A cut above
Sally Nex shares some top tips for creating a successful cutting garden.
When your garden is full to bursting with colour and scent, it's not surprising you want to bring it indoors. Filling every room in the house with fresh, sweetly-scented flowers is one of the great luxuries of gardening, but it does create a dilemma: you don't want to raid your flower borders, after all, or you'll have nothing to look at from the kitchen window.
The answer is a cutting garden: a space you've set aside, however small, where all the flowers are meant to be picked.
Cutting gardens were invented by the Victorians: 19th-century head gardeners grew cut flowers for the big house with the same industriousness they applied to veg-growing. That approach still holds true today. Forget you're growing flowers and treat your cutting garden like a veg patch: prepare the ground as well as possible, plan your harvest for each season and grow large enough quantities for a good crop.
It might sound unromantic – but the romance comes later, when you open your front door to be welcomed home by the scent of sweetpeas and roses drifting on the air.
Early spring bulbs such as daffodils and richly-scented hyacinths are followed with summer hardy annuals sown in spring, such as the lovely Cosmos bipinnatus 'Purity'.
Then you can move on to the zingy colours of autumn – dahlias are perfect, or you could try the new wave of chrysanthemums such as lime-green C. 'Froggy'.
There's no need to do without home-grown cut flowers in winter, either: some of the most sweetly-perfumed shrubs flower in December and January, and a single sprig brought in from the cold will open its flowers to scent the whole house. Try wintersweet (Chimonanthus praecox) and witch hazel - Hamamelis x intermedia 'Diane' has exquisite flowers the colour of burnt copper.
Lilacs and the delicate clouds of lime-green flowers on Alchemilla mollis
Electric blue sea hollies such as Eryngium alpinum
Fabulously glamorous delphiniums and of course richly-scented roses will give you flowers to pick year after year.
White and blue combinations are perfected by well-placed sprigs of silvery Artemisia 'Powis Castle'
Deep purple leaves of Cotinus coggygria 'Royal Purple' look fabulous with vibrant orange or red dahlias.