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Create your own cutting garden with Clare Nolan

Stylist, author and photographer, Clare Nolan shares her joy of growing and styling home-grown cut-flowers and how to get ahead this autumn to ensure a bountiful cutting border next spring. To get you started, we have Clare's book 'In Bloom' and an RHS-endorsed bulb planter to give away.
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Create your own cutting garden with Clare Nolan
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Create your own cutting garden with Clare Nolan



Stylist, author and photographer, Clare Nolan shares her joy of growing and styling home-grown cut-flowers and how to get ahead this autumn to ensure a bountiful cutting border next spring.

“I’ve been gardening ever since I saw my first red lettuce on a school trip to a market garden and wanted to grow one myself. I graduated to sunflowers, then tomatoes, and by that time I was hooked. Planting cut flowers brings that ‘grow-your-own’ excitement to a whole new level – being able to step out of the back door and pick a single stem to go beside the bed, pull together a bouquet for a friend to take home, or cut an armload of annuals for a party is a joy. It’s like having the best flower shop at the bottom of your garden just waiting for you and your secateurs.

The thing I love most is being able to grow flowers that I could only dream about getting my hands on otherwise – it’s exciting to hunt for new, interesting varieties to try each season. For me, it’s an extension of styling my home: a room without flowers doesn’t feel quite right; it’s amazing the difference they make to the feel of a space."


Make a start on your cutting garden now

Most people see spring as the start of the gardening season, but for the cut-flower gardener, it begins with the sowing of biennial seeds such as foxglove, sweet William or wallflowers around mid-summer, followed by spring bulb planting and the first wave of hardy annuals with an early autumn sowing. A little bit of planning now and you’ll be reaping rewards next spring.

Late summer:

Order spring/early summer flowering bulbs like alliums, daffodils, lilies, anemones, ranunculus and tulips as soon as you can to ensure you get the varieties you want - popular varieties sell out quickly. I put a separate order in for my tulips and request they be delivered much later than all the other bulbs as I won’t be planting them out until November.

Early autumn:

* Plant out mid-summer sown biennials like foxgloves, sweet William or honesty. If you’ve missed sowing your own seed, garden centres usually have bareroot sweet William for sale and it’s possible to buy plugs of some varieties online.

* Sow hardy annuals like cerinthe, nigella and cornflower for early flowering next year either direct or undercover to overwinter indoors. Sown at this time, the plants will be bigger and more robust than spring-sown plants and will flower earlier.

* Plant spring/early summer flowering bulbs like daffodils, alliums and lilies (but not tulips yet). Put your tulips in November or after you’ve had a few hard frosts – it helps prevent tulip fire.

* Start off anemone corms and ranunculus claws undercover by soaking and pre-sprouting them in a seed tray covered in soil, then plant into pots for overwintering in a greenhouse. They’ll go out into the garden in early spring with some protection.

* Collect seed from spent blooms, clean and either sow immediately or store for the following season.

* Sow sweet peas – my current favourites are ‘Earl Grey’, ‘Nimbus’ and ‘Wiltshire Ripple’. This will be my first of two sowings – I’ll do another one in early spring to spread out the flowering times.

* Plant out potted perennial plants and shrubs so that they have time to get going before the harsh weather arrives.

* Divide perennials to increase stock – those with fleshy or fibrous roots as opposed to one single root are the ones to divide. 

* Dig up and store gladioli bulbs, and dahlia tubers if your garden is very cold or the soil is wet. In my garden, I take my chances with about half of my dahlias – leaving them in the ground with a heavy layer of mulch on top. The rest I dig up and store frost free.

* Clear beds and prepare for the following season – apply mulch of well-rotted compost and manure.

Late autumn:
* Plant tulip bulbs – each year I’ll try some new varieties, but I’ll always include my favourites; ‘Belle Epoque’, ‘Uncle Tom’ and ‘Queen of Night’.

* Pot up bulbs like paperwhites and amaryllis for forcing over winter. When there’s little in the cut flower garden, it’s a joy to fast-forward spring and bring a bowl of hyacinths or narcissus into the house.

Clare runs garden and styling workshops from her garden studio in Oxfordshire; for more details visit

‘In Bloom’ is published by Kyle Books. You can buy the book online here.

All photos in this article © Clare Nolan, except bulb planter image below.






Prize draw: win Clare's inspirational book 'In Bloom' and an RHS-endorsed long-handled bulb planter 

After chatting with Clare, we're raring to go and can't wait to get started in laying the foundations for a gorgeously floriferous summer next year. If you've been inspired too, we have a copy of Clare's beautiful book 'In Bloom' to give away, together with our RHS-endorsed long-handled bulb planter to make planting all those bulbs much easier.

To win this prize and get started on creating your own cutting garden, all you need to do is leave a comment on this blog. Scroll to the bottom of this page to comment (your email address won't be published). You’ll also need to be a subscriber to our monthly email newsletter to be a winner, so if you're not already signed up, fill in your email address in the grey band right at the bottom of this page. You can unsubscribe at any time if you don’t enjoy our monthly updates. 



Here'sthe small print:

'In Bloom' prize draw, 2019

This giveaway is open to UK residents over the age of 18 only. No purchase necessary. No cash alternative is available.  Winners will be chosen at random and the judges’ decision will be final. One winner will receive one (1) copy of 'In Bloom' by Clare Nolan and one (1) RHS-endorsed long-handled bulb planter. Prize draw opens at 00:01 on 23/08/2019 and closes at 23:59 on 01/09/2019. Winners will be contacted by Burgon & Ball shortly after the closing date. Employees of Burgon & Ball and employees of Clare Nolan and their family members aren’t eligible to win. One entry per person; entries created by a bot or a service that automatically enters participants are not eligible to win. We draw your attention to our privacy policy here.



  • Never planted bulbs before, do you place them randomly, or in any sort of order ?

    JIm SNow on
  • I’d love to fill the house with vases of flowers to bring indoors some of the colour from my tiny front garden, but feel reluctant to cut the flowers I have in containers by the front door.
    So the plan is to have a cut flower bed at the allotment. A book such as Bloom would be a perfect aid (and justify purchasing a few extra packs of tulip bulbs)

    Lynne Aldridge on
  • Easy long-handled planting,
    Clare Nolan’s advice,
    Will make our home
    Look very nice.

    Melanie Hutchings on
  • Delightful…so satisfying to bring your Outside flowers inside to enjoy

    LInda Spevick on
  • Inspiring blog to read. I do grow some cut flowers but always looking to improve and get some abundance- maybe with Clare’s tips!

    Sally Morris on
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