Annuals — These will bloom all season long and are the backbone of your cutting garden!
Sweet peas have a wonderful scent and are easy to grow. They bloom early, if started indoors in late winter. Try growing them up a trellis with other flowers planted at their feet.
Zinnias are a classic choice for a cutting garden and have a long vase life. Don’t be afraid to cut off side shoots if needed to have a longer stem. ‘Queen Red Lime’ and ‘Queen Lime’ are favorites.
Snapdragons come in a wide variety of colors (even multicolored flowers) and with single or double petals. Easy to start from seed, they grow quickly, and flower prolifically. If I had to grow only one flower for cutting, it would be the Chantilly Formula Mix snapdragons from Johnny’s Seeds.
Cerinthe (also known as the blue shrimp plant) is favorite bouquet filler. The waxy leaves and blue/purple blooms are stunning in bouquets. They grow quickly, survive cold spells, and bloom reliably all summer and right through until a hard freeze.
Purple Basil is not only great for cooking, it’s amazing in a bouquet. ‘Purple Ruffles’ looks stunning in bouquets of ‘Queen Lime’ zinnias and is beautiful in the garden bed as well.
Bulbs, Corms, and Tubers
Most bulbs like free-draining soil, so use raised beds for growing these if your soil is heavy or wet.
Dahlias are exceptional longest-lasting cut flowers that come in all sizes and shapes. Choose shorter varieties with small blooms for cutting gardens. Floret Flower Farm has a wide selection of dahlias in all colors and sizes.
Tulips continue to grow in water, which means they will move around and change. They will open up in sunlight and close up in a dark room.
Alliums should be cut when no more than half the florets are open. With the wide variety of colors and sizes, alliums are a great addition to the cutting garden and they add drama to a bouquet. Allium sphaerocephalon is a favorite and comes back year after year in my garden.
Gladiolus have big, bold flowers. The flower stalk is best harvested when the lower three blossoms begin to open. Plant corms two weeks before last expected frost date, continue to plant every two weeks until July for flowers all summer or simply plant early, mid, and late season varieties.
Lilies come in a variety of heights, sizes and bloom time. Cut the stems just before the buds open, when the color is just beginning to show. When the flowers are fully open, remove the orange pollen-coated stamens to avoid staining the blooms, clothes or furniture. Lilies can be perennial, but cutting flowers often weakens the bulbs, thus reducing future flowers.
Peonies get better and better each year. One or two peonies in a vase with a hosta leaf will make a stunning arrangement. Cut buds when they are starting to open and leave at least two leaves to help feed the flower as it opens.
Hydrangeas are notorious for wilting quickly in a vase. To keep them fresh and beautiful, soak the stem and flower head in a bucket of water for a couple hours after cutting. To keep them looking good, recut stems every few days and mist them with water.
Lady’s mantle (Alchemilla mollis) is a great filler with its lime green, frothy flowers. Cut back when blooms start to turn yellow to encourage more blooms.
Globe thistles (Echinops) are showstoppers in a bouquet or a border. If you have a dry corner where not much will grow, add one of these!
Catmint is another beautiful filler for bouquets. Cutting back blooms also will help the plant bloom again in late summer.
This article by Susy Morris originally appeared in the March/April 2019 issue of Northern Gardener. Photographer and writer Susy Morris gardens in Maine