Create A Cutting Garden To Keep Vases Full - 27 East

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Create A Cutting Garden To Keep Vases Full

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Cut flowers being sold at a farmers market. Why pay for these when you can grow everything in the photo in your garden or cutting garden? These are all annuals. ANDREW MESSINGER

Cut flowers being sold at a farmers market. Why pay for these when you can grow everything in the photo in your garden or cutting garden? These are all annuals. ANDREW MESSINGER

The Hampton Gardener’s kitchen table always had a vase of cuts on it from May through October. This vase has several varieties of tall phlox (Phlox p.), goldenrod and a couple of perennial sunflowers (left). The Phlox has a mild but delightful scent.

The Hampton Gardener’s kitchen table always had a vase of cuts on it from May through October. This vase has several varieties of tall phlox (Phlox p.), goldenrod and a couple of perennial sunflowers (left). The Phlox has a mild but delightful scent.

Black-eyed Susans (Rudbeckia sp.) both the annual and perennial types, make great cuts with long wiry stems. Colors range from the classic yellow with the brown “button” as seen here to bi-colors, tri-colors and mixed colors. Flowers last for as long as a week in the vase.

Black-eyed Susans (Rudbeckia sp.) both the annual and perennial types, make great cuts with long wiry stems. Colors range from the classic yellow with the brown “button” as seen here to bi-colors, tri-colors and mixed colors. Flowers last for as long as a week in the vase.

Echinacea “Balsomsed” had an incredible red flower that seems to glow in lower light. The long stems make it perfect for cuts and the flowers last for at least a week in the vase.

Echinacea “Balsomsed” had an incredible red flower that seems to glow in lower light. The long stems make it perfect for cuts and the flowers last for at least a week in the vase. ANDREW MESSINGER

Phlox paniculata flower in August and into September. Colors range from pinks to reds, white, near blue. They are lightly scented so they won’t upset the nose, and the stems can be from 15 inches to nearly 2 feet, offering height to arrangements. Pick both newly opened and fully opened flower stems to extend the vase life. Strip off most of the foliage.

Phlox paniculata flower in August and into September. Colors range from pinks to reds, white, near blue. They are lightly scented so they won’t upset the nose, and the stems can be from 15 inches to nearly 2 feet, offering height to arrangements. Pick both newly opened and fully opened flower stems to extend the vase life. Strip off most of the foliage. ANDREW MESSINGER

Autor

Hampton Gardener®

Everyone loves to give and receive flowers at this time of the year, and flowers are even more meaningful when they come fresh from your garden. I’m bringing them to friends and freely giving from my garden. There’s always at least one vase on the kitchen table that gets refreshed daily, and it’s important to have several vases of different heights with different sized necks and openings. Some for bunches, others for single stems.

So great is their appeal that fresh cut flowers play a role in the celebration of holidays and the milestones of family and personal life over most of the world. It’s a particular luxury to have fresh flowers on display at home on a daily basis, and there are even those of us who enjoy having them at work. What a delight to be surrounded indoors by a bit of the garden that we so cherish in the outdoors.

For gardeners, the ultimate pleasure is to be able to cut flowers from their own garden, bring indoors and share with friends and family. Personally, I lack the skills and talent to do good flower arranging, but I always get a wide smile when I show up with an armful of cuts that they can arrange and display as they wish. Many people also love to have homegrown blossoms, foliage and seed heads handy for fresh or dried floral crafts and cooking as well.

One of the inherent problems is that picking flowers from the garden reduces the floral show in our own yard, beds and boarders. It’s always a tough decision whether to cut flowers for indoors and friends or to leave them on display outdoors. The perfect solution to this problem is to establish a separate cultivated area specifically as a cutting garden, though I have been known to regularly “steal” from my beds and borders. A cutting garden can be small or grand depending on your space and time constraints. The older estates out here used to have large cutting gardens, but now most are tilled under or just remnants. But even on a small property you can have your flowers — and pick them too!

Since the cutting garden is basically utilitarian, there are no hard and fast rules to go by, but common sense should prevail. For example, taller flowering plants such as cosmos, dahlias, sunflowers and Tithonia, which can grow as tall as 6 feet, should not be planted on the outside but in the interior of the garden where they don’t block light.

Usually, the best way to approach the design of a cutting garden is to either ignore all the rules or to plant in rows like a vegetable plot with the tallest growing plants set so they won’t shade the lower growing varieties. This means being mindful of the path of the sun and the effect of elements such as buildings, walls and trees. Taller growing plants can also be set in the center of the garden with their height being used to shade less sun tolerant plants on one side and sun lovers on the other.

Then there is the cut-scatter-cut method. This is accomplished by preparing a small piece of ground, then going to a garden center and buying a special packet of seeds that are blended just for cut flowers — yes they do exist — or making your own blend from several packets. Bring the packets home and according to the directions on the back, cut the packet open, scatter the seeds, water and wait for the flowers, then cut. This kind of a cutting garden can be very successful and obviously gives you a mixture of flowers to choose from; however, you may want to put such a garden in an out of the way spot as it may lack a certain amount of formality, symmetry and form that the rest of your landscape may have. Also realize that this type of garden will primarily be limited to annuals.

The mix and match of flowers is endless, and you have a wide variety of annuals and perennials to choose from in the planned garden. The basic backbone for most of my cuttings are tulips, iris, lilacs, hydrangeas, peonies, delphiniums, achillea, tall phlox, chrysanthemums, digitalis and asters with annuals mixed in just about everywhere. In reality though, anything that flowers on the property is subject to cuts. When forsythia and flowering fruit stems are taken into account, I have cuts from April to late October.

I’d once abandoned roses because they require too much care and thought when cutting. With newer varieties that are much less subject to diseases I now have three roses that I cut from, but so far I haven’t found a long-stemmed variety that’s disease resistant enough. The three I have are only mildly scented so as not to overwhelm my sensitive nostrils.

Annuals are easy to work with and simple to grow, and there is no limit to their variations in height and color. They can be started indoors (especially if you want very specific or unusual varieties and want to save 80 percent of the cutting garden’s cost) or they can be purchased as cells or flats in the spring. The most popular and easily available are: aster, carnation, Celosia, cornflower, cosmos, Dahlia, Gerbera, larkspur, marigold, nasturtium, Salvia, Scabiosa, snapdragon, statice, stock, sunflowers, sweet pea, Verbena and Zinnia. Many more, though, if you do your homework and experiment.

Perennials can also be started from seed, purchased locally, by mail order or from other gardens and gardeners as divisions. When purchased in containers they are initially more expensive. This expense is offset, however, by the fact that the perennials tend to give a much wider period of bloom in a greater range of colors and flower texture for many years instead of just one. While you may only be able to identify 50 or so annuals that are good for cutting, the listing of perennials would run to several hundred varieties. The initial expense of the larger potted perennials can also be offset by the fact that they can easily be divided every few years thus increasing your pickings without any increase in cost.

If you go on any of the local garden tours our here during the summer you’re not likely to see the cutting gardens on most if not all of the properties as they tend to be “hidden” due to their … oh shall we say, less formal nature. But ask around and you may find an owner, gardener or caretaker who will take you out back or around the house to see these wonderful secret spots.

Next week: some perennials, summer-flowering bulbs and grasses and garden bargains that do well as cuts, and tips on when to cut your flowers, how to store them and how to extend their “vase life” once indoors. Keep growing.

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