Gardening

What Is a Cut Flower Garden and How to Plan

If you read design magazines or watch renovation and design shows on TV, you’ve probably noticed a common theme: Every professionally designed space makes heavy use of cut flower arrangements. This is because bouquets of freshly cut flowers bring a breath of bright, colorful life and, in some cases, a pleasant fragrance to even the most demanding interiors. Their only disadvantage is that frequent flower trips might easily deplete your money. Many lovers believe that planting a cut flower garden that produces gorgeous flowers suited for use in bouquets and floral arrangements is the logical solution. Even if your growing area is restricted, it’s not as difficult as you would imagine.

What is a cut flower garden?

A yard full of flower beds is a beautiful thing in itself, but it is not necessarily suitable for harvesting your bouquets. Your outdoor landscaping is built around the idea of ​​making your property attractive (although you may have secondary goals like attracting hummingbirds or pollinators) rather than brightening up your indoor space. A cut flower garden is designed with floral arrangements in mind and necessitates a distinct type of planning.

It starts with choosing florist-ready varieties of your favorite flowers—kinds that reliably produce long stems and showy blooms—and then giving them the growing environment, physical support, and nutrition they need to flourish. That doesn’t mean your cut flower garden can’t be a meaningful part of your existing landscaping, you just need to consciously incorporate these principles into your garden planning.

How to plan a cut flower garden

The main requirements for a cut flower garden are the same as for most other gardens: an area with plenty of full suns and rich, well-drained soil. Some flowers may prefer slightly more or less acidity, but you can solve these requirements by grouping them in separate beds (or raised pots) and treating the soil with suitable amendments.

The most efficient way to grow cut flowers is in beds with long straight rows like a farmer’s corn field. For each variety you grow, you would create a grid at a distance that is appropriate for the final size of the plants. This makes fertilizing, watering, and harvesting easier, which is why commercial flower growers do it this way. This approach is best for large properties where you can have nice beds closer to the house and productive beds further away.

If your cut flowers will grow as part of your overall landscaping plan, you’ll want to settle on a visual style and choose flowers that work well with that style. For example, consider whether you prefer the messy mess of a cottage garden or neatly arranged beds. Choose flowers that complement one another in size, color, and physical form. They will look good outside as they grow and also look good inside in an arrangement. If you are not sure which colors go well with each other, you can refer to the color wheel.

Finally, and most importantly, plant flowers that you enjoy. This may seem like unnecessary advice, but it’s important not to lose sight of your personal preferences when wading through a sea of ​​”must-grow” recommendations.

Tip

If you have a small space and can’t dedicate an area of ​​your garden to just cut flowers, you can still enjoy fresh flowers with a few creative gardening tricks. It’s fairly easy to incorporate florist-quality varieties into your existing beds or cut flower pots; just choose varieties that go with your existing favorites. You can even tuck flowers into special corners of your herb or vegetable garden. For example, marigolds are often used as companion planting in vegetable gardens because they deter many insect pests.

Growing your cut flower garden

A well-planned cut flower garden includes a mix of annuals (flowers you’ll plant every year) and perennials (flowering plants that live for many years), chosen with the crucial question of when (and for how long) they will be around. you will bloom. Bulbs and perennials are the best choices for early spring color while your annuals are still growing from seed or establishing themselves as transplants. Annuals tend to be best in the summer and many can reliably bear fruit until the arrival of frost. With annuals, individual plants lose strength during the season and produce smaller flowers. Follow-up planting (starting a new set of flowers a few weeks after the previous one) can help you ensure a consistent harvest of the highest quality flowers, and you can compost the old ones as they dry.

In most climates, you will get a longer harvest period if you start annuals indoors, but this requires space and good lighting, which not everyone has. Start and transplant them according to the seed company’s instructions, following the usual rule of thumb to place the tallest plants behind medium-sized and short varieties. Some flowers benefit from pinching or removing the growing tip when they are about a foot tall. Pinch or cut them back just above a healthy set of leaves and they will produce longer, straighter stems as a result. Finally, be sure to select a few plants (for example, euphorbia and eucalyptus) that will give you visually interesting foliage to use in your flower arrangements. Foliage isn’t just filler; plays an important role in the appearance of your flower arrangements.

