The Cutting Garden
Like the kitchen garden, and sometimes a part of it, the cutting garden is made in response to desire for fresh bouquets and flowers for arrangements. “Arrangements” sounds formal, like the professional florists art, and you may have that in mind, but many people just like to pick a bunch of flowers, stick them casually into a Mason jar on the table, a simple water pitcher, or a humble vase, and enjoy! A cutting garden serves in both the formal art of flower arranging for floral artists and the mood brightening everyday bouquets for the rest of us.
No one ever has enough flowers- think of the possibilities! Bouquets for friends or shut-ins, for your church altar, or any number of nice gestures where a flower can say ” I care about you”. In a cutting garden you can have plenty of material for those, and not mar the landscape effects you are trying to create elsewhere in your yard. HGTV has detailed plans.
The preparation for this type of space is just like any other garden bed: dig deeply, mix in plenty of organic matter, i.e. compost, peat moss, leaf mold, etc. Make sure it is well-cultivated, whether tilled ( as with a vegetable garden) or in raised beds. Pick a fairly sunny spot because most of your chosen foliage and blooms will require sun to give their best results. This is a time when the individual far outshines the group. Good growing conditions with proper spacing, some wind protection, and proximity to your water source will make it a better success- there is nothing sadder than wilting or wind damaged flowers.
Design or Not?
that is the question
Over and over, garden articles on this topic say you don’t need to give design a thought since you are growing for production of flowers to harvest, but I think “Why not?” There can be a beautiful combination of plants and blooms, with care given to choosing heights and form, as well as shrubs for the corners and the addition of pots which would allow for a visually pleasing garden. Sure, you are going to cut lots of the blooms for fabulous arrangements, but if you have an edge of flowers or even the old fashioned boxwood hedges surrounding, it will give you something that says “a garden”. A pretty edge makes up for a multitude of errors in a garden, and if you have to pick lots of certain flowers, a border of blooms that won’t be harvested keeps the picture pretty. I wouldn’t be above ornamenting the space with some attractive whimsies or a gazing ball. Giving your eye something of color, so that you won’t miss the flowers (which you purposed to cut, anyway).
As in the kitchen garden, easy paths around human-proportioned planting beds will make maintenance less of a chore. You are going to grow the loveliest blooms and exciting healthy foliage, so you will be more attentive to the plants and working around them more than in other types of flower gardens.
One tip that breaks the rule is from Dr. Leonard Perry, Extension Professor at the University of Vermont. He recommends that you grow upright annuals much more closely so they have longer stems for cutting. He mentions ‘cockscomb’ which, I know from growing it, tends to have thick stubby stems. All the other gardening tips that are common to annuals and container plantings apply: dead head the blooms regularly, and keep a regular watering and feeding schedule. Keep those flowers coming!
Annual and perennial flowering plants have different needs, so I would plant them in separate areas. Where you have perennial plants there can be the addition of mulches, but those just get in the way with annuals, and prevent reseeding of many that would be hardy or half-hardy and reseed for the next year. Some annuals like less fertile soil, as well, and that is better given it’s own space so you don’t have the disappointment of lots of sappy foliage when you wanted the showy blossoms, instead. A garden given a quartered design would be ideal for this type of compartmentalizing.
Tips For Fresh-cut Bouquets
Never cut more than half the stem length from your garden plants. This keeps the plants strong, so they keep producing flowers. Remove lower leaves from your cut stems and immediately place them immediately into a container filled with water. Cut stems early in the morning rather than during the hot mid-day. You’ll be amazed at how well your home grown flowers compare to those purchased in a store.
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- A clean cut made with a sharp tool enables water to travel up the stem into the flower head, prolonging the life of the bloom. Dull clippers crush the stem. “Choose blossoms that are newly opened and buds just beginning to unfurl. Cut flowers one at a time” ~Libbey Oliver
- Carry a water container with you to put the stems into water immediately.
- Re-cut the stems under water.
- Add.a drop of chlorine bleach to the water to kill putrefying bacteria.
- Try to keep your flowers in a cool place out of direct sunlight until ready to arrange them.
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