Tuesday 12 December 2017

Be a cut aboveBe inspired by public cut-flower borders, says Marie Staunton

Marie Staunton

I make no apologies for mentioning Farmleigh again as a place that I love to visit because it offers so much in the way of inspiration for gardeners, amateur photographers and artists – and for the likes of those of us who just want to be inspired by beautiful surroundings and, of course, enjoy a nice sticky bun and a pot of tea in the restaurant.

I call it the great escape because I don't get to take myself off for a bit of peace and quiet very often, and an hour or two in Farmleigh suits me down to the ground.

Cut-flower borders are like a treasure trove of plants; they are forgiving of the odd mistake or two and happy accidents are always welcome, including a bit of self-seeding.

Because of our very waterlogged and cold spring, the summer cut-flower border blossomed quite late. The advantage was that plants that should have been well out of flower were still taking pride of place as September rolled in.

Late summer is traditionally dahlia season, and they expect little in the way of competition, but this year the frothy flower sprays of Thalictrum delavayi 'Hewitt's Double' stole the show.

For me, Verbena bonariensis and thalictrum are essential in a cut-flower border; they give height without the density, giving a feeling of lightness to any planting scheme. As you can see from my photo this week, it would remind you a bit of the little sprays of 'baby's breath' that florists use with roses on occasions.

Staking is so important in a border. Make sure that support is in place around plants from early spring, or you could find yourself with a lot of broken stems and little in the way of flowers.

Without passionate, inventive gardeners working in the OPW, or any of the county councils around the country, there would be very few beautiful gardens to visit in Ireland for free. These gardeners care, are hugely talented, and go under the radar. You might not recognise their names, but every time you visit the Botanic Gardens, Farmleigh or Kilmacurragh, their work is on display for all to admire.

A lady named Adelaide Monk, who has recently retired from the OPW, is one of those passionate gardeners who, unless you were a frequent visitor to the garden in Farmleigh, you may not have heard of, but what a gardener. I mention her in particular because of the Thalictrum delavayi 'Hewitt's Double', which is one of her favourite plants and one that she put into the cut-flower border.

I find it almost impossible to go anywhere without buying a few plants, and I recently acquired two gorgeous echinacea. My wellies have holes in them and here I am buying more plants. The echinacea in question is a variety called 'Amazing Dream' – every home should have one. The flowers are deep pink and the centre is dark orange, a real Mediterranean combination of colours.

When the evening sun hits the top of the flowers, they light up almost metallic – quite strange but incredibly beautiful.

Echinaceas love full sun; they will flower into autumn and are drought-tolerant, once established in your garden. I bought mine from the Boyne Garden Centre, just outside Slane, during one of the plant fairs. See their website, boynegardencentre.com.

Without sweet pea, a cut-flower border would be a little lacking in both scent and colour. October is the time to be thinking of starting some off, which means that they will be nice and hardy for planting out in spring. Sow them into root trainers or small deep pots, because they like a nice long root-run. Over-winter the plants in a cold frame, or an unheated glass house, ready to plant out next year.

You can, of course, wait until spring, but order or buy the seeds now and have them ready for sowing.

Irish Independent

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