Hartley Magazine

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Flower Border

A little while ago I wrote here about my hopes and plans for a cut flower border at the allotment. We were putting in the new polytunnel, and there was a bit of a lost space in front of it. I wanted that space – right at the front of the plot, on the path – to be gorgeous and colourful rather than scrubby and abandoned: it keeps the committee happy. All of this was all still a misty vision at the last time of writing about it.

photoThe plants were mere babes, sitting in rows on the greenhouse table, and the time when they would be out there on the allotment plot and growing steadily seemed impossibly far off. But we have since been blessed with a particularly easy going transition from spring into summer. I don’t ever remember it being so trouble free. There were no scary late frosts to wipe out all my carefully tended seedlings, no weeks of rain to stop me planting them out at the right time, in fact it was so dry during planting out time that I had very little trouble from slugs and snails. I put out a few organic slug pellets at the moment of planting and that was it. Not a single thing has been eaten. I guess they just didn’t fancy the dry trek across the soil to reach my beauties.

And so I can’t really be surprised that everything is looking great. I’m delighted. I will talk you through it, from left to right. From greenhouse sowings I now have two rows of sturdy plants of purple amaranth, otherwise known as callaloo. I could crop these for tasty spinach-like leaves all summer long, Caribbean style, but instead I’m going to leave them to flower and seed, when they should produce big heads of tiny red flowers against the dark purple stems. They will look perfect paired with the sunflowers, just as big and bold and dramatic, and hopefully spot on timing wise too.

photo 2- editedNext to them is a row of a few bulbs each of three different gladioli, for which the greenhouse can take no credit. They were just pushed into the ground at the time the others were planted into it, and now each bulb is a sturdy green shoot. Then there comes a row of various dahlias, all nursed in the greenhouse from tubers, and a row of Ammi visnaga, the chunkier cousin to the wispy, cow-parsley-esque Ammi majus. These were sown and grown in the greenhouse this spring and I could not be more delighted at what sturdy plants they have become, as I have had nothing but heartache from Ammis past. They will look good and airy as fillers among the other, more solid flowers.

Then there are the sunflowers: a whole load of different types for varying heights and colours. There should be white, oranges, yellows and browns come autumn. And then over on the far right there are the plants that have already started flowering. I have cornflowers of blue and purple just producing their first blooms, and they are mingling with the blue and purple bracts of cerinthe and some dark red and bright yellow nasturtiums. Quite miraculously early there are even a couple of zinnia flower buds, my absolute favourites, which normally only appear quite late in summer. From this end section I can be only a week or so away from my first good bunch, and there are lots of later flowers to come from the other end.

Either I’m finally getting the hang of this or it’s just that it’s been a really easy year. Maybe a tiny bit of both.