An ideal garden for cutting is one featuring long-living perennials and annuals with good vase life, such as those found in ‘Summer Pastels’ (pictured), along with hardy zinnias for added splash of color.
Arranging flowers according to their growing conditions and flowering times will make harvesting simpler, suggests Leigh, while protecting shorter varieties from being overshadowed by taller varieties.
An optimal location to cultivate a cut flower garden is in full sun. Many annual and perennial flowers thrive under these conditions; others may not fare so well. Seed catalogs provide easy-to-grow varieties like sunflowers and zinnias that you might find ideal.
Your next step should be deciding what crops to plant and the space available to you for growing them. Your plan should ideally include both hardy and half-hardy annuals to extend harvest season into autumn and winter months.
Make sure each bed has a plan, including recommended spacing between plants. This will help avoid overcrowding that leads to disease and pests, and also be mindful of which varieties need support such as tall annuals such as sunflowers or vining ones like climbing nasturtiums and sweet peas which may need stakes, netting, twine or other supports to keep them from flopping over.
Most flowers for cutting require full sun and rich, well-draining soil. Carefully read seed catalogs and plant tags to select suitable cultivars for your site.
Cut flower gardens utilize many of the same management strategies as any other planting beds or borders. When planning your cut flower garden, remember to plan to make weeding and harvesting easy, plant in wide rows so you can easily reach plants for pruning, trimming or picking, add paths or trellises as desired to make gardening more pleasurable and add paths or trellises for extra pleasure when working your plot.
Some perennial and annual flowers grow on vining stems that require support by means of netting or trellises, making netting or trellises necessary for their care and support. When planning your garden design, take into account the height requirements for tall flowers like sunflowers or zinnias when planning its layout. Also take into account any “spiller” flowers which provide texture, height or wispiness into an arrangement and add height – such as sweet peas, geraniums or vines such as nasturtiums – when designing its layout.
Growing cut flower gardens requires having clean tools and buckets with which to harvest their blooms, since dirty buckets contain bacteria which clogs stems of cut flowers and shortens their lives. Buckets should be thoroughly washed using low suds biodegradable detergent such as Clorox before each use and allowed to drain completely after each wash cycle.
Choose a location with great soil quality and plenty of sunlight, ideally with raised beds to better control soil type and drainage, then amending with compost or organic matter to improve aeration and drainage.
Choose an array of annuals, perennials and bulbs to extend the flowering season and add variety. Incorporate fragrant blooms and fillers for bouquets along with plants that dry beautifully for crafts projects. For maximum harvest potential, ensure regular deadheading to stop competing plants from competing for nutrients – and harvest early in the morning when dew is still present for longer stems!
As with any garden, a dedicated cutting garden requires constant care and upkeep. When sowing seeds, select an area with ample sun exposure and high-quality, well-draining soil; add compost or leaf mold as appropriate to improve water retention and nutrient availability.
For optimal harvests, it’s best to harvest flowers early morning or evening when their stems are still hydrated and less likely to wilt. Cathy suggests keeping a pail or vase of clean water handy and always using sharp, clean pruning tools when harvesting flowers.
Consider supporting tall or rapidly-growing vining plants such as sweet peas and clematis with trellises to provide support, remove affected flowers, remove pests or diseases as soon as they appear, spray with natural or organic pest control as needed, plant crops known to repel common pests (marigolds for aphids, for instance) or rotate crops into your crop rotation can help prevent further problems reoccurring; remembering also to deadhead blooms throughout the season so as to promote new growth as well as extend vase life and extend vase life of arrangements.