If you're growing flowers for a cutting garden in a limited amount of space, I have a few tips for you that'll make your life easier and your bouquets more beautiful.
Ever year I seem to devote more and more room to flowers in my inappropriately named vