Saturday, April 28th, 2012
Here’s a classic gardener’s dilemma. Should you leave the flowers in the garden for the entire neighborhood to enjoy, or bring them inside for you and the family to admire in the living room?
Why not do both? If you grow a large enough variety of plants, including annuals, perennials, vines, and flowering shrubs, there will be plenty of blossoms for all to see, sniff and admire indoors and out. Many choices exist to beautify both the garden and the home, and it takes just a bit of planning to have a sumptuous garden full of flowers for cutting. Here’s what to consider:
First determine the colors you find attractive and choose accordingly. What colors do you wear? With what hues do you decorate your home? Does pink make you contemplative, yellow make you cheerful and red rev you up? Select correspondingly.
As for the borders themselves, you can have a bed solely devoted to flowers for cutting; or as I do, simply grow those beauties amid the other plants. If you do decide to start a bed from scratch, prepare the soil well, incorporating plenty of compost. Scatter some organic fertilizer such as Plant-tone, and make sure to water. (especially this year!)
Following is a selection of cutting flowers I tend in my gardens, roughly in order of bloom: Of course, the lineup changes with the years, as I murder some plants and discover others. But mostly these are tried and true.
Spring: Pansies, Korean spice viburnum, lungwort, quince, Darwin hybrid tulips, grape hyacinth, Virginia bluebells, Bleeding heart, crabapple, rhododendron, columbine, larkspur, lily-of-the-valley, lilac, sweet pea.
Late spring/ early Summer: Lady’s mantle, astilbe, wallflower, feverfew, peony, bearded iris, nigella.
Summer: Rudbeckia, allium, Pearly everlasting, amaranthus, coreopsis, cosmos, dahlia, coneflower, filipendula, gypsophilia, hosta, liatris, gooseneck lysimachia, phlox, rose
Autumn: aster, sea oats grass, tall sedum, obedient plant, cimicifuga, solidago.
Some of these flowers possess other desirable characteristics. For instance:
Fragrance: Korean spice viburnum, grape hyacinth, hyacinth, lilac, bearded iris, sweet pea, wallflower, lily of the valley, phlox, cimicifuga.
Suitable for shade: lungwort, Virginia bluebells, Bleeding heart, rhododendron, Lady’s mantle, astilbe, hosta, cimicifuga.
Drought tolerance (once established): quince, columbine, rudbeckia, allium, Bearded iris, feverfew, cosmos, amaranthus, Pearly everlasting, coreopsis, dahlia, gooseneck lysimachia, grasses, gypsophilia, hosta.
The list shows that one needn’t be a spendthrift to have a gorgeous cutting garden. Many of these sweetie-pie plants self-sow, and others may be obtained at the local garden club plant sales (Bethel’s is May 19th behind the Methodist Church, 359 Greenwood Avenue)
When you harvest, cut flowers in the cool of the day, and immediately plunge the stems into tepid water. Change the water daily. When arranging, I don’t mess with “frogs” or Oasis; as a dirt-under-the-fingernails gardener, I just pick the flowers and stick ‘em into the container. And I like to bring armloads of blossoms to church, to Book Club, to laid-up friends, as housewarming, hostess gifts and “just because”. Nothing conveys emotion quite like flowers gathered from the garden.
For further information, see Cutting Gardens, by Anne Halpin and Betty Mackey