Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Cutting garden

 "The joy of being able to cut flowers freely, lavishly, to decorate the house and to give to friends, is an end that justifies a lot of gardening effort." 
-T. H. Everett

When choosing plants for a cutting garden, consider the containers you’re likely to display them in.  If you plan to design with taller items like vases, pitchers and bottles, you're going to need longer stems. If you’d like to use shorter containers like teapots, teacups, mason jars and crocks, you might want to grow something smaller in scale.”
Plan for a variety of colors, textures and shapes, as well as for larger focal plants and smaller fillers. If you want fresh-cut flowers all season, you’ll also need spring, summer and fall bloomers. 
The 50 Mile Bouquet notes such flowers as peonies, dahlias, zinnias, roses, phlox, sweet peas, larkspur, bachelor’s buttons, bells of Ireland, Volcano Phlox bouquet in pitchersunflowers, gaillarda, anemones, rudbeckia, sea holly, nigella, passionflower, cosmos, Jerusalem sage, veronica, scabiosa and zinnias. But it also lists fruits and veggies such as blackberries, rose hips, crabapples, Cinderella pumpkins, heirloom squash and artichokes; foliage from pea vines, succulents, ninebark trees, oat grass, ruby silk grass, Northern sea oats and lamb’s ears; and woody and papery materials like willow and chestnut tree branches, grapevine and seed pods from poppies and shoo-fly (a relative of Chinese lanterns).
Colorful foliage makes great filler. Shrubs and trees can be pruned for use in arrangements.
 Consider plants with season-long interest that last a long time after cutting. (Flower Carpet roses and Volcano phlox can be used as fillers.  Since they bloom for long periods, cutting some doesn't take away as much from the blooms in the garden.)
Experiment, working with fresh flowers, dried flowers, pods, branches, foliage, short stems, long stems, blossoms, seed pods, feathery grasses, and anything that you else you can dream up.
 I am an advocate of spreading long-blooming perennials and annuals for cutting throughout the landscape suitable to their growing conditions and potential companion plants.  Ideally you can cut flowers for occasional arrangements without leaving big voids indicating where you cut flowers in your garden.

Some tips to extending vase life
Cut flowers before morning dew has dried or in early evening, sleecting flowers that ae just beginning to open.
Cuts stems as long as possible, using sharp knife or scissors. Snip above a node or dormant bud to spur new blooms. 
Put stems in a pail of lukewarm water as you cut them.
Recut stems on a slant indoors under water to eliminate air bubbles that block food and water uptake. Cut stems to the desired length at a 45-degree angle.
Remove bruised leaves and foliage below the water line to prevent decay.
Where advised, scald stem ends in boiling water for 20 seconds or over a candle flame to stop nutrient-rich sap from oozing.
Condition flowers several hours before arranging. Rest stems in lukewarm water in a dark, cool place, so they can absorb water.
You can use colored wire or with a cluster of grapevine stuffed into the container to hold an
arrangement in place.
Before you put your cuts in a container, make sure it’s not a material that’ll be damaged by water (i.e. silver, a tin can or crockery). If it is, try inserting a yogurt cup, cottage cheese container or plastic bag closed off by a twist tie that can serve as a hidden water holder.
Consider the size of the opening of the vase; don't make the bouquet bigger than the vase can hold. Begin with the greenery first. Strip the leaves off the lower half of the stems, or anywhere they would be under water to prevents the greens from promoting bacterial growth when submerged. 
Clutch the stems loosely in one hand. Begin building your arrangement, continuing to add flowers and stripping the greenery below your hand. Twist the bouquet half a turn after each addition. When it's just the way you like it, give the stems a fresh cut; this allows them to take up water in the vase. Insert the bouquet into the vase.
Use odd numbers of flowers. 
Create some variety in height, with some tall and some shorter stems.
Arrange conditioned flowers in a container filled with warm (110°F) water. Put the container in a well-ventilated cool place (as low as 38°F) to slow aging. Don't store flowers near unsealed fruits and vegetables, which produce ethylene, a gas that hastens ripening.
Change water every couple of days, cutting the bottom of stems about 1/2". In mixed bouquets, flowers may give off sap toxic to other varieties in the vase.
Remove dead or dying leaves and blooms to prolong the bouquet’s life.
Freshly cut flowers have enough stored sugars to survive in a vase. MSU tests found commercial floral preservatives less effective than this formula:
   1    cup regular 7-Up (the sugar provides energy)
   1    cup water
   1/2 teaspoon household bleach (controls bacteria)

European designers often use as few as three plants, or even just one, in an arrangement. Often, the container is just as important as the plant. In the U.S., find whatever style makes you happy

Perennials form the backbone of any cutting garden. The plants live and bloom for years but their blooming season is often counted in weeks instead of months.  By staggering the bloom time, you will have a steady supply of flowers to grace your home.

