The Cutting Garden Diaries

Uppark garden

Uppark House and East Pavilion taken by recent visitor, Jonathan Ring. 

One of the Uppark garden team’s newest ventures is a Cut Flower Garden where we’re growing flowers to cut and display in the house. The cutting garden is a project that has been gaining momentum since summer 2013 and in the last few months it has really taken off.

Uppark garden

Above, Judy and Jenny Swatton sowing seeds for cut flowers in Uppark House (image Michael Weldon)

We are now looking to recruit some volunteers to help us cut and arrange the flowers each month, but first a peek at what we’ve been up to:


One of our first tasks was to decide what to grow in the cutting garden. Judy and I had already met with Sarah, House Manager at Uppark to find out what sort of cut flowers would be historically appropriate for display in  the house. The meeting left us full of enthusiasm and with a very long list of potential plants to grow.

It proved to be more difficult than expected to work out what not to grow, but in the end we were fairly ruthless. For 2014 we decided to concentrate on annuals, especially hardy annuals which can be sown directly in the ground, among our selections were Nigella damascena (Love-in-a-Mist)and Helianthus annus (Sunflower). We also chose a few perennials which Sarah was really keen to have in the house because of their historical significance. These included Convallaria majalis (Lily of the Valley) and Campanula Pyramidalis (Bellflower).

We duly ordered our seeds and bulbs and then we waited….


A few weeks later, on a bleak and rainy day, a box was delivered to the garden office. It turned out to be full of tiny rhizomes of Convallaria majalis (Lily of the Valley). We set about potting one third of the rhizomes, which we hope to display in pots in the house. Judy and Joy planted the remaining two thirds of the rhizomes in the cutting garden. Once the rhizomes are established we should have plenty of beautifully scented Lily of the Valley to cut for the house.

Not long after the box full of rhizomes, another exciting package arrived, this time full of seed packets. Over the next week or two, Judy, Joy, Rae and I spent some time in the Glasshouse at Alitex sowing seeds to try and get a bit of a head start before the ground warmed up enough for outside sowing. We sowed Antirrhinum ‘Sonnet White’, Antirrhinum ‘Rocket Mix’, Helianthus ‘Sunbright’, and Lathyrus odoratus ‘Mammoth Mixed’. As the weather improved and the seeds started to germinate we started to prepare the ground in the cutting garden, including building a slightly eccentric sweet pea support nick-named ‘The Taj Mahal’.

At the end of March we created our first floral arrangements for the Mother’s Day Flowers event. Although we didn’t have flowers ready in the cutting garden, it was amazing how many flowers, foliage and branches were available in the garden and woodland so early in the year. Judy, Susie and I had a great day working in the tunnels to create a dozen arrangements for the house. On the morning of Mothering Sunday Sarah and I placed the arrangements in the house and had a chance to admire the effect. It was really rewarding to receive some lovely comments from volunteers and visitors alike, and we couldn’t wait to get sowing outside so that our future arrangements would be composed of flowers we had grown specifically for the house.

Uppark garden

Above, Jenny Swatton’s Still Room display in Uppark House for Mother’s Day


With the arrival of April we’ve had some beautiful warm weather and have finally been able to get sowing outside. Last week Judy and I prepared our first seedbed in the cutting garden, digging, raking, forking some organic matter, shuffling over the soil to consolidate it and then raking again. We then made drills and sowed our Consolida ‘Sublime Azure Blue’ (Larkspur) seeds.

This week Liz and I have been doing a bit more seed bed preparation and sowed Nigella ‘Miss Jekyll’ and Nigella ‘Midnight Blue’ which should be flowering by August. As it’s our first year of cut flower production, there is certainly a bit of trial and error involved and we’re already talking about what we would like to do next year, including sowing some of the hardy annuals in autumn so that we have flowers ready earlier in the year in 2015.

Uppark garden

 Above, Jenny Swatton and Liz preparing the seed bed by lightly firming the soil. 

In other April news, Judy and I spent Good Friday afternoon arranging a few flowers for the house for Easter Sunday and Monday. After Easter, the next time we are planning to have flowers in the house is the end of May.

Get Involved

At the moment we are looking for a few more volunteers to get involved with the cut flower project, particularly the cutting and arranging of flowers and foliage for the house. This year we are aiming to have flower arrangements in the house once a month and so would be looking for people who could commit to one day a month, typically a Friday.

If you are interested, please get in touch (click here) or e-mail .




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