely new house with a very large garden. The garden is a blank canvas and is a perfect playground for the twins.
In addition to the usual swings, climbing frame, sandpit etc. Michelle wants to encourage the boys' interest in sowing and growing (I love the fact they already have their own gardening gloves and tools), and Michelle. like all of us, loves cut flowers. Also, as it just so happens, thanks to my newly inherited greenhouse, I am sowing and growing enough flowers to give to friends who want to start their own cut flower patch. I love it when a plan comes together!
A dedicated patch?
I would recommend where possible creating a dedicated area to grow cut flowers, you could of course dot your cut flowers throughout your borders but it's much easier to plan, organise and maintain your patch if you treat your cut flowers like a crop which you are going to harvest. Your choice of flowers for the vase may be different to the style of your garden and if you have a dedicated patch you don't need to think about how the colours and forms of your cut flowers will work with the rest of the plants in your garden.
Also it's much more practical to have a dedicated patch so you don't need to tip-toe round the other plants and shrubs to get to the flowers you want to cut. Ideally keep each bed to a width of no more than 125cm as this allows you to reach into the bed without treading on the soil. Michelle was given 3 second-hand raised beds and after a bit of repair work and a quick jet-wash they were placed in a sunny spot and at the back of the garden to form the basis of Jude and Dylan's Cut Flower Patch.
Where to locate your cut flower patch
If you look on the back of your Cut Flower Patch seed packets, virtually all the flowers need full sun or at least partial sun so please don't site your patch in a shady area. Michelle's garden is north facing so she has positioned her raised beds at the bottom of the garden away from the shadow cast by the house. We also have a north facing garden but not as much available space as Michelle, this year I've cleared the 2 beds at the front of the house, which get lots of sun, for my cut flower patch.
A planting plans for your patch
I find it quite difficult to work out what to plant where but after joining a cut flower planning workshop I learnt a very simple technique which I've used to create Jude and Dylan's Cut Flower Patch plan.
Draw your space to scale, I usually work on the basis that 1cm is equivalent to 10cm of the patch i.e. a scale of 1:10
Divide your space in 30cm squares (3cm squares on your plan if working to the 1:10 scale ). Most of your cut flowers require a spacing of between 25cm and 45cm so 30cm is a good average. It's unlikely that your area will divide exactly into 30cm squares so you can make some a little larger and some smaller and when it comes to deciding what flower to put where you can tweak the layout so the flowers that need larger spacing go in the larger squares and the ones that require less space than 30cm can go in the smaller squares.
Plot which flowers you want in your patch onto your plan, with the taller flowers at the back (the northern end of your patch) through to the lower height flowers at the front (the southern end). Here is Jude and Dylan's plan, the 3 raised beds each measure 170cm x 80cm and we've managed to include a good range of plants mixing lots of flowery blooms with filler foliage. I usually wouldn't put photos of the flowers on the plan but because it's for Jude and Dylan I want to give them an idea of what all the flowers will look like. Going though this planning process really helps you to work out how many plants you will need (probably less than you think) for your patch. As last year was my first greenhouse year, I vastly overproduced and in the end I gave away plants to friends and raised a bit of money for charity by selling some of my surplus to neighbours.
Nothing is set in stone, your plans can be tweaked as you go along as some plants might not have germinated as well as others, but I found a little bit of planning during the winter months goes a long way so you're ready to plant out in the spring once the soil warms up. I think the key is not to over complicate the process and to have some fun planning what you are going to put in your cut flower patch, just have an eraser to hand!
I'm going to be working with Michelle and the boys on their patch throughout the spring and summer and will post updates along with lots of lovely photographs.
Happy sowing, growing and planning.