What could be more elegant than a beautiful flower arrangement in your home for you and your guests to admire? Become your own florist, and add artistic touches to your interior by making table centerpieces, entranceway wreaths and freshly cut arrangements to adorn a guest bedroom. Creating your own cutting garden is an excellent way to have access to the freshest flowers possible. In addition, it is less expensive than buying cut flowers at a florist or supermarket.
STUDY AND SKETCH
When designing your cutting garden, begin by deciding how large it will be, noting how much sunlight it will receive and whether there is an adequate water supply available nearby. Measure the area in your landscape that you would like to turn into the cutting garden and sketch it on paper. Cut flower gardens have traditionally been planted in strict rows, similar to a vegetable garden, but as homeowners have become increasingly wise to the aesthetic value of a well-designed landscape, the “rules” have changed. The modern cutting garden can be as simple as a cluster of containers or as intricate as an acre of formal flowerbeds. As you study garden books, magazines and Internet articles, draw plants into your sketch that catch your eye. Pay close attention to how large each mature plant will eventually grow, and place them in your garden plan accordingly.
SELECT FOR SUCCESS
Chrysanthemums have stunning blooms during the autumn months. Try these ‘Snowdrift’ mums for a splash of white in your bouquet.
Plant selection is the most crucial step in producing a successful cutting garden. Remember that the goal of this garden is to have convenient access to beautiful cut flowers and foliage that can be used in fresh and dried floral arrangements any time of the year. Keep the type of arrangements that you plan to create in mind as you begin choosing the species to plant. A variety of forms, including spire-shaped flowers (delphinium, larkspur), blooms with round features (marigold, rose) and those with an airy appearance (statice, gypsophilia), should be included. A great selection will provide you with the different flowers necessary to compose creative arrangements throughout the year.
Spring is always an exciting time in the garden. Many plants that flower in spring are suitable as fresh cut flowers. Bulbs, such as tulips, daffodils and hyacinths, add wonderful color and scent to indoor arrangements. Summer provides a vast array of annuals, perennials and shrubs that can be used for fresh and dried arrangements. The list of summer flowering plants is endless, but a few of my favorites are celosia, coreopsis, phlox and sunflower.
Chrysanthemum, salvia, aster and lycoris all have stunning blooms during the autumn months. Winter may be a season of limitation in the landscape, but it does not have to damper your desire to provide beautiful decorations for the interior of your home. With a little imagination, holly berries, uniquely colored twigs, dried perennial seedheads and ornamental grasses can create unbelievable arrangements. Evergreen trees, shrubs and vines will provide year-round foliage.
CUTTING AND POSTHARVEST
Become your own florist by growing a variety of flowers in your own garden. You can produce the fresh material to make great bouquets like these.
Harvesting cut flowers is an easy and fun experience. Watering your plants well the day before you harvest will make the stems turgid, so they will last longer. Harvest early in the morning while the blooms are at their best, but make sure that they are dry of moisture from dew or rain. Cut each stem at an angle, leaving them as long as possible (you can always cut off more later). Select flowers that are just beginning to open to ensure that they stay fresh as long as possible. Place the cut stems in water as you harvest so that they will immediately begin water uptake. Store the harvest in a cool place until you are ready to create your floral artwork. Remove leaves below the water line to help keep the water fresh. Replace the water in your arrangements every other day.
To enjoy the bounty of your garden for years to come, plant varieties useful as everlasting flowers and foliage. Poppy seedpods, gomphrena, roses, lavender, dusty miller, solidago and ornamental grasses all make excellent dried specimens that hold their color and form well. They can also be dried very easily. Harvest small bundles (six to eight stems per bundle) early in the morning, and secure the stems with a rubber band. The rubber band will hold the stems in place even as they contract after losing moisture during the drying process. Hang the bundles upside down in a cool, dry place. Many species will dry in about two weeks, although roses and other large flowers may take a little longer. Once the blooms have dried, separate the bundles and make your creations. Wreaths, bouquets and garlands are all attractive arrangements for everlastings.
The most important aspect of a cutting garden is that it is enjoyed both inside and outside. Paths through your garden will ensure that your cut flower landscape is easily accessible and appreciated. Sitting areas are wonderful additions to any garden and will allow you a place to rest and imagine your future cut flower creations. Your guests will enjoy your cut flower garden as much as they do the beautiful arrangements you produce for your home.
(From State-by-State Gardening May 2005.)