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Cut out the middle man; Buying fresh flowers isn't cheap, so try these tips for your own cutting garden and, trust me, you'll say thanks a bunch...

NOTHING brings life, light and joy to a home like colourful flowers in full bloom. However, going to your local florist, supermarket or garden centre every couple of weeks for fresh cut flowers isn't cheap.

Well, with a little thought, it's easy to create your own cutting garden full of perennial flowers, grasses and herbs that you can go to repeatedly at a fraction of the cost, adding stunning colours, decorations and fragrances to your home across of the year.

You can also save a pretty penny providing homegrown gifts for friends and family as occasions arise.

First, choose your favourite "cutting plants" and be sure to plant as many as you can fit of each type.

That way, your borders will not feel the loss as you take a few at a time of each variety.

There's no point brightening your home but leaving your garden bare.

I have collected a few of my favourite cutting flowers throughout the year to share with you, but there are plenty more to choose from.

If you are unsure, pop to your local garden centre and ask for advice on what blooms in which months.

BLOOMS FROM MAY TO JUNE: PEONIES AND GYPSOPHILA PEONIES have a classic, intricate beauty and are available in a host of colours ranging from whites, bright reds, pinks and even sunshine yellow.

Site your peonies in a well-lit area - they love sunshine. They also like a rich earth and will flourish in most soil types with good drainage, but most varieties prefer a neutral to slightly alkaline pH balance.

Some general purpose fertiliser like Growmore will go a long way with peonies. And remember to support them with stakes as these heavy flowers can easily droop.

Gypsophila may look delicate, but don't be fooled. It is in fact quite hardy and easy to grow.

This tough plant actually likes ordinary soil that is not too rich.

It also blooms better in crowded conditions. The little white or pink rosettes will look stunning and hold their own as a centrepiece for any occasion.

JUNE TO JULY: DELPHINIUMS AND VERBENAS DELPHINIUMS come in gorgeous shades of blue, pink, white, and purple, and like well-drained, fertile soil in full sun.

A sheltered location is best as they get quite tall and, in high winds especially, these beauties will need to be staked. Bamboo is perfect to prevent them from wilting.

If you love a cottage garden then delphiniums with some tall grasses, hollyhocks and sunflowers will make a fabulous combination. Verbenas are not only perfect for attracting bees and other beneficial insects, but their purple, delicate, cluster-like flowers add subtle splashes of colour to any bouquet.

Give them full sun and a welldrained soil and they will thrive.

JULY TO AUGUST: PHLOX AND LILIES PHLOX is an annual which can be grown from seed each year with colour combinations of pink, red, deep purples, yellow and white.

Its star-shaped flowers are lightly scented and, when bunched together, are an absolute showstopper. Phlox is hardy and likes fairly moist, welldrained soil. It will thrive in full sun or partial shade. Lilies are exotic and flamboyant and give a reliable display of colour year after year.

They can be used to great effect to fill gaps in the border and there are many different varieties, colours and sizes to choose from. Plant bulbs from early autumn in full sun to get the best flowers, but you can plant all the way through till spring.

They like rich, moist, free-draining soil, so dig plenty owf compost into your bed before planting.

AUGUST THROUGH SEPTEMBER: MOUNTAIN FLEECE (PERSICARIA) AND ACHILLEA MOUNTAIN fleece is a beautiful perennial that enjoys a long bloom season extending from midsummer through to fall. It comes in a range of colours and features soft, fleecy flower spikes on graceful wands over dark green foliage. It does well in average, medium to wet, well-drained soils in full sun.

Achillea is a great summer border perennial with attractive feathery foliage and flat, circular flower heads.

It's perfect for luring bees and butterflies and is another cottage garden plant that comes in many colours. Plant in full sun on light, well-drained soil and it will thrive.

SEPTEMBER AND OCTOBER: CONEFLOWERS (ECHINACEA) AND FOUNTAIN GRASS (PENNISETUM) CONEFLOWERS are stunning.They look like giant inverted daises and are among my favourites with their distinctive pale purple or pink petals. They prefer fertile soil, so dig in some compost before planting - ideally in spring, as they don't like a mild, wet winter.

People sometimes associate grasses with being quite dull and just use them to fill out borders and bouquets. However, fountain grass is truly lovely.

It has thin and delicate upright leaves with feathery pink flowers. They can add a beautiful soft finish to your vase and your garden. Pennisetum are sun-lovers and need a sheltered location and well-drained soil.

So don't keep forking out for flowers. Become your own florist and both your garden and home will be better off for it.

ASK DAVID OUR EXPERT ANSWERS YOUR QUESTIONS QTHE tips of my ponytail palm houseplant are turning brown.

I have fertilised it well, so what's the problem? Peter, email il , r AIT could be a few things, but it does indicate your plant is stressed.

Most commonly, it means a plant isn't getting enough water, either because they outgrow the pot or are not being watered enough. Ponytails need fertilising just two or three times a year - so over-fertilising can cause this too.

QWE cut down a cherry tree recently and burned some of the branches.

Is it okay to dig the ash into our vegetable bed? Derick, via email AWOOD ash is full of nutrients and good for soil, but it is quite alkaline - so use it sparingly as too much ash will harm your plants.

The best way is to mix a little into some compost until you can't see the ash any more, then dig it into your vegetable bed.

Even plants can suffer stress - check the proper care routine

CAPTION(S):

Lillies, left, and coneflowers, centre, are spectacular, while gypsophila, right, might look delicate but is easy to grow

Hollyhocks and dahlias flowering in an English country garden

Persicaria (mountain fleece) looks good from summer to autumn
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Publication:Daily Post (Conwy, Wales)
Date:Mar 31, 2018
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