Early bloomers have the shortest bloom times.

Lenten Rose (Hellebores) 
Often blooming while snow still covers the ground, this tough perennial has flowers that can be single or double, and come in a large variety of colors including green. Plant these shade lovers in well drained locations for years of blooms. Harvest the flowers when they are just opening.
zones 4 to 9

Columbine (Aquilegia)
From April to June, columbines petals have spurs that project behind the flower giving them an unusual look.  In cooler climates the plants can tolerate sun, but require shade in warmer climates, and enjoy rich well drained soils. Cut when the blooms just begin to open.
zones 3 to 9

From lowly groundcovers to the taller varieties, dianthus come in colors ranging from pure white to purple.  The lovely grey green foliage makes a nice contrast to the flowers. A spicy fragrance makes them popular in cut arrangements. Dianthus do best in full sun. When the flowers first open is the best time to harvest is when the flowers first open.
zones 3 to 8

Bleeding Hearts (Dicentra)
Bleeding hearts' dainty hearts delicately dangling in a row add a special touch to any arrangement. The common bleeding heart had dark pink flowers and grows to 36 inches. These plants enjoy shady locations with rich moist soil. If you have a sunnier spot, try Dicentra eximia commonly called Fringed Bleeding heart. More compact, growing only 10 to 18 inches , this plant blooms for longer periods of time than common bleeding heart. Cut bleeding hearts for arrangements when the flowers are open.
zones 4 to 8

Hardy and easy to grow, peonies enjoy full sun sites, but can tolerate some shade. The colors range from white to red with a few yellow varieties. The double flowers tend to be the most fragrant, but single flowers have a lovely form. Cut theses flowers when they are just opening. Because peonies blossom all at once and so early in the season, try extending their bloom time with cold, dry storage. When the first crack of color appears on the hard green bud, cut the stem (to about 16 inches long), strip off most of the leaves, and wrap as many as 10 stems in three layers of tissue paper. On the outside of the tissue, mark the date and pop them in the refrigerator. For up to three weeks, you can pull the stems out of the fridge, cut an inch off the bottom of the stem, and stand them in fresh water to rehydrate. In just two days, the stems will be in full bloom.
zones 2 to 8

Oriental poppy (Papaver)
Late spring brings the brilliant colors of the large crepe paper like flowers. They love full sun and well- drained soil but only bloom a few short weeks. Cut the flowers in the cool morning before the flowers fully open.
zones 3 to 7

Lupine’s long spikes of pea-like flowers are held above the plant’s attractive foliage. The flowers come in many colors, including some bi-colors. Lupine grows best in acid soil and likes a shady spot in the garden. Harvest when most of the buds are open.
zones 4 to 8

The following are hardy in most gardens and have a longer bloom time than many summer perennials:

Shasta daisy (Leucanthemum) 
White daisies compliment many flower arrangements. While most shastas have a short bloom period, ‘Becky’ blooms till frost. As a cut flower it is excellent due to its sturdy stem that holds up well in arrangements. Plant is full sun. Cut the flowers when they are fully open.
zones 4 to 9

These tall stately beauties produce masses of flowers. Strong stems make them great cut flowers in arrangements. "Pacific Giants" come in a variety of colors, are mildew resistant and grow around 4 feet tall. Look for ‘Magic Fountains’ if you need a shorter plant. Plant in full sun and well-drained soil for the best results. Harvest when half of the florets are open.
zones 4 to 8

Coneflowers (Echinacea) 
Native to the North American plains, coneflowers have lovely flowers with drooping petals. Coneflowers tolerate many different conditions but do enjoy a fair amount of sun, and can be cut at any time. At the end of the season, leave the spent flowers for the birds.
zones 2 to 8

Ranging from white to purple, phlox make a fragrant addition to the garden.  Look for varieties resistant to powdery mildew, a common problem of this plant. When half of the flowers are open is the best time to cut to take in for arrangements.
zones 4 to 8

