I like to grow flowers for the display of color they add to my landscape and I also like to grow them to cut, arrange in bouquets and bring into my house.
Therein lies my dilemma: I want cutting flowers, but I do not want to take any away from my landscape. The solution: Create a cutting garden.
A cutting garden is a separate garden to grow flowers for cutting. Because a cutting garden is not intended to be on display, the plants don’t have to look good together or have colors that complement each other and design correctness gets thrown out the window.
You will need to place your garden in a sunny area with well-drained soil. Work some slow-release fertilizer along with compost, shredded leaves or peat moss into the soil before you sow seeds or transplant seedlings. Space the rows far enough apart to give the plants room to grow and give yourself enough room for weeding, fertilizing, watering, deadheading and harvesting. Plant flowers with similar requirements, such as sun, water and drainage together for easier maintenance. Place taller-growing flowers where they won’t shade out shorter plants.
When plants are a few inches tall, spread a two- or three-inch layer of mulch around the plants. This helps conserve moisture, keep down the weed population and maintain cooler soil during the hottest part of the summer.
To keep plants blooming, cut flowers regularly and cut off any spent blooms. Allowing spent blooms to stay on a plant will encourage seed formation. That, in turn, slows flower production.
While you are cutting the spent blooms, carefully check for insects such as aphids, which can infest plants. Plants will require about one inch of water per week, whether it is from rain, your sprinkler or soaker-hose.
The choices you have of what to plant are almost limitless. You can use perennials, annuals and foliage plants. Need some vase-worthy suggestions? One of my favorites is the peony. It’s a beautiful flower and also makes my house smell so good. Others to consider are zinnia, marigold, speedwell, sunflower, snapdragon and cosmos. Another of my favorites is coral bells. Their delicate flowers add a bit of soft, airiness to my bouquets. I like to include the foliage from hosta, lambs ear and various grasses to add texture and color in arrangements.
As always, happy gardening!
Karen Weiland is an advanced master gardener at Purdue Extension in LaGrange County, Ind.