You don’t have to be a trained horticulturalists to grow stunning cut flowers. A flower gardener is anyone with a genuine love of flowers and a willingness to get a little soil beneath your nails. Flowers are nature’s paint. With so many varieties of cut flowers available, you can choose the color palette of your garden. At harvest time, splash every room in your house with saffron zinnias, sea-blue larkspur, and citron green celosia.
Even the novice gardener can follow the following foolproof steps and establish a lush cut flower garden that will result in an abundant harvest. Professional cut flower grower Lynn Byczynski assures that “The green thumb isn’t born; he or she is bred by constant exposure and patient observation. With flowers, familiarity is sure to lead to love. And with the right heart, anyone can grow beautiful flowers.”
When I traded in my briefcase for an apron and a hoe, I needed a way to supplement our income. Since we are blessed with a farm, the next logical step was to combine a bit of entrepreneurial spirit with some hard work. That combination along with my fascination with flowers birthed my modest cut flower business. Early Saturday mornings, we loaded our farm truck with garden bouquets and rarely returned with leftovers to adorn my own kitchen table.
Now, you don’t need to own a farm to grow cut flowers just a small section of fertile soil will do the job quite nicely.
Beginners Guide to Growing Cut Flowers For a Stunning Bouquet
1. Plan Your Bouquet: What You Should Grow
If you’ve never grown flowers before, but you covet the over-priced bouquets in the supermarket, then this guide will help you cultivate your garden moxie. There are specific varieties of cut flowers that are easy for the novice to grow. For the first growing season, stick with annuals (varieties that live one season) as opposed to investing in varieties of perennials (return every year).
Here is a list of suggested annuals to plant in your beginner’s cutting garden:
(the genus is listed first then the cultivar name is written in single quotations)
Ageratum ‘Blue Horizon’ or ‘Tall Blue Planet’
Make sure that you select the cut flower variety not the low-growing grown cover. Seed catalogs will specify cut flower varieties with a scissor icon. Ageratum is a tall, sturdy upright flower used as an excellent filler for bouquets. It also serves double duty by attracting bees and butterflies to your cut flower garden.
Ammi ‘White Dill’ or ‘Green Mist’
You might think this variety an herb rather than a cut flower. This dill bears full, sturdy heads in white or lime green and elongated stems.
Celosia ‘Cramer’s Rose,’ ‘Cramer’s Burgundy,’ ‘Sylphid’ or ‘Ruby Parfait’
Celosia serves as a lush, fluffy filler for bouquets. Masses of red, burgundy and lemon-lime feathery plumes add a striking texture to floral arrangements.
Cosmos ‘Double Click’ or ‘Sea Shells’
Cosmos stretch their stems to 42-46″ which makes this colorful variety a favorite cut flower. The ‘Double Click’ variety reminds me of the flowers that Monet brushed into his painting Pathway in Monet’s Garden at Giverny. Cosmos will grace your garden with hues of cranberry, raspberry sorbet red, and ballerina shoe pink.
Gomphrena ‘Strawberry Fields’ or ‘QIS Series’ in purple, carmine, orange, and bicolor rose
The round head of the Gomphrena flower adds dimension to your centerpiece. The sturdy stem rises to 18-20″giving it enough height to allow the vibrant color of the blossoms make a stellar appearance in any bouquet.
Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) ‘Pro-cut Series’ (yellow, brown, bronze), ‘Ring of Fire,’ or ‘Sonja.’
Sunflowers rank as one of the most popular cut flowers to grow. Decades ago, seed catalogs offered only a handful of varieties of sunflowers. These days, seed catalogs debut a plethora of sunflower varieties ranging from the single stem variety to the branching variety.
Rudebeckia (annual Black-eyed Susan) ‘Indian Summer,’ Cherokee Sunset Mix’ or ‘Prairie Sun.’
Don’t mistake this stalwart cut flower for the wildflower variety that blooms randomly along roadsides. Rudbeckia is the Audrey Hepburn of flora. It’s classic beauty reigns regardless of the simplicity of the vessel or vase you choose.
Zinnia ‘Benary’s Giant Mix’
Zinnia’s offer a long vase life along with tall, sturdy stems. The ‘Benary Giant Mix’ variety holds up well in humid and rainy conditions. These dahlia-like blooms are available in a rainbow of colors.
Seeds or Plugs
You can purchase cut flowers seeds or plugs. If you decide to begin your garden using seeds, the best practice is to buy seeds directly from a reputable seed company.
Reputable Seed and Plant Companies:
Request a seed catalog from several companies in late winter and peruse the pages for cut flower varieties suitable for your growing zone.
Seed packets provide detailed instructions for growing your flowers. Follow those growing guidelines for optimum germination and yield rate.
If starting plants from seeds is just too daunting of a task for your first garden venture, then purchase plugs from a local greenhouse, nursery, farmer’s market, or mail order supplier. Make sure that you purchase cut flower varieties.
Prepare Your Garden (soil and site)
Once you decide on the varieties of cut flowers you will grow, you will need to devote most of your time and attention to creating a hospitable soil environment for your flowers. Since the quality of your soil can vary, a wise first step is to invest in a soil test.
The test analyzes the levels of the nutrient contents or deficiencies of your soil. An evaluation of your soil costs anywhere from FREE (depending on which state you live) to $25. You can contact your local Cooperative Extension Office and inquire about a soil test.
When you receive the results from your soil test, then you can begin to design and plan your garden site. There are some basic principles to keep in mind as you settle on a site:
- Select a location close to a water source (rain barrel, trickle irrigation, hose, pond) to save you the time of hauling buckets of water to your garden
- if possible, establish your garden in an area protected by natural wind barriers. Even though cut flowers are hardy, spring and summer winds can batter blossoms and topple long-stemmed plants
- your compost bin should be conveniently located near your garden
- decide if you are going to allow space for grass paths between the rows of flowers
Don’t let gardener’s enthusiasm cloud your view for what is practical and manageable. Plan a garden site of 60 square feet (5′ x 12′). A garden this size will produce enough blooms to fill the rooms in your home with lush garden bouquets plus enough to share with friends.
Urban dwellers can use large containers to grow any number of the suggested cut flower varieties. You can create a charming Secret Garden on your patio or balcony that would make Mary Lennox smile.
3. Gardening Supplies
Purchasing garden supplies is the fun part of the project. If you use seeds to start your plants, then you will need biodegradable or reusable plastic seedling containers.
Mark your seedling trays with the name of the flower and the date. Crafts sticks serve this purpose but use a permanent marker to prevent the information from fading when you water your seedlings. If you want to get fancy, here are some of my favorite plant markers:
Purchase a quality spade, hoe, needle nose shears or garden shears, buckets, watering can or flexible hose.
4.Reap the Harvest
Collect several clean buckets to use solely for harvesting your cut flowers. Harvest your bouquet at the coolest part of the day. It is imperative that you avoid plunging your freshly cut flowers into a dirty bucket.
If you harvest in the morning, wait until the morning dew evaporates. Excess moisture on the blossoms could lead to disease. Evening harvest is a convenient time to harvest. I often harvest my flowers at dusk when my farm is serene and still. By then, our livestock is contentedly foraging and the heat of the day has dissipated. Quite often after dinner, I trek outside for a little garden therapy.
I concur with Monet, “I must have flowers, always, and always.” I spend my late February evenings pouring through seed catalogs. Marveling at the