growing a half-hardy annual cutting patch

Sarah talks through her favourite half hardy annual flower varieties for growing in the cutting patch.

I'm standing in my half-hardy annual cutting patch and I absolutely love it. It's just three by four metres, so you really don't need a lot of space and also don't shove it in a shady corner round the back of the garage. You might think you need to because you think it's like an allotment, it's productive, and so it's going to have lots of bare earth but it really doesn't - that's the point. With half-hardy annuals, they're so-called bedding plants and they really do flower from mid to late June right through October, even into November if we don't get a frost like last year we didn't.

And so here there are nine really spectacularly performing half-hardy annuals. The first one is Antirrhinum 'Liberty Crimson' and that's this plant, this beautiful velvety snapdragon, and that's got a vase life of ten days and just maybe a little drop of vinegar in its water will keep it going for ages as a cut flower; it's spectacular. And then with it in a rather similar colour is this beautiful cosmos, 'Dazzler'. You can't beat that, that's a really prolific flowerer. And then the good old stalwart Cosmos 'Purity', which has the highest square inch productivity of any plant we grow. We pick more per square inch, or square yard, or square metre - whatever you want to call it - from that plant than any other in the whole garden.

And then we come up here and we've got the lovely green love-lies-bleeding (Amaranthus caudatus 'Viridis') and remember, foliage is important as well as the blooms, the flowers. You need foliage to make a beautiful mixed arrangement, so that's a really important plant. And then one of my real favourites is a zinnia called 'Giant Dahlia Mix' and it struggled early in the year because it was quite wet but now it's really taken off and I love it. It needs staking, it hasn't been staked yet, so I must do that as one has collapsed over here.

And then over here we've got more Cosmos 'Dazzler' and Cosmos 'Purity' and then this lovely thing, the cleome, the American spider flower. That was grown by Queen Victoria at Osborne House on the Isle of Wight and she grew it in her parterre because she knew it would flower until Christmas of the Isle of Wight where it is so mild. But even here it still flowers well into November, it's a real stalwart. It has got thorns on the stem but I still love it. I love it as a single stem.

And then over in the far right hand corner we've got the best of all sunflowers for hand tied bunches and that's Helianthus 'Vanilla Ice'. Most sunflowers are real whoppers and they're quite difficult for hand tied bunches, but the beauty of this one is it's got a small head and a good vase life and it mixes incredibly well with lots of things, Cosmos 'Purity' and the dark rich velvety purples and crimsons.

And so between those you've got tons and tons to pick, but just to give you a vertical emphasis in the middle of the patch I've got Mina lobata (Ipomoea lobata) the lovely Chinese pagoda plant which I don't pick very much, I use it for the odd bedside table. It's only just coming out now, but it does look very reminiscent of a pagoda, and that will flower almost until Christmas. So with these plants you really will have a guaranteed two to three bunches of flowers, at least, a week from the end of June until the end of October.

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