Most Bluegrass gardeners love to bring fresh flowers into their homes, but they are torn between cutting blooms to bring indoors and leaving them as highlights in the garden. The solution is to have a cutting garden - a garden solely designed for making flower arrangements for your home and to give to friends.
Many plants are hard to integrate into your perennial borders or landscape beds, but they make perfect plants for flower arrangements. Gladiolus are a good example – they don’t blend well in most perennial beds because when you cut the flowers, there is little left to give interest in the garden. Plants with flower colors that clash with flowers in your landscape beds are great choices for a cutting garden. Also plants with a straggly growth habit, or those that require extra care, like tea roses, are good for the cutting garden.
To grow the largest variety of flowers, choose a location in full sun. Most flowers need a well-drained area and soil that has been amended with lots of compost, especially if it is located in a spot that has never been used as a garden.
Your cutting garden is best in a spot where it is out of public view. If you use a lot of flowers from it, which is the point of a cutting bed, it won’t always look as nice as a bed designed to be seen. Having your cutting garden in the vegetable garden makes it easy to care for the flowers along with the vegetables. You can also choose a spot behind the garage or you may want to plant the garden behind a screen or hedge.
You may want to divide your cutting garden into three different areas for: perennial plants, annual plants and tender bulbs. This helps when you are digging dahlias or cannas out for winter storage or planting zinnias in the spring – you do not disturb the perennial plants.
Summer or tender bulbs have some good candidates for cutting gardens. Gladiolus, cannas, elephant ears, and dahlias are a few common ones that come in a wide range of colors and flower forms. They can be dug up and stored after frost in the fall or treated like annuals and discarded.
Perennial bulbs make great cutting garden flowers. You do not have to worry about the dying foliage making the garden look bad or clashing colors. Plant tons of tulips, daffodils, hyacinths, alliums, Asiatic, trumpet, and oriental lilies. Bearded and Siberian iris is also great. Try to choose several varieties that bloom at different times to extend your harvest.
Most bouquet favorite flowers are daisy-like perennials. These include Shasta daisies, heliopsis, gaillardia, coreopsis and Echinacea. Chrysanthemums will extend your flower harvest into fall.
Other good cutting garden perennials include lavender, Russian sage, phlox, ornamental oreganos, Cupids dart, hardy asters, Bee Balm, hydrangea and goldenrod. Do not forget to plant the tiny flowers for tiny nosegay bouquets like lily of the valley, pansies and violets.
Annual flowers offer many great choices for cutting gardens. Look for ones with sturdy stems like zinnias, marigolds, sunflowers, cosmos, annual asters, cornflowers, snapdragons, salvia, statice, cleome, celosia and calendula.
Just because it is out of sight does not mean it should be out of mind. Make sure you can get water to the cutting garden when it is dry and fertilize perennial flowers in the spring when they first begin growing with a slow release fertilizer formulated for flowers. Annuals in the cutting garden require fertilization when planting and about every 6 weeks until frost.
Weeds encourage disease and insect problems and compete for food and water with your desired cutting garden plants, so keep the cutting garden weeded. If you are not using all of the flowers for cutting, keep flowers picked off the plants as they fade, because this encourages the plant to keep blooming. Keep track of what varieties did well for you and what did not so you’ll know what to buy next year.
Now you do not have to leave bare spots in your landscape beds or perennial gardens. Cutting gardens will satisfy your desire for flower bouquets and arrangements, plus the bees and butterflies can enjoy the flowers until you cut them. When you have a cutting garden, it is easy to be generous with its bounty.