The Land Gardeners showcasing Wardington Manor through the seasons.

Andrew Montgomery

There is a playful inventiveness and a sense of unruly wildness about Wardington, with its Arts and Crafts gardens weaving around the 15th-century manor, and a similar spirit imbues our work as growers and designers. Rather like our business The Land Gardeners, the meander of outdoor rooms, backed by rust-hued ironstone walls and high yew hedges, has developed in a haphazard way over time. In summer, they erupt in a profusion of flowers, soaring out of the beds and seeding in walls and paths. Early on, we set a challenge to pick flowers through the year and discovered there is always a corner of the garden or a hedgerow that bears blooms to inspire and celebrate.


At this glorious time of year, we send sculptural branches from our magnolias to florists in London – and may even cut them while they are still in bud, their candle-like buds protected by soft winter fur coats. We relish the hot, blowsy blooms of the rhododendrons and the intensity of the camellia flowers nestled among glossy, dark-green leaves. In late spring, it is all about blossom, armfuls and armfuls of it: cherry, apple, crab apple and quince.

Spring bulbs are a great source of cut flowers. In fact, an orchard or an area of lawn allowed to grow long is the ideal low-maintenance cut-flower garden. Plant bulbs such as snowdrops, narcissi, camassia and perennial tulips (‘Spring Green’ and ‘Queen of Night’ are particularly perennial), which will grow up through the tall grass – and follow these with wildflowers like ox-eye daisies and cow parsley. Fruit trees will give you blossom in spring and boughs of fruit in autumn, and species roses planted in the long grass provide you with branches of roses in summer and hips in autumn.

How to grow spring bulbs for the start of the cutting season

However, it is when our tulips appear in spring that we know the circus has come to town. Striped varieties like ‘Estella Rijnveld’ and ‘Raspberry Ripple’ transform our walled garden into a riot of colour and frivolity. When we pick tulips, we pull them from the base of the stem – this way we are able to gain 20cm of stem length, which really separates them from the average tulips, adding elegance and height to arrangements.

While we await the full crescendo of summer flowers, we pick armfuls of early biennials – pretty clouds of white honesty (Lunaria annua var. albiflora) and scented white and lavender sweet rocket (Hesperis matronalis); spires of white, cream and apricot foxgloves and maroon-stemmed cow parsley (Anthriscus sylvestris ‘Ravenswing’).


We are kept busy picking from our dedicated rows of cut flowers and herbaceous borders. We find this activity seems to stimulate plants to bloom more and grow stronger. We clamber into the back of the borders, gathering towering pale yellow giant scabious (Cephalaria gigantea) and soaring meadow rue (Thalictrum rochebruneanum). We trim clouds of catmint and white and mauve valerian (Centranthus ruber ‘Albus’ and C. lecoqii) from the terrace walls.

We adore our glamorous, abundant peonies – all alluring folds of silk and Hollywood charisma. No other flower is as seductive. Pick them when the buds feel like marshmallows – soft and squidgy when squeezed – and they will open in the vase. You can extend your peony season by planting earlies like ‘Coral Charm’, mid-seasons like ‘Gardenia’ and lates, including our favourite ‘Nick Shaylor’.

Roses are not the longest-lasting of cut flowers, but we have fallen under the spell of their beguiling fragrance and their soft, plump petals that float down to the floor. Our favourites include the striped ‘Ferdinand Pichard’ – its crisp red and white petals perfect for a bathroom, the delicate pale yellow ‘Jude the Obscure’, which reminds us of the Queen Mother’s hats, or the strongly fragrant spirited, deep pink ‘Gertrude Jekyll’. Most of our collection are English shrub roses, but we are now coming round to the charms of hybrid tea roses – the flowers of our grandmothers – starting out all crisp and perfect on their uptight bushes and ending up full, languid and blowsy, their soft petals crinkling like tissue.


Billowing cosmos is our late-summer and autumn staple, especially ‘Purity’ with its bright white flowers that grow tall and continue all season – the more you pick, the more it produces. Our dahlia borders come alive with rows of hot-coloured blooms – including the voluptuous, swirling heads of the deep pink ‘Otto’s Thrill’ and ‘Elma E’, the velvet-purple ‘Thomas Edison’ and the fiery orange ‘Eileen’ – while the cool clotted creams of ‘Café au Lait’ and ‘Peaches and Cream’ are demure partners for our favourite red-and-white striped ‘Santa Claus’.

Piet Oudolf's garden at Hauser & Wirth Somerset

At this time of year, we love our expanding collection of hydrangeas. There is a row of deep pink mophead hydrangeas (Hydrangea macrophylla) by the front door, which we cut when they are in full bloom in summer, often drying the flower heads inside to tide us through the winter months. We love the plumes of Hydrangea paniculata and the bright lime-green pompoms of Hydrangea arborescens ‘Annabelle’.


We start in early winter, planting up tureens and old Constance Spry vases with hyacinth, crocus, fritillary and grape hyacinth bulbs, and sitting fragrant paper-white narcissus bulbs in water up to their middles, in containers ranging from silver jugs to large china bowls. In the winter garden, we find little treasures, including pretty Daphne odora. Plant one near your back door to cheer you on cold, grey days and perhaps pick just one or two of its tiny, fragrant flowers for your bedside table.

How to grow indoor bulbs in time for Christmas

Finally, as winter draws in, we dig up clumps of snowdrops, winter aconites, hellebores and primulas, potting them up in porcelain pots and silver cups to bring inside. The distinctive almond scent of snowdrop Galanthus nivalis ‘Sam Arnott’ fills the library and the moment that they have finished blooming, we put them back into the ground, tucking them up for another year.

‘The Land Gardeners: Cut Flowers’ (Thames & Hudson, £35) is available to buy from