Bartlett on Gardening: Bountiful Bouquets--The Cutting Garden

July 21, 2018

The concept of having a cutting garden is rather quaint. In the past, it was a separate area which, like the vegetable garden, was more utilitarian than decorative, producing large quantities of flowers for bouquets. With our much smaller gardens, today’s cutting garden may need to pass the ornamental test while supplying the desired harvest.

 

Two guiding principles are key to achieving the goal of continuous flower production. Use only plant material for bouquets, ruthlessly rejecting unsuitable plants. Plant large quantities so that harvesting does not make the area look depleted. Decide whether you prefer a garden of summer-flowering annuals or season-spanning perennials. In either case, the site needs to be sunny six to eight hours a day. 

 

There are plenty of annuals which are easily grown from seed. Zinnias come in a wide array of colors. Those that are 24 to 30 inches tall stand up well to the weather and have long stems.

 

Thinking of stem length, there are now many shorter sunflowers that make great bouquet material. Cosmos, bachelor buttons and snapdragons are terrific cut flowers and easy to grow from seed. Lisianthus  is a beautiful selection as is ammi majus, a domed form of Queen Anne’s Lace. Don’t forget the everlastings such as statice, gomphrena and baby’s breath.

 

Although I have had some dahlias come back for years, most do not survive our wet winters. Gladioli, on the other hand, not only survive, they produce an abundance of baby tubers.

 

Two classic cut flowers do not grow well here. Carnations need excellent drainage and prefer sandy soil. Delphiniums do not like our humid heat.

 

Season-spanning perennials will provide bouquet material from early spring into fall. Daffodils come in a range of shades from yellow and white to pink. Dutch iris and peonies bloom in May along with the first flush of roses. Shasta daisies and coneflowers are summer staples along with lilies and roses. 

 

We are so used to buying cushioning mums in fall that we forget that chrysanthemums are classic cut flowers. The taller varieties must be planted in spring to perform well.  They take a bit of attention, but so do roses!

 

It is best to harvest flowers in the early morning. Take a container of water with you so that the flowers are in water while you work. Back in the house, recut the stems under water, allowing the flowers to stand in tepid water, out of direct sunlight, for several hours. For longer-lasting arrangements, distilled water is recommended. Adding a floral preservative does extend vase life.

 

It surprises people to learn that I seldom

 bring flowers indoors. My husband does not like being enclosed with various plant pollens. However, when I think Jack Frost is about to rob me of the last flowers of the season, I hustle to bring the last roses inside for a final farewell.

 

Master gardener Ann Bartlett and her husband, Paul, live in an uneasy truce with the myriad polleniferous ornamentals she grows in the beds around their home. Pictured above are, in order, assorted cut flowers, Shasta daisies, short-stemmed sunflowers and chrysanthemums.

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