This lovely quote from Shakespeare has me dreaming of a lazy summer afternoon, glass of rose in one hand, book in the other and a little white dog curled up in my lap. My thoughts these past weeks have been firmly rooted in the future, planning the cutting garden this year.
I know spring is not too far off as the seed catalogs have arrived and I'm coaxing flowering branches to bloom in the studio. With my notes from last year's garden in hand, I'm making my dream list of seeds. I only plant what I love and am a sucker for heirloom varieties, thinking about what my great-grandparents would have planted on their Iowa farm. I'm expanding the cutting gardens this year by repurposing a phlox bed planted by the first owners of Beaumont House. This extra space means I can experiment with dahlias and more perennials. My husband has dreams of hoop houses and a little flower farm but I know the "we" he refers to is the royal "we" and I would be doing all the work. To his credit though, he is wonderful company while I weed.
I had great success with zinnias, marigolds and sunflowers; all of which won ribbons at the Clarke County Fair last summer. And while I thought growing vegetables would inspire me to start canning and preserving more, it didn't. Our vegetables will be coming from the farmer's market this year.
I'll plant just three varieties of sunflowers, down from 5 last summer. We loved watching our neighbor's honeybees load up on pollen and make a beeline (pardon the pun) back to their hive a few doors down. It's game on for the zinnias this year and the county fair. My goal is blue ribbon domination and pitchers filled with zinnias in every room of the house. I have added some nasturtiums to the line up and look forward to their peppery blossoms adding color to summer salads. Every great bouquet needs terrific greens to make the feature flowers shine. My plan is to grow ornamental basil again as well as Artemisia, mountain mint and bupleurum.
I bought a little dahlia plant last year thinking that dahlias would be hard to grow. That little gem pumped out blooms until the first frost! Based on this success, I'm diving in the deep end with dahlias. I have ordered 8 varieties from Floret and can't wait to see what happens. The great thing is that from these initial tubers, I will be able to dig, divide and grow the number of plants in the coming years.
If you are thinking about planting a cutting garden or growing flowers this year, here are some great resources:
Floret Flower - Erin is a goldmine of information and her website and IG feed are sumptuous. I love following her and remembering the magical time I spent at one of her workshops. The release of the dahlia tubers is always exciting. There are so many varieties that you must exercise great control or have a large garden to accommodate so many stunning varieties. She has a new book coming out this spring that will join the other reference books on my shelf.
Johnny's Seeds - Their website is wonderful witha lot of growing information. It's easy to search for seeds that are great cut flowers. They also have a section for garden tools as well. You can order seeds in a variety of sizes ranging from a few ounces to a pound. The only thing I have ordered in bulk are the woodland seed mix and pollinator mix. Their smallest size is perfect for the home/patio gardener.
Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds - This is my first year using them. As I mentioned, I love anything heirloom and found varieties of flowers I hadn't seen anywhere else (mother of pearl poppies, Flemish antique poppies, rubinato cosmos).
Virginia State Arboretum - Annual seed exchange. For plant and seed lovers, this is so much fun! Long tables are set up and organized into categories (annuals, perennials, vegetables, herbs). The price of admission are seeds that you have collected or in my case, seeds from last year that I didn't plant. It was fun to chat with fellow gardeners and share tips about growing. I also spent some time chatting with a representative from the Virginia Gourd Society. She gave me the cutest little gourd and I am going to harvest the seeds from it and see what happens.
Master Gardeners of Virginia - The master gardeners set up a table every week at our local farmers market and can answer questions about plants, flowers and unwanted visitors in the garden. They have chapters across the state. The training to become a master gardener starts in mid-February and I think next year will be my year to join their ranks.
Virginia Cooperative Extension - A wonderful wealth of information. Most states have this resource. In Virginia, it is based out of Virginia Tech, a land grant college. There is a network of community offices across the state and they can answer a lot of questions you may have on a variety of gardening/growing topics.
Trial and error - I love cosmos and planted two varieties last year. The sea shell mix, which I chose for its muted cream and salmon color, did NOTHING. It grew very tall and put out a few blooms then mocked me. The foliage was great in arrangements but it will not be coming back in 2017. Sometimes you have to take a chance. Fingers crossed that my lavender plants winter over and thrive this year.
All photos by Joffoto and were taken last summer at the Beaumont House garden and studio.