Growing Cut Flowers

We are excited to welcome back our friend and guest blogger, Shanthi, to continuing sharing her wealth of gardening experience and knowledge with us, this time on the topic of growing cut flowers in your garden.

Welcome back, Shanthi!

Photo Credit: Shanthi

Selecting a Garden Area

“Consider a dedicated section of the garden to grow flowers for the sole purpose of being able to cut them for floral arrangements. We hesitate to cut from our usual flower beds, so having a dedicated space allows us to grow and cut without cringing! Also, commercial flowers are expensive and lack the variety and fragrance of locally grown flowers.”

“As with vegetable plots, start off with choosing a suitable site:

  • At least 6 hours of sun. dappled shade in sections is also good for those plants that prefer some shade.
  • Fertile and well-draining soil.”
Photo Credit: Shanthi

Choosing What to Grow

  • “Floral arrangements look simple enough on the surface but a lot of thought process and planning is involved.
    • Bouquets or arrangements require various types of flowers and foliage and so one needs to ensure that there is a variety of each in the garden. Keep in mind that the blooming times differ too and so there needs to be a variety of plants and flowers in bloom at any given time (e.g. spring, summer, fall).
    • Choose flowers with long and sturdy stems and with long vase life.
    • There is a wide range of plants to choose from – Can be annuals, perennials, shrubs, tubers, bulbs etc.
    • Foliage can be picked from other parts of the garden or plants/shrubs with attractive foliage can be incorporated into the main landscape to serve a dual purpose.”
  • Popular plantings:
    • Tulips, Alliums and Daffodils make excellent cut flowers and are available in unusual shades and shapes. These can be obtained and planted in the Fall from local or online nurseries for beautiful blooms the following spring. Critters stay away from daffodil bulbs but love the tasty tulip ones so lay down chicken wire over bulbs when planting or hide them in between less tasty ones.
    • Dahlias are striking and take center stage in arrangements. They are started off as shriveled up tubers that look like something for the compost bin but then can turn into plants as high as 5 feet in no time. Dahlias are not winter hardy and must be dug up and stored until the next year. Proper harvesting and storage is needed but there are many resources on the web to take you through the step by step processes.
    • A whole range of perennials that you can plant and then forget about. These will yield armloads of cut flower year after year. Examples include Yarrow, Asters, echinaceas, Heleniums, delphiniums, black eyed Susan, roses, Iris, lilacs, Baby’s breath, hydrangeas, peonies and the list goes on and on.
  • Equally expansive are annualsgladiolas, Zinnia, celosia, love-in-a-mist, sweet peas, bells of Ireland.
    • Sources of foliage/stems include Ninebark, cedar, holly, bridal wreath, horsetail plant, ferns, curly willow, ornamental grasses etc. Some of these change colour over the seasons and some even flower for a double bonus.
    • Branches or stems with berries add to the visual interest. Crab apples, hypericum, holly, honeysuckle, even cherry tomatoes are some examples.
    • Other: forage and incorporate what you think may work such as raspberry stems, pokeweed, seedheads etc.”
Photo Credit: Shanthi

Harvesting and Arranging

  • “Once the hard work is done, then comes the fun part – harvesting and arranging.
    • Cut stems early in the morning as they are most hydrated then. Use sharp shears and place directly into a bucket with water. Strip off lower leaves so you have less cleaning up to do indoors.
    • Bring indoors and let sit in a cool place with floral food in the water. There are tricks to follow for some flowers, for example dahlias have to sit in hot water for an hour, poppies have to have their stems burnt, hydrangeas have to be immersed in water or dipped in alum powder. Again, lots of information and tips on the web.”
  • Arrangements:
    • “Whether making bouquets or arranging in vases, there are again a few rules to follow if you want the professional look.           
      • Structural foliage, supporting ingredient, and textural ingredient form the base of an arrangement.
      • Then supporting flowers, focal flowers and airy accents provide the eye catching details.
      • Each has its own purpose and if you are able to collect ingredients from all six categories, your end product will be stunning
      • Also, try to follow the colour wheel so there is some harmony in the colours used (e.g. monochromatic, complementary etc.)
  • Mostly and realistically though, any armful of flowers and especially those from your own garden will look stunning no matter how you arrange them.
  • For vase arrangements, choose colours and shapes to complement your arrangement
  • There are other supplies you may want to invest in such as floral wrappers, flower frogs to hold arrangements in place, flower food packets etc. It all depends on how far you want to go.”
Photo Credit: Shanthi

Closing Thoughts

  • “You can go all out and aim for professional results or simply be fully content with informal arrangements. Either way, seeing a tiny seed or shriveled up tuber turn into a centerpiece is very rewarding. You learn about putting the needs of other living things before yours when you learn to store, take care, and raise your garden. You get to learn from your trials (and mistakes!) and plan for another fresh season come next spring. You get to research and explore on varieties that you all of a sudden crave and cannot stop thinking about. Along the way, you help the environment and pollinators.  Finally, you get to see the smile on peoples’ faces when you present them with a heavenly fragrant lush bouquet!”
photo Credit: Shanthi

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