Are you one of those who takes bouquets to sick or sad people? Do you decorate your church, take flowers for dinner parties? How do you decide what to plant to have available flowers and greens when you want? For this a term, “Cutting Garden” was termed.  How is it different than any other garden?  Does it have annuals or perennials?

          When you pick very many flowers from your landscape, it affects the looks of your flower beds so usually the cutting garden has its own location that is not part of the general landscape.  You may want more flowers for cutting than would usually be in a bed.  Rows of flowers make it easier for cutting since this is a crop for harvesting.  Some of the requirements of the flowers will determine which ones you choose such as:

1.     Do they close at night making them unusable for evening functions?

2.     Do they droop almost immediately after being cut such as poppies?

3.     How long will they last after being in a bouquet?

4.     Do you need flowers the entire growing season or just for some special occasion?

5.     How about fragrance? Some have a very strong odor that might affect some people such as Paperwhites.

6.     When using perennials or bulbs do you know how much you can cut without losing the blooms or plants for the next year?

         Annuals usually make up the most of a cutting garden but you need a variety that will bloom at different times. The best time of day to cut is usually in the morning when they are likely to contain the most water.  Carry a bucket of warm water with you and put the stems in immediately after you have made a slanting cut to expose as much stem as possible. Some blooms such as HYDRANGEAS can be completely submerged.  This first cut may allow air to enter the stem so when you get inside, cut again with the stem under water as air will interfere with the flower taking up water in the vase.  PANSIES, LILACS, and VIOLETS can be sprayed as their petals can pick up water.  Earliest blooms may be bulbs such as DAFFODILS, TULIPS, and the big onions, ALLIUM. With the ALLIUM, if you take too much foliage the bulb will starve and may not bloom the next year.  A general rule for LILIES is that you only pick flowers in alternate years to keep the leaves making food to send down to the bulb.

         Some flowers need to have the cut end burned to prevent milky or colorless juice oozing from the cut. Among these are POPPIES, POINSETTIAS, BALLOON FLOWERS, and HOLLYHOCK. You can dip the end in boiling water for one minute if you don’t want to burn the end. The foliage of all your flowers needs to be removed if it will be in the water or it will rot and spoil the water.  Woody stems can be pounded for about 2 inches to increase absorbing surface.

         An early spring bouquet can be had by bringing in branches of FORSYTHIA, PUSSYWILLOWS, and flowering trees. (LILACS don’t work very well for early forcing.) Pick the branches with fat buds, cutting on a slant as you do annuals and perennials.  Pound or slit the lower 2 inches and put the entire bunch under water for several hours (bathtubs work very well) or stand them in a deep container.  After their soaking, put them in your vase in a light area but not in the direct sun.  For the best success you need to know their bloom time. 4 weeks ahead of time works well.  If you need to straighten stems they can be wrapped tightly in newspaper before you put them in their water bath.

         After you have them picked and they have sat in the conditioner water for several hours or overnight, there are things you can do to make them last longer.  Be sure to remove any leaves that would be under water as they decay.  Don’t set the vase in the sun or a hot spot.  The blooms use water so it helps to change water, even every day. If you recut the stems (on a slant) they can take water up easier.

         People put various “things” in the water. I have seen 7-up (not diet) recommended so that it will give the flowers some sugar.  Many people put a small amount of chlorine (bleach) in the water to discourage bacteria. There are preparations you can buy that may contain both sugar and a disinfectant.  Ask at your floral shop what they have available.  Some flowers can have their color changed by putting the desired food coloring in their water.  Carnations are especially adaptable for this.

         Some flowers do better if cut when partially open. Others may not open further so they need to be picked fully open.  Some of the partial open ones are BABY BREATH, LARKSPUR, and SNAPDRAGONS. Some of the fully open ones are ASTERS, CALENDULAS, CARNATIONS, MUMS, DAHLIAS, MARIGOLDS, and ZINNIAS.

         A number of people want PEONIES for Memorial Day.  If they are going to be ready before that day they can be cut when about half open, wrapped, and refrigerated. They will keep for several weeks. If you cut LILACS with long stems you will also get the next years blooms as they develop just at the base of this years bloom. Their stems also need to be crushed to absorb more water like other woody stems.

Copyright 2008