An important step in any cut flower garden is to deadhead your blooms once they are past their prime, which simply means removing spent blooms. Plants are designed by nature to slow down once they flower and start seed, so removing these mature flowers will help extend the time they spend in production mode. Many reliable cut flowers, such as zinnias, will bloom all summer if you are conscientious about deadheading. The easiest method is to simply pinch them off with your fingers.

Varieties to grow in your cut flower garden

No list of varieties for your cut flower garden will be completely exhaustive, and in any case, you’ll want to pick and choose varieties that are suitable for both your climate and your personal preferences. As a starting point, here is a brief table of widely popular cut flowers by growing season.

Cut Flowers By Growing Season

Spring

Summer

Autumn

Tulips

Sunflowers

Chrysanthemums

Lilies and daylilies

Zinnias

Celosia

Daffodils

Sweet peas

Pansies and violas

Irises

Dahlias

Calendula

Daisies

Cosmos

Cosmos

Peonies

Roses

Snapdragons

Lilac

Gladiolus

Asters

Sweet William

Alliums

Echinacea (purple coneflower)

Ranunculus

Delphinium

Strawflowers

Rudbeckia (black-eyed Susans)

Marigolds

Hydrangeas

These categories are not cut and dry, as there is usually significant overlap. Delphinium can be considered a late spring or early summer flower depending on the local climate. Rudbeckias also bloom fairly early but last through late summer and into fall. For a more accurate guide to flowering times in your growing area, check with local nurseries, your branch office, or experienced local gardeners.

Harvesting cut flowers

The best time to harvest flowers is in the cool of the morning when they are at their freshest. Cut each stem on a long diagonal (this will create more surface area for the stem to take up water from the vase) and then remove any excess leaves that will be under water once the stems are in the vase. Disinfect the blades with a cloth soaked in rubbing alcohol, and then continue until you have harvested enough flowers for the day’s flower arrangement.

Do not wait for the flowers to fully open. You will get a longer vase life if you harvest your fresh flowers when they are nearing the end of the bud stage and just starting to show the color hidden inside. They open within a day or two, and flowers in various stages of opening lend visual appeal to your bouquets.

Maintaining your cut flower garden

As commercial flower growers know, a cut flower garden requires a bit of maintenance if it is to produce well. Removing flowers to encourage heavy production means your beds will require a lot of feeding to maintain their fertility. Before planting, include well-aged manure or compost into the bed, along with a slow-release flower-specific fertilizer. Fertilize with a liquid fertilizer every two to three weeks during the flowering time.

Many flowers require some type of assistance. To avoid the blooms from swinging too much in the wind, commercial producers frequently utilize a wire mesh trellis erected approximately a foot above the ground. Sweet peas necessitate the use of a fence or trellis. Peonies benefit from a circular cage similar to a tomato cage so that the stems do not break under the weight of their oversized flowers. Dahlias and delphiniums benefit from staking out.

Watering is also important because flowers won’t bloom as profusely when water-stressed and won’t give you as much life in the vase after you cut them. You can minimize your water use by creatively using mulch, and, if there’s one secret to growing cut flowers, it’s probably mulch. Commercial flower growers use black plastic mulch or landscaping fabric with holes spaced appropriately for the flowers. In the home garden, you can use bark mulch, straw, shredded leaves, or any other organic mulch. They will help retain moisture (important in drought-prone areas) and suppress weeds.

Tip

Once you’ve gone to the trouble of growing your beautiful flowers, there’s still the matter of creating your unique floral designs. If you’re not sure about your design sense, you can use the color wheel to choose contrasting and complementary colors. By varying the height and texture of flowers and mixing in foliage, you can create eye-catching effects for visual appeal. For this purpose, you can use leaves from the plants you grow, or if you have bushes that need pruning anyway, you can time this routine work on the days when you create bouquets.

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