As I have mentioned many times, when I was young I was very lucky to have spent summers on the shores of Lake Michigan in Northern Wisconsin. Just up the hill from our house were cornfields and dairy farms.
This is the land where cheese is made!
The pristine, whitewashed farmhouses were always immaculately kept. Right next to the side door was the cutting garden.
The wife of the farmer, who was busy at home as her husband worked in the fields, grew a cutting garden of annuals and perennials not only for the pleasure of having something to place on the dining table after the end of a hard day in the fields, but also to make a little “pin money.”
To raise a little extra money for things the farm budget did not allow, she cut from her garden bouquets that were a selection of zinnias, sunflowers, gladiolus, baby’s breath and green foliage.
The green might have been provided by the hosta or green leaf ferns that were growing in the side yard next to the porch.
She placed the flowers in individual Ball jars on a table in the front yard, with a sign, “Fresh Flowers, $5”
When I worked in a small, family-owned garden center in Upstate New York, we were often asked if we could choose plants for an outdoor wedding, and it was great fun planning the color scheme and the correct look to go with the wedding.
If you have a summer event coming up, or if you would just like to jazz up your rooms, plan now for a front or backyard filled with annuals and perennials, just waiting to be picked!
Or fill up some jars and start a little farm stand of your own.
BEST CUT FLOWERS
Prepare your raised beds as you would for vegetables, or create a front yard showpiece with at least a 4 foot-by-12 foot bed. The following plants produce best when purchased as seedlings in 4-inch pots or six packs.
My favorite cut flower, probably because my Grandmother VanDenBerg introduced them to me at the age of 5, is the snapdragon. Their tall, multi-colored stems come in a variety of heights, which add dimension to your bouquet.
And, yes, if you have small children, you can demonstrate, as my grandmother did, that the flower head does snap, like a dragon, when pinched.
When shopping for daisies, remember there are so many varieties to choose from. Shasta Daisy, Rudbeckia and Marguerite are just a few that will hold up for days in your cut bouquets.
The Coneflower and Black-Eyed Susan have similar growing habits and will add brilliant yellow and pink to any display.
All the plants in this family are perennial and will expand in size.
ASIATIC LILIES, IRIS, ALIUM AND DAHLIAS
I have come upon a wonderful catalogue for bulbs, and their selection is endless. Someone there always answers the phone, and will give you suggestions for bulbs to plant in spring and summer.
Any of the Asiatic lilies and iris will hold up for days in a fresh bouquet.
The Netherland Bulb Company, www.netherlandbulb.com or 1-800-788-8547 (1-800-78-TULIP), and they will gladly send along one of their exquisite catalogues.
Whenever you see zinnias at a garden center, buy them! There are over 50 varieties, all with that “cut and come again” habit that will keep them going all summer.
You can also start zinnia from seed in the bed, just give yourself an extra few weeks to germinate.
SO MANY MORE
Don’t forget to look for cosmos, delphinium, strawflower, calendula and phlox — all of which will flourish in your cutting garden.
MORE FYI WEBSITES
I have come upon a number of websites for information regarding cut flower gardens, but the best has been Shifting Roots, which is an ongoing site that shares a wealth of information about starting a cut flower garden and flower arranging.
Kristen can be reached at www.shiftingroots.com, and she has a message board for questions.
GET STARTED ON YOUR CUTTING GARDEN
Creating a cutting garden can be as easy as preparing your beds and taking a trip to your favorite garden center.
Do your research first, take a list with you, and off you go!
Jano Nightingale is a Master Gardener and horticulturist and teaches gardening classes in North County. She is presently teaching at the Pine Street Senior Garden. To register call, 442-339-2650. She can be reached at [email protected].