Planning a Cutting Garden

This season I have decided to start my own cutting garden, mainly because I find I am totally incapable of cutting flowers from the garden to bring into the house. I end up buying cut flowers from the supermarket because I can’t bear to denude my own garden plants. This can prove quite costly, and, by growing my own, I could save around five pounds a week, which amounts to an annual saving of around two hundred and fifty pounds. That is one very good reason to give it a go! I have also found that I have a very limited choice of variety and colour when buying flowers in a supermarket.

Cut flower varieties are chosen by professional growers, primarily for their length of vase life and their ability to withstand the rigours of long distance travel. This limits the number which would be suitable, and thus, the degree of choice in the shops. There will never be, for instance, sweet peas for sale in the local supermarket, as their vase life is only 3 – 5 days, and they are so delicate that they would be easily damaged in transit. As my cut flowers will only have to travel up the garden path, I can choose whichever varieties take my fancy. And if they die after a few days, there will be plenty more in the cutting patch to take their place.

I can also choose varieties for a specific reason, such as fragrance, which is very important to me, so I can choose flowers for their scent alone, if I want to. I love rich, jewel – like colours, so I can select a personal colour palette of purples, reds and strong blues, as well as oranges and hot pinks, which will complement each other well in a vase. I can also select for flower type, shape, size and textures to help me to achieve my ideal arrangements. There is a great creative freedom in growing your own cut flowers, which is lost in the selection of a bunch of supermarket roses.

I have already chosen and bought my seeds – many are Thompson & Morgan annuals, but I have had to go further afield for some more unusual varieties, like Bupleurum rotundifolium ‘Griffithii’, Nicotiana ‘Lime Green’, Anchusa Capensis ‘Blue Angel’ and Melianthus Major.

Choosing was an absolute labour of love and one of my favourite jobs of the whole year! Once they arrived I drew up a sowing plan, based on the sowing information given on the packet, and my own experience from previous years. I tend to wait, for instance, to sow cosmos until light levels are good, as my early sown seedlings have often been leggy and weak. Later sowings have been much more robust.

So, the propagator is on, and … there are babies! The first seeds have germinated, so they will be moved out of the propagator onto a warm, light windowsill to grow on, leaving space for the germination of the next batch of seeds. And repeat!

It must mean that spring is just around the corner …

Jane Scorer
Hoe hoe grow

How to make an evergreen Christmas garland

Evergreen christmas garland

Use evergreen foliage to create a natural Christmas ornament
Image: Jane Scorer

Creating a beautiful Christmas garland for a staircase depends more on having access to a plentiful supply of foliage, than it does upon creative abilities. Before you contemplate making your own garland, have a walk around the garden and note what greenery is available. You will need enough evergreens to generously cover at least double the length of the space to be covered.


Preparing for winter

The changing colour of leaves from the garden

The changing colour of leaves from the garden

Autumn can be the cruellest of seasons, lulling us into thinking it is still summer, with rays of mellow sunshine followed by a blast of the East wind, to remind us that winter is not far away! When the sun is shining it is tempting to leave the garden undisturbed and enjoy every moment, but plans need to be in place for the frosts which will certainly be coming at some point.

Although many plants are still looking remarkably good for the time of year, there are a growing number which have already fallen victim to the dropping temperature and shortening days. The leaves are changing colour on the trees too, and they are beginning to fall, especially if there is any degree of wind.

Preparing for winter, but some of the blooms haven't caught up yet!

Preparing for winter, but some of the blooms haven’t caught up yet!

So, it is best to be prepared for the first frosts, to ensure that you are not taken unaware when it happens. Really precious, tender plants should be in the greenhouse already, although there is no need for additional heat until the night time temperatures fall further.

There is an excellent  RHS app which can be downloaded free onto your phone or tablet, called ‘Grow Your Own’. It has a ‘Frost Alert’ which can be customised to your postcode, and will warn you of an impending frost, giving precious time to take further precautions.

Many garden plants are totally hardy, and can cheerfully cope with any amount of winter weather, whilst borderline hardy plants can be brought into a frost free greenhouse, conservatory or garage to overwinter. Failing that, they can be given a degree of protection outside, using horticultural fleece, or a mulch. Fleece sleeves, which slip over plants, are a quick and easy way to protect vulnerable plants. Fleece allows air to circulate whilst plastic would cause the plant to rot, due to moisture trapped inside. A mulch of compost or straw for example, can be used to protect the roots of frost tender plants.

