Do you like having fresh flowers in your home? Do you enjoy giving bouquets to friends? Then you'd probably be interested in planting what is known as a "cutting garden."
Cutting gardens can be as simple or as complicated as you want to make them and can contain both annuals and perennials. Mid to late spring is the time to plant for a steady supply of flowers for the summer and fall.
Cutting gardens are a great way to try out new plants. Garden catalogs are a good way to decide what kinds of plants you want for your cutting garden. Use a variety of annuals and perennials so you won't have to replant them every year. Consider mixing up textures, such as flowers with petals and those with thorns, dainty flowers and big, bold ones. Select colors that go with your home's decor and that have a fragrance you enjoy.
Cutting gardens can be easily incorporated into an existing perennial bed, and the flowers offer double-duty both in the flower bed and in the vase. This type of garden is not intended to be on public display and doesn't need to look beautiful. They can be in a sunny spot along the back of the yard, in a neglected corner or behind a garage. Once the garden is established, it is easier to maintain and requires much less attention than an ornamental bed. Cutting gardens usually resemble traditional vegetable gardens and are laid out in a practical, utilitarian manner. They are typically planted in widely spaced rows that are easy to move through while planting, thinning, fertilizing and harvesting. The principles for this type of garden are the same as for other gardens: pick a spot that gets lots of sun, prepare the soil so there is good drainage, add organic matter and compost, fertilize, water and mulch. The mulch will discourage weeds, keep the soil moist longer and put nutrients into the soil. Try to water about an inch per week if rainfall is unreliable. When harvesting, cut blooms during the coolest part of the day. Keep a bucket of lukewarm water handy to plunge the flower stems into right away. This needs to be done immediately as some flowers begin to seal over as soon as they are cut.
When planting, try to plant annuals in succession — early season, mid-season, late season. That way you will have flowers blooming all of the time. To encourage flower growth on annuals, be sure to pick the blossoms regularly and deadhead those that remain.
The following are a partial list of different kinds of annuals and perennials that make up a good cutting garden:
Annuals: ageratum, anemone, bells of Ireland, China aster, cockscomb, bachelors' button, cleome, cosmos, dianthus, dill, geranium, strawflower, marigold, snapdragon, sunflower and zinnia.
Perennials: yarrow, aster, carnation, shasta daisy, coreopsis, coral bells, delphinium, digitalis, echinacea, lavender, lobelia and black-eyed Susan.
Foliage: coleus, dusty miller, eucalpytus, flowering cabbage and flowering kale.
Once you have the flowers indoors, cut another quarter inch of stem off and plunge them into a 50:50 solution of lemon-lime soda and water with one or two drops of bleach to the gallon. This same solution can be used to feed the flowers in a vase. Change the water daily and be sure to remove any dead leaves or buds that are underwater to prevent decay.
Cutting gardens are a fun way to enjoy lots of flowers in the home as well as out in the garden.