Saturday, March 7, 2009

Diary January 2006 - A Cutting Garden

I love fresh flowers cut from the garden! I used to bring buckets full of shrub branches and flowers to work and arrange them for the public areas and for my desk. Since my garden here has always been large, cutting a lot of blooms never seemed to “put a dent” in the border! Plus my logic was that since I was at work more than I was at home, why shouldn’t I see my beauties all during the week instead of just on weekends?
My perfect garden would include a cutting garden – an area where I could grow the best flowers for vases and bouquets. It could either be designed like a border or just a big rectangular plot for the “best of the best” with little walkways between the rows. Maybe out of the way but not too remote.
Most cutting gardens do best in areas that are flat, well drained and sunny.
The principles would be the same as for any area: soil full of organic matter and compost, maybe drip irrigation and lots of cedar mulch all around.
Maybe I’d arrange the garden by season: bulbs and early spring flowers in one or two rows, then some shrubs like lilacs and mockorange that have heavenly scented blossoms in late May, then early spring to midsummer perennials and I wouldn’t forget autumn delights (including shrubs!)
Tall plants are best for arrangements. I would also include annuals, such as zinnias and annual bachelor’s buttons as they are great in groupings.
It’s a good idea to keep a bucket of water close by when cutting, then the flowers can immediately be put in water once cut. I read somewhere that plunging them into a half and half solution of lemon-lime soda and water with a few drops of bleach works well. I haven’t tried it but I might although I personally have never had a problem with just plain water.
One thing for sure – make sure no leaves or flower buds are below the water surface and change the water daily.
So what would be some good choices for a cutting garden?
Very early spring should include a forsythia bush so that I could cut branches before bloom and “force” them in the house. The branches look so beautiful and “spring-like” when it’s still so cold outside!

In May and early June, I love the tulips and daffodils that do well as cut flowers, for instance, “Estella Rijnveld”, “Queen of the Night”, “ White Triumphator”, “Diana”, “Menton”, “Maureen”, “King Alfred”, “Mount Hood” and “Thalia”. These go beautifully with German or Siberian Iris, Baby’s Breath and peonies. For a friend’s annual Victoria Day Party, I try to bring a vase full of “Estella Rijnveld” parrot tulips with their red and white striped markings, some ‘black’ “Queen of the Night” tulips for drama, some lovely arching bleeding hearts (Dicentra spectabilis) and fragrant branches of a lilac bush (remember – bash the ends of those branch stems with a hammer for maximum water penetration!) I’ve had many compliments on this combination.
Here’s the lovely ‘Estella Rijnveld’:

Early spring (May and June) offers lots of possibilities:
Cream, pale and dark pink peonies (watch out for the ants, though!)
Coral Bells (Heuchera x brizoides)
Columbines (Aquilegia)
Astilbe – many colours – pale pink, red, white
Gypsophila ‘Bristol Fairy’ (Baby’s Breath) a great filler!
Tree Peonies
Penstemon digitalis ‘Husker Red’
Veronica spicata ‘Red Fox’
Artemesia ludoviciana ‘Silver King’ (silver – good foil for other colours)
Siberian Iris

Echinacea purpurea ‘Magnus’ – Purple Cone Flower
Hemerocallis – daylilies – they come in a huge variety of colours
Achillea x ‘Moonshine’
Leucanthemum x superbum ‘Becky’ – daisy – (some don’t smell so good!)
Liatris spicata
Lilium – Asiatic and Oriental Lilies
Monarda didyama hybrids – Bee Balm
Rudbeckia fulgida ‘Goldsturm’
Scabiosa caucasica – Pincushion flower

Sedum x ‘Autumn Joy’
Aster x frikartii
Boltonia asteroides – ‘Snowbank’
Viburnum bush
Serviceberry bush

Don’t forget gladiolas and dahlias! (This sensational red beauty is a dahlia)

Well, while I’m at it, how about a spot for some tomatoes (the only vegetable I’ve ever been interested in growing!), and maybe some herbs like rosemary, oregano, tarragon, dill and parsley. And OK – how about a raspberry bush and some strawberries, too!

A cutting garden would be so cool to have! And I would never lack for fresh flowers in the house! (Or herbs, or berries, or……..!)

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