Beautiful in bloom

Beautiful in bloom

Certain plants, such as tree ferns, have specific requirements and they need to have their crowns protected, by stuffing the base of the fronds with straw. Some succulents, such as certain agaves, can cope with reasonably low temperatures, but need to be kept dry to prevent root rot.

Dahlias and cannas can be left in the ground until the first frost, when their foliage will be blackened. They should then be dug up, and excess soil removed from around the tubers. These can then be stored in a dry frost free place until they can be brought into growth again next spring.

There are inevitably some sacrificial plants, usually annuals, as it is not always practical or possible to ‘save’ everything from the rigours of the winter, and, indeed, there are many plants which are better grown afresh every season.

It is possible to get the majority of tender plants safely through the winter, but this depends on a little planning and preparation.

You can find me at

Jane Scorer
Hoe hoe grow

See my biog for more about me!  J.



Rose ‘Sweet Spot Calypso’

Rose ‘Sweet Spot Calypso’ is a very distinctive rose, and is part of a completely new breed called ‘Decorator roses’, and, as such, does not fit into any of the existing categories we are so familiar with. It is not a Hybrid Tea, or a Floribunda or a Patio  … but a Decorator rose ! The ‘Sweet Spot’ roses are being hailed as an exciting new development, as they should flower constantly from June to October, and unlike many other roses, they shed their dead petals, leaving the plant looking tidy.

rose sweet spot calypso

The single blooms are strongly coloured, with variations of tone in each flower. There is a striking ‘eye’ in the centre, made up of a darker red, surrounded by a yellow halo, with prominent stamens of a slightly darker hue.The whole effect is quite dramatic, as the colours are rich, and contrast well with each other. The flowers change shade, as they gradually fade with age.

I was fortunate enough to be asked by Thompson & Morgan if I would trial two of these roses, with the proviso that I would blog honestly about their progress. That was a year ago, and I am only just posting now, as I wanted to know how these roses would perform over time.

rose sweet spot calypso

I was sent two plants, and the photo shows how they looked straight after they were taken out of their packaging, on arrival. One appeared much more vigorous than the other, was bushier, and had more leaves. The other had some yellowing and dead leaves, and showed barer stem.

rose sweet spot calypsoI decided that I would grow the roses in different conditions to see how they responded. The smaller one was planted in a container, so that it had no competition from any other plants. It was planted in good quality compost, with a slow release rose fertiliser at its roots. The pot was placed in full sun, facing south east, in a sheltered spot next to the greenhouse.

The other plant looked as if it could cope with being planted out, so I chose an open, sunny spot in a border and planted it in a relatively big hole, complete with compost and rose fertiliser. I ensured that surrounding plants did not crowd the young ‘Sweet Spot’, as this could have hampered growth quite dramatically.


rose sweet spot calypso

Then, I sat back, watched and waited – I watered when necessary, fertilised again in the spring, and added fresh compost as a top dressing. Sadly, the rose in the pot took a dislike to me, and went into a deep decline. It turned out to be a long and lingering death, whilst I tried every trick I knew to revive it, to no avail. There were no signs of pests or disease, it just failed to thrive, and gradually died off. It just happens sometimes!

Happily the plant in the ground grew and flourished. It had one or two blooms late on in the first summer, which I was pleased about as I didn’t receive it until August.

rose sweet spot calypso

When spring growth got underway this year, I became aware that other plants were growing larger in the border, and beginning to swamp ‘Sweet Spot Calypso’, so I took the decision to lift it and pot it up, taking as large a root ball as possible, to minimise disturbance.

My rose loved the move to a pot, and began to put on growth quite quickly, growing into a compact little bush, clothed with foliage. The foliage has remained exceptionally healthy all season, and it is still as fresh as it was in spring, particularly when compared to lots of my other roses, which are looking a little ravaged by this point in the season. Even varieties which are essentially very healthy, and disease – free can dip at this time of year, but ‘Sweet Spot Calypso’ has no sign of black spot and is completely pest free. I never use chemicals on any of my roses, so what you see is completely as nature intended!

rose sweet spot calypso‘Sweet Spot Calypso’ will never be a large rose, and, as such, is ideal for the front of beds and borders, or containers. Maximum size is given as 50 cm x 50 cm. It does not need complex pruning – a haircut with the shears in late autumn or early spring, taking off approximately half its growth, is deemed to be sufficient.

My rose began to flower in June, and had an initial flush of flowers, and is just gearing up to flower again. It has buds on it now, which should open in a week or so. It has retained its bushy, compact shape, and has shown no tendency to get ‘leggy’, and show bare stems, as many roses do. The entire lengths of the stems are clothed with foliage, which really adds to its appeal.