Russian Sage (Perovskia)
The silvery green foliage contrasts nicely with the lovely spikes of lavender blue flowers, with a lovely fragrance. Russian sage blooms till frost and produces plenty of flowers. Plant size reaches four to five feet tall by three to four feet wide, with an open airy look.  Tolerant of poor soil, drought and a range of pH, Russian Sage can grow in a variety of conditions. This plant prefers a sunny place. Cut when most of the flowers are open.
zones 3 to 9

Growing from 8 inches to 2 feet, these sun loving plants produce flowers for a long period of time. Thread leaf coreopsis, has fern like foliage and blooms profusely. The yellow, pink or red flowers are small but the foliage adds a nice texture to an arrangement. Harvest when the flowers are open.
zones 4 to 9

Blanket flower (Gaillardia) 
The daisy like flowers have yellow tips and rust centers and a long bloom time. Plant them in full sun and well drained soil then sit back and enjoy.  Cut the flowers when they are fully open.
zones 2 to 10


Sneezeweed (Helenium)
Once used in place of snuff to induce sneezing, this wildflower is finding a home in the fall garden. The  yellow, orange or red daisylike flowers open  in late summer and the plant  grows  3 to 5 feet.. This plant is excellent if you have clay soil and enjoys a sunny spot. Cut when the flowers just open.
zones 3 to 9

Goldenrod (Solidago)
Give goldenrod plenty of sun and once they are established, they are tolerant of drought. Cut these flowers when some of the florets are just opening.
zones 2 to 9

In shades of pink, red, purple, blue and white, these delicate daisy-like blossoms add punch to the autumn garden. The airy foliage is a nice contrast to the flowers and helps fill in fall bouquets. Give them a sunny site and enjoy the show. Cut the flowers when most of the flowers are open.
zones 4 to 9

Turtle head (Chelone) 
Nick-named for blossoms shaped like turtles heads, this plant adds a lot of interest to the fall garden. Coming in shades of white, pink or red, turtle head has attractive foliage and generally, the plant is 3 feet tall and 2 feet wide. Partial shade to full sun and a consistently moist to wet, organic soil are ideal conditions for growth. Cut the flowers when they are just opening.
zones 2 to 9

Toad Lily (Tricyrtis)
The speckled pink flowers look like orchids and rise above lovely foliage.   Plant toad lilies in moist but well-drained soil in part to full shade. To bring the flowers in for arrangements, pick when buds show color and are just beginning to open.
zones 4 to 9

Japanese Anemone 
Tall and stately, the anemones add pink or white flowers to the fall garden. Japanese anemones need well draining soil and shade. Cut the flowers as the buds open.
zones 5 to 8

Sedum (Stonecrop)
Sedum makes a great cutting garden plant. It requires minimal attention and is drought tolerant.   Give sedum full sun and well drained soil.  Cut when most of the florets are open.
zones 3 to 9

A more comprehenisve listing of perennials to consider for cutting for blooms and great foliage
 (Lily of the Valley)
 (Baby's Breath)

You should aim to create a heightened version of what is in the garden, with a similar feeling of natural ease and beauty:  avoid symmetry and dominating vertical or horizontal lines.
-Sarah Raven, The Cutting Garden

Creating arrangments
Choose a vase 1/3-1/2 the height of the tallest flowers and foliage to creat harmonious proportion.
A subtle mixture of more delicate flowers, suggests a light, less dominant vase.  Wildflowers generally look better in unpatterned, unfussy containers.
Avoid strict symmetry.  Create a livelier arrangement by allowing branches to burst out in different directions, blancing an upward spike wit a downward bough.  Use odd numbers of dominating flowers and spikes of foliage.
Cut stems a variety of lengths.  Push some flowers right in to the center of the arrangement, leaving others standing out.  Allow stems to stnad or hang as they do on the plants in the garden.  Avoid creating vertical and horizontal lines with the dominant flower, becasue this can segment the vase into zones, destroying the overall effect.
Arrange a vase so it can be viewed at any angle, to create a balanced three dimensional arrangement.
Team strong foliage with strong flowers and light, fluffy foliage with more delicate flowers. To soften the effect of flowers with stongly defined shapes, use featherly foliage such as dill.
Acid-green foliage (euphorbia or smyrnium in spring and lady's mantle, bupleurum , or dill, in summer or fall) enlivens an arrangement as oppposed to heavy, dark, glossy foliage that tends to wiegh dwon an arrangement and swamp the color and light of the flowers.
Try adding branches, seed heads, or even fruit from the wilder parts of the garden.
An arrangement tends to be more interesting with contrasting colors or contrasting foliage, but not both at once.

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