Cut flowers bring garden inside
You’ve nurtured each bloom to show off in the garden but just can’t bring yourself to steal a few flowers to enjoy in a vase.
You’re not alone. And it turns out, there’s a way to do both.
A cutting garden solves this dilemma, says Pat Hermes, a certified floral designer and home gardener.
As director of the Houston School of Flowers, Hermes trains florists and teaches those who simply want to learn how to create home arrangements.
At her house, she’s grown long-lasting blooms in cutting gardens of all shapes and sizes, from a large-scale grid of raised beds on a vacated tennis court to patio containers and trellises squeezed into tight spots.
The style can be formal or a cottage garden, she says. Flowers for cutting also can be grown among veggies in a kitchen garden.
Survey, plan, plant
Take a quick survey of your existing garden to determine what to add in a cutting garden. You may already have a surprising assortment of foliage and flowers for a vase. That may be a handful of ferns to complement hydrangeas in a pretty bowl, a half dozen long stemmed umbrella papyrus topped with swirls of narrow foliage to stand in a tall vase, or a bouquet of graceful inland sea oats with drooping oatlike blooms to grace a jug.
Go for months of flowers and foliage to supply your arrangements.
Pick one or more sites for your cutting garden. A sunny spot with well-draining, fertile soil will bring a greater choice of flowers.
Sketch a plan, if helpful. Add to existing beds, or create new ones. To expand cutting garden space, grow flowering vines on a trellis, and fill containers with colorful flowers and foliage.
Make a list, and plant enough for blooms through the seasons. Some plants flower during the cool months, others bloom with more heat.
Include annuals, the color workhorses in a cutting garden. Remove and replace them when the season ends. For example, plant cool-season violas this fall, remove when they fade in late spring, and then add zinnias for summer-fall flowers. Plant reseeders such as larkspur for spring blooms and low-care Brazilian buttonbush with fuzzy purplish blooms spring till frost.
Add perennials for short or extended flowering, depending on the type. Plant them in multiples for more blooms and a showier garden display.
If there’s space, plant flowering and berry-bearing shrubs. Otherwise, shop your existing garden for arrangement materials such as roses, beautyberries or hollies.
Keep the soil moist, and mulch to conserve moisture and discourage weeds.
Add stepping stones in wide beds to allow easy access to flowers and avoid crushing shallow roots.
Cut regularly to encourage more blooms and bushier foliage.
Fertilize to boost productivity, especially workhorse annuals.
Here are flowers with their bloom times, as well as low-care foliage plants to consider in your cutting garden:
Bulbs, rhizomes, tubers: Agapanthus (late spring/early summer), allium (late winter-early fall), amaryllis/hippeastrum (spring), anemone (early spring), calla (spring), crocosmia (late spring-early summer), various butterfly gingers (summer-fall), Byzantine gladiolus (late spring-early summer), spuria iris (spring), leucojum (spring), ‘Erlicheer’ and ‘Dutch Master’ narcissus (late winter-spring), Siam tulip ginger (summer), ranunculus (spring).
Annuals: Calendula (fall-spring), celosia (summer-frost, depending on type), clarkia (spring), cornflower (late spring-mid summer), cosmos (spring-frost, depending on type), delphinium (spring), foxglove (spring), gaillardia (spring-fall), gomphrena (late spring-frost), larkspur (spring), lisianthus (late spring-early fall), marigolds (summer-frost), poppy, snapdragon (spring and fall), stock (spring and fall), strawflowers (late spring-mid fall), sunflowers (late spring-early fall), torenia (spring-fall), zinnia (late spring-frost).
Perennials: Aster (fall), Brazilian buttonbush (spring-frost, also reseeds), chrysanthemum (spring and/or fall, depending on type), columbine (spring), coneflower (summer-fall), dianthus (fall-spring), gerbera (nearly year-round), liatris (summer), penstemon (spring), rudbeckia (‘Indian Summer,’ ‘Goldstum,’ R. maxima and R. lanceolata for spring-fall blooms), salvia (spring-fall), scabiosa (spring), shasta daisies (spring-fall), statice (summer), sumer phlox (late spring-fall), yarrow (spring).
Vines: Bleeding heart, butterfly vine, clematis, pink and white coral vine, Dutchman’s pipe vine, passionflower, sweetpeas.
Shrubs with flowers, berries: Beautyberry (vibrant purple berries in late summer/early fall), ‘Soft Caress’ mahonia (yellow blooms, great foliage), roses (spring-fall, depending on type), camellias (fall-spring, depending on cultivar), mop head, lace cap and oak leaf hydrangeas (spring-fall, depending on type).
Multiple-season foliage: Artemesia, burgundy millet, ‘Carolina Sapphire’ cypress (beautiful in holiday wreaths), coleus, cyperus or umbrella papyrus cryptomeria (great in wreaths), dill, dusty miller, elaeagnus, fennel, leatherleaf and other ferns, ornamental grasses, perilla, rosemary.
Garden to vase
As flowers and foliage near cutting time, look around your home for a vase. Most any container that holds water will do. Chances are, as you’ve tossed spent blooms from birthday and holiday gift arrangements, you’ve stashed the empty vases beneath your kitchen sink. If you need a nudge, Hermes will share how-to’s at a workshop Oct. 27 at Peckerwood Garden.
Cut flowers and foliage for arrangements in the early morning when they’re hydrated.
Carry a bucket of clean water to the garden, and snip foliage and flowers with clean, sharp clippers.
Select blooms in forms, textures and heights that will complement your vase.
Cut foliage, if wanted, to dress up the arrangement.
Add a floral preservative to the water in the vase.