The flowers are very unusual, and … well … subtle they are not. I guess that people will love them, or hate them. They are light years away from the traditional image of romantic, pastel roses and have a contemporary feel about them, as the colours are strong and contrasting.

On the whole, I like what I see, so far, with Rose ‘Sweet Spot Calypso’. I like the fresh, healthy looking foliage and the compact, bushy habit and I am hoping that the plant flowers more freely as it matures, as promised. So, I have to say, it really hits the spot!

The seedy side of rose growing

The seedy side of rose growing

By Jane Scorer

The seedy side of rose growing

Rose ‘Garden Party’

I’m rose-obsessed and I admit it! I love them all, from the teeny, weeny miniatures to the towering giants, and my intention is to cram as many as I can into my garden. So, how happy was I, last year, to see plug plants of miniature Rosa ‘Garden Party’, for sale online. I was so happy that I bought 72 of them, and used them as edging for borders, or underplanting for bigger roses. They were fantastic. In just one season they bulked up considerably, and they flowered their little pink hearts out all summer long. All I had to do was to pot them up when they arrived, then keep them in the greenhouse until they were large enough to be transplanted outside, by which time it was late May, and all chance of frost had passed.

The seedy side of rose growing

‘Garden Party’ roses in the border

(In the photo, right, the young Rosa ‘Garden Party’ plants have just been transplanted outside, and are underplanted beneath a hedge of ‘Charles de Mills’ roses).

Rosa multiflora nana perpetua ‘Garden Party’ grows to a height of around 25cm and has a spread of around 35cm. The flowers are single, open blooms in a wide range of soft pinks. It is bred to cope well with life in a container, but is equally happy planted out in the garden, in beds or borders. It is really good as an edging plant, and unlike geraniums or Alchemilla Mollis, it doesn’t need to be cut back halfway through the season, but keeps looking good, flowering right up to autumn. Although growing in full sun is recommended, I have tried planting a few in light shade and they coped. They weren’t as happy as they would have been in full sun, but they hung on in there and even flowered. Seed can be sown from January through to May, and plants will flower the same year, from an early sowing.

The seedy side of rose growing

Rose seeds

I was so delighted with the performance of these little roses, that I vowed to buy another batch of plug plants for this coming season. Then, when I was mooching around on the Thompson & Morgan website, I saw that Rosa ‘Garden Party’ seeds were available – a bargain and a challenge all rolled into one. The gauntlet was thrown down for this gardener!

I bought two packets, which cost about the price of a couple of loaves and a pint of milk. Each packet supposedly contains 20 seeds in a packet, mine contained well over that, having 23 and 24 seeds in each.

The seedy side of rose growing

How to grow roses

On learning that an early sowing would hopefully flower the same year, I decided to sow in January, using a propagator. I don’t really like making early sowings because light levels are so low that it is difficult to keep seedlings from growing leggy and sickly. The actual germination is usually no problem, due to the constant heat of the propagator, at around 20 degrees but I was a little apprehensive about the germination of the rose seeds, as I read  a customer review on the T & M website where someone had only achieved a 20% germination rate. However, the seed is said to be pre-treated to facilitate improved germination, with a time frame given of 30 – 90 days, so I decided to give it my best shot.

I sowed the seed, then sat back and waited, hardly bothering to check for emerging seedlings, as I thought that I was in for a long wait. However, after just two weeks I spotted the first shoot emerging, followed by several more every day.

The seedy side of rose growing

Rose seedlings

I sowed the seeds just over three weeks ago, and I have currently got 16 seedlings, with more emerging every day. Keeping them healthy is a challenge, as I try to keep them both warm and well lit, which is tricky in most houses in the UK in February. I want seedlings with short, straight stems, not pale leggy ones, lurching drunkenly towards the light.

They take a little trip into the unheated conservatory through the day, so that they can benefit from higher light levels, and, who knows, maybe even the odd ray of sunshine ! At dusk they journey back into the warmth of the kitchen, and I switch on the propagator again, to try and maintain soil warmth to aid germination of the other seeds.
So far so good, and they are looking happy and healthy. I am pleased with germination rates so far, as presumably more may peep through over the next couple of months.

The seedy side of rose growing

Rose plants, growing nicely

When they are large enough to be handled, I will transplant the seedlings into individual modules so that root systems can develop unhindered. When they are big enough and tough enough, I will move them outside into the unheated greenhouse to grow on, before planting them out later in the season, follwing a period of hardening off. Hopefully, by early summer, I will have forty or so lovely new roses brightening up the garden.

You can read more of Jane’s blog posts at Hoe hoe grow

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