Grow your own cut flowers
image by Abhishek Jacob/flickr.com
You love having flowers inside as well as outside, but are hesitant to take away from your garden's beauty by cutting anything. The solution? Plant a separate garden whose only purpose is to provide flowers for cutting. With a little planning, you can harvest cut flowers from early spring through late fall.
Find a spot that is out of the way but convenient--right outside the back door or adjacent to your vegetable garden would be ideal. Since most flowering plants are sun-lovers, seek out a location that is not shaded by trees.
Prepare the soil well as you would for a vegetable garden. Work in a compost mixture to enrich the soil. Make rows running north and south for best plant growth.
Make wide rows so that it is easy to care for and move among the plants. Remember, this garden is for harvesting, not necessarily for beautiful design or display.
Place all plants of the same kind together, rather than interplanting varieties. Set annuals apart from perennials, so that the perennials' roots will not be disturbed.
Place plants with similar water and sun requirements together to make it easier to care for them. Put taller plants together so they don't shade shorter ones.
Plant an early, middle and late season harvest to get the longest harvest time. When one wave of plants begins to weaken, remove them, add fresh soil and plant another type. Start your own seeds indoors or purchase bedding plants in flats for the quickest harvest.
Mulch around plants to conserve soil moisture and keep down weeds. Because this is a functional garden, you needn't worry about the appearance of the mulch and can use any material that is handy, including straw and shredded newspaper.
Fertilize regularly to get the maximum amount of blooms. Look for a fertilizer intended for flowering plants, and use according to package directions.
Pick flowers often to encourage the plants to produce more. Keep plants deadheaded so they put energy into flowers rather than seeds.
Consider these cutting garden classics: bells of Ireland, campanula, bachelor's buttons, cosmos, dianthus, baby's breath, aster, stock, phlox, pincushion flower, snapdragon, sweet pea and zinnia. Annuals which have a long blooming season are good choices.
Include plants in a variety of sizes. Plants with long stems are easy to arrange, but don't overlook small flowers which can be used to make charming mini-bouquets.
Think beyond annuals. There are many perennials that are good cutting subjects, including beebalm, coneflower, Shasta daisies, yarrow, iris, peony and liatris. If you have room, you can even plant spring-flowering bulbs such as daffodils, tulips and hyacinths.
Include some foliage plants in your cutting garden. Perennial heucheras have colorful leaves in shades of coral and purple that add contrast to bouquets. Herbs such as lavender and bronze fennel are useful for arrangements too.
About this Author
Gwen Bruno has been a full-time freelance writer since 2009, with her gardening-related articles appearing on DavesGarden. She is a former teacher and librarian, and she holds a bachelor's degree in education from Augustana College and master's degrees in education and library science from North Park University and the University of Wisconsin.