One of my responsibilities in the garden at Chartwell is to look after the Cut Flower area which can be found in Churchill’s Walled Garden. As you can see from the above and below pictures there is still plenty of colour and interest in there even though we pick about a dozen bucketfulls of blooms each week to send up to the house for their displays! I’ll be covering the cut flowers in more detail in a future blog but this week I’d like waffle on about some work I’ve been doing in there recently that will hopefully pay dividends for next year’s display.
We try to provide flowers for the house from March right through until October or when the first frosts hit. We use bulbs, annuals, perennials, and as you’ll see in this blog, biennials to achieve this. A biennial in horticultural terms is a flowering plant that takes two years to complete its lifecycle. During the first year the plant will grow leaves, stems, and roots (ie vegetative structures). It then enters a period of dormancy over the Winter months where usually the stem remains very short and the leaves are low to the ground, often forming a rosette. During the next spring or summer, the stem of the biennial plant grows rapidly and the plant then flowers, sometimes producing fruits and seeds before it finally dies. There are far fewer biennials than either perennial plants or annual plants but they are a valuable addition to any plot.
The picture above shows one of the beds of biennial cut flowers that I have planted out this week. All of the plants were grown from seed in our potting shed, germinated in our greenhouses and then hardened off in our cold frames. This bed contains yellow hollyhocks (Althaea rosea), blue Anchusa azurea, purple Hesperis matronalis, white and purple Foxgloves (Digitalis purpurea ‘Pam’s Choice’) and blue Campanula medium (Canterbury Bells).
The second biennial bed (shown above) follows a similar pattern but uses a pink and white colour scheme to mirror the yellow and blue/purple of the first plot. The Hollyhocks are a mix of rose pink and white, the Hesperis are white this time, the Foxgloves are a variety called ‘Apricot’ whereas the Campanulas are either ‘Single Pink’ or ‘Single White’. Both beds are planted in a arrowhead pattern with the tallest plants at the back (ie the Hollyhocks) and the shortest plants at the front (the knee-high Canterbury Bells).
We have another biennial area in the Walled Garden (cast your eyes down to the picture below) but this acts as more of a nursery bed. It contains tightly packed rows of the likes of Myosotis (Forget Me Nots), Bellis perennis ‘Pomponette’, Wallflowers (Erysimum Chieri) as well as diiferent types of Foxgloves and Campanulas. These will be dug up and re-planted in containers and borders as bedding plants come Spring.
There is still time to get your biennials in this year but don’t leave it too late or they may not have time to establish themselves in the ground before the cold Winter weather rears its ugly head once more. We may even have some spare Foxgloves or Hollyhocks on our donations trolley over the coming days and weeks so come and grab yourself a bargain and get planting! Make sure you also come back and see our biennials in bloom next Spring and Summer and enjoy the rest of the cut flower area right now while you still can…