People have grown and arranged flowers since at least 2500 B.C. In ancient Egypt, cut flowers were placed in vases as table decoration. They were also used for burials and important processions. Flowers can be found carved into Egyptian stone reliefs, and walls are painted featuring flowers, herbs, and foliage.
The Greeks and Romans also displayed flowers but not in vases. They created garlands and wreaths. Laurel wreaths were given as awards to the winners of athletic competitions. In Rome, these wreaths were symbols of military victories. Flowers were interwoven into the garlands, with favorites being roses, hyacinths, violets, and lilies.
Before the florist trade began, however, flowers and greenery had to be sown and grown at home. In our modern world, florists make it easy to order up an artful design for any occasion. Yet, a certain satisfaction comes inherently in growing and arranging flowers of one’s own.
Cutting gardens can be designed specifically for harvesting flowers and greenery for arrangements in the home or for an event like a wedding. Areas of flowers can be planted within the landscape to offer blooms for arrangements. Cutting gardens can live in elegant rows upon rows of fertile, sunny fields; or they can coexist with a small patio in various pots. Climbing roses, larkspur, poppies, peonies, tulips, and many other plant varieties can be grown to beautify the garden and landscape. They can also be grown in pots from which the blooms are harvested.
Most flowers need at least 6 hours of sunlight per day, so choose an area that has full, or almost full, sun. While an entire area for a designated flower garden is wonderful, areas around the patio can most definitely be planted with strong, cut flower specimens. A number of beautiful flowers are easy to grow in pots or containers of various shapes and sizes. These may be placed wherever the sun can be used to the fullest: on steps, near the front or back door, on a patio, or even a windowsill. Plenty of sun, adequate water, and proper soil are basic requirements.
Fertile soil yields a better result, and there is no short cut to that end. Begin with a soil test, which can be accomplished through your county cooperative extension office. Find out what the testing office needs, as it can vary from county to county. Most likely the office will have a set of directions for amounts of soil being submitted and locations for soil samples to be taken from the garden or flowerpots. Soil samples from various parts of the garden will render a list of what the soil lacks. A good extension office will also offer guidelines on the best amendment steps. The amendments to the soil should be made before moving forward. Getting the soil to proper pH levels for the desired flowers will go a long way towards a satisfactory flower display.
Working the soil with the needed amendments is necessary before any plants or seeds are added. This will help the new, young roots access the water and nutrients, i.e., food, that they need. If the beds are large, tilling is the most efficient manner of working the soil. If the beds are relatively small or the flowers will be grown in flowerpots, digging and “turning over” is easy and efficient.
The soil needs to be weed free. Supplement it with organic material, such as ground leaves or hay. Composting material is useful in any garden as it adds nutrients. This can be purchased at local nurseries or made at home. Slow-acting, organic fertilizer is also beneficial to the soil. Turn the soil and organic mixture over and over to be certain no hot spots of too much compost are present.
Strategies can make the most of a cutting garden, particularly if it is larger than a bed around the patio. If you’re creating a garden with many rows of flowers, be sure to have adequate room between the rows so that accessibility is maximized. Consider the geography of the area. Watering the young, tender plants will often be a daily task, so have a water source nearby. If brisk wind is a daily occurrence, protection for the garden should be addressed. When possible, have a good view of the flowers from the home. Consider the joy of watching the flowers burst through the soil with their tender shoots and then following their ascent several times each day. As if by magic, they slowly lengthen and unfurl themselves seemingly out of nowhere.
The next step is considering the requirements of each plant. What do these plants need to reach their potential? If several plant types share requirements, group them together. Some will need more water than others; some might need a little less sunshine each day.
Sequence of blooms for each plant type is important knowledge. Early bloomers are nice to have up front, mid-season bloomers in the middle, and late bloomers at the back. Also consider plant height. A tall larkspur would hide lower growing cosmos. Small variety cosmos would not do well at the back of any garden as taller specimens would easily hide them. While keeping the geometry of height in mind, also consider the color scheme. Take a tip from interior designers and allow the colors, textures, and heights to complement one another. Everything does not have to match. It is easier on the eyes, though, for the blooms to enhance one another, thus complementing. Flowerbeds and flowerpots could be arranged with all pastel blooms or all white and green blooms. Another nice visual is pastel blooms accented with stronger tones of the pastels. For instance, pale pink roses are lovely paired with peonies in a stronger shade of pink. Throw in the blues of larkspur, and an impressive cutting garden is on its way!
While considering height of blooms, also consider their scents. The sense of smell is widely believed to trigger strong emotional memories and take one “back in time.” Since gardening is oftentimes a period of reflection, smells are a strong tool for gathering potent memories. Perhaps revisiting happy times of working alongside a beloved parent or grandparent can enhance the gardening experience. This, in turn, may have health benefits, such as lowering blood pressure.
After plants and seeds are in place, mulching the areas is helpful. Mulching serves many purposes. First of all, mulching helps keep the weeds away and the water in. Many different types of mulch are available, but the best is organic material as it will return nutrients to the soil while improving its structure. Organic mulch also provides a home for garden helpers such as earthworms, which do a tremendous job of aerating the soil. Shredded hardwood bark is common mulch, but be careful to note if the additives for dying the bark are vegetable based and therefore organic. Dying the bark is not universal, but it is common, and inorganic additives are often employed. Watch for this if organic is your aim. Shredded leaves are another wonderful mulch substance as are grass clippings. While shredded leaves can be used more liberally, be careful with juicy grass clippings as they can mold easily.
If a large number of flowers is the desired effect, consider planting rows upon rows of zinnias. They are easy keepers and deliver great rewards for the attentive gardener. Be sure to make a scarecrow of reflective material to deter the birds as they love to eat zinnia seeds. Use a ground cloth between the rows to reduce weeds and create a nicer experience while walking up and down the rows of flowers. To keep the flowers going all summer, be sure to deadhead the old buds, which will encourage more growth. Zinnias are so forgiving that they do not require a “green thumb.” Even chocolate thumbs can grow zinnias!
After the plants begin growing, keep up the work. Weeds might appear inoffensive right before they take over. Pull weeds habitually. Get rid of any dead or dying vegetation. To help with insect control, have a bucket of sudsy water into which the insects can be dropped, or spray the plants affected with an organic insecticidal soap, which can be found at gardening stores and online.
Implementing a strategic plan for the cutting garden is the first step to success. Reaping the bounty of multiple flowers can bring great joy. As artist Claude Monet said, “More than anything, I must have flowers always, and always.”