Posted: Friday 4 October 2013
by Sally Nex
I do love harvest time – and hasn't it been a good one this year?
Dear oh dear, I'm such a worry-wart. There I was last month, on tenterhooks because the runner beans ('White Lady') were still barely spluttering into flower with nary a bean in sight. Uh-oh, I thought. Cold spring: dry summer: could this be the year my runners fail?
Silly me. I should have known better: runner beans are possibly the most rock-solid reliable crop you can grow. A week later I was frantically shovelling beans into every container I could find. I'm still picking now and more on the way, even though the air is getting tinged with a definitely autumnal chill.
You need to pick over your runners every couple of days when they're producing this heavily to catch them at just that right stage of tenderness – when the beans are still flat and the skins still smooth. There are invariably a few you miss, but sling the oldies straight on the compost heap – they're far too stringy to eat.
I do love harvest time – and hasn't it been a good one this year? Not just for the veg either: this year, fuelled by my flowery seed-sowing earlier in the spring, I've been experimenting with a cut flowers garden.
The great thing about raising flowers from seed is you can grow loads and loads – the sort of quantities you could never afford bought as plants from a garden centre, but essential if you're planning to bring armfuls of colour and scent into the house to enjoy them up close.
So I've planted diagonal rows of Achillea 'Summer Berries' in shades of pink, cream and magenta stretching from one corner to the other of what used to be a patch of lawn. Snuggling up against them is a positive sea of blue Verbena 'Intensity' and long, generous rows of shaggy yellow-orange Zinnia 'Frazzy Jazzy'.
I love these brilliant colour clashes – yellow and blue, or purple and orange. They're so exciting to look at, and they make your heart sing every time you look at them. They're taken from exactly opposite sides of the colour wheel, a great technique to use if you want to create something fizzy and fun.
If calming and soothing is more your style, try combinations like frothy pale blue Chinese forget-me-nots against the deeper violet-blue clary 'Blue Denim', with magenta Cosmos 'Rubenza' to lift the display. They're all colours which sit next to each other on the wheel, making a more elegant, sophisticated combination.
One of the best things about growing from seed for a cutting garden is you can experiment with colour combinations like this till you find out what you like. Edit your arrangements as you go along, changing them from year to year as it takes your fancy - a bit like flower arranging in the ground.