Growing a Cut Flower Garden
Design a garden with blooms destined for cutting, and you’ll keep your vases filled for the entire growing season. Why make room for a cutting garden? Having one frees you to snip stems liberally—and to stop worrying about ruining a just-right bed. You don’t need a large garden to raise plenty of posies for picking. With the right flower mix, a few rows in a vegetable garden or a 3- by 6-foot bed yield enough blossoms to fuel bouquets for your own use and for giving away.
- Start with a sunny spot. You’ll get the most blooms when you tuck your cutting garden into an area that receives plenty of sun—six hours is ideal, but four will work. For many flowering plants, more sun yields more blooms. If your yard has mature trees, selective pruning can often open up a tree canopy to allow sunlight to reach the ground beneath.
- Think about watering. Avoid overhead watering. Instead, plan to use soaker hoses, drip irrigation or micro-sprinklers that deliver water directly to soil. Water-soaked flowers are more likely to develop disease, which can spread quickly with overhead watering.
- Improve soil. Many perennial cut flowers can’t handle poorly drained soil and quickly die. Adding organic matter can help drainage. If you have homegrown compost, that’s great. If not, go with a locally available compost or other organic matter, like chopped leaves, fine forest mulch or cotton industry by-products.
- Keep your flower mix simple. Focus on a few favorite colors you want to have in bouquets, add contrasting or complementary colored bloomers and lastly, include foliage filler plants. False indigo, coleus, ribbon grass and snow on the mountain (Euphorbia) all make excellent fillers in bouquets. Mint and aegopodium stems also provide good greenery for arrangements. Both are invasive, though, so tuck these into areas of your yard where you can easily contain their wandering ways.
- Use a mix of annuals, perennials and foliage plants. For annuals consider zinnia, cosmos, strawflower and lisianthus. Many perennials make fantastic cut flowers, including coneflower, black-eyed Susan, bee balm and yarrow. Include a section with self-sowing annuals, like bachelor’s buttons, larkspur, feverfew and calendula. These plants readily multiply from year to year, providing a reliable supply of stems. Tuck perennial flowers along outside edges of your cutting garden or in other parts of your yard.
- Focus on bloom time. The trickiest part of planning your flower mix is choosing plants to provide a steady supply of blossoms for the entire growing season. A little research can help you choose perennials with different bloom times. Count on annuals to bridge gaps between perennials. Include ornamental grasses for fall arrangements.
- Arrange plants in rows for easy access. Some gardeners group plants by height to make flower gathering easy. Don’t worry about the overall aesthetic of the garden. You’re not designing a bed that looks great in the landscape, you’re aiming for a source of flowers that will look great in your home.