If you're like me and can never have too many flowers, now is the time to start a cutting garden so you can have your flowers and cut them, too! Here are my tips—plus, the best flowers to grow for cutting.
Not far from The Old Farmer's Almanac is a beautiful U-pick flower farm called Rosaly's Garden (pictured above). Look at all those zinnias! It's absolutely heavenly to stroll through acres of flowers.
We know it's hard to cut your own flowers. So, to avoid stripping your front flower beds bare of bloom, plant an area of your garden just designated for cutting. If you have an empty spot out back or in the vegetable garden, why not fill that space with flowers?
Just find a space that gets at least 6 hours of sun a day for optimum flower production. If you are using a section of your veggie patch, it probably has good, deeply dug, fertile soil already.
If not, you can jazz it up by digging in some compost or aged manure. Go easy on the fertilizer though because a lot of flowering plants bloom best in poor soil. Plants grown with too much nitrogen will have lush green growth at the expense of flower production or the flowers will be so tender that they will fade very quickly when cut.
Plant your garden in rows or blocks, whatever makes for ease of picking and maintenance. We like to plant in wide rows (about three-foot wide) and suspend wide mesh nylon netting horizontally over the beds so that the plants grow up thru the mesh. This supports the stems so they grow straight for better cutting.
Don't worry too much about the arrangement of colors and heights here. You will be cutting the flowers for your bouquets when they bare about 1/2 to 3/4 open. Keeping annuals picked encourages more blossoms to form so don't hesitate to strip the patch of all the flowers every few days.
As far as what to plant goes, there are hundreds of flowers from ageratum to zinnias that are perfect for your cutting garden. Look for annuals that have long strong stems and long-lasting flowers.
Favorite Cutting Flowers
We sell cut flowers to farmers' markets. A few of the favorites from A to Z are:
Ageratum 'Blue Horizon' has true blue flowers. This is a tall variety and as you cut it, more branches form.
Asters come in a range of colors—pinks, blues, purples, and white. They are long-lasting cut flowers. Look for extra fluffy peony-types such as 'Opus' or 'Duchess', a quilled variety like 'Princess', or a pin-cushion type such as 'Seastar' or 'Tiger Paws'.
Amaranth 'Love-lies-bleeding' forms hanging clusters of chenille-like dreadlocks in red or green. These flowers make a statement in a bouquet!
Celosias are extremely long-lasting as cut flowers or they can be dried to use in winter arrangements. There are lots to choose from but we like 'Punky Red', yellow 'Sylphid', and 'Pampas Plume'.
Snapdragons are a mid-sized plant that adds interest (and height) to any bouquet. They come in stunning colors and bloom prolificly. Look for tall varieties such as 'Madame Butterfly', 'Chantilly', 'Majestic', or 'Rocket'. Start these flowers in early spring to get good height and amazing color.
Sunflowers are a favorite cut flower for so many gardeners because they look great alone or with other other flowers. Plus, they simply brighten your day. Sunflowers also come in unexpected colors like black! We prefer the double forms since they hold their petals longer. They do not produce any pollen and last a long time in a vase. Look for 'Golden Cheer' or ' Giant Sungold'. Space your sowings out over several weeks to ensure sunflower blooms throughout the summer. Pictured below are 'Sunrich' flowers which have a great vase life. The green center adds a pretty touch to a bouquet.
Zinnias are my all-time favorite cut flower. We grow tall varieties that branch after cutting and by the end of the season thye have formed a tall hedge of flowers. Try growing 'Benary's Giants', 'State Fair', or 'Giant Cactus'.
Plan to start a cutting this spring and soon you'll have armloads of flowers to brighten your home and share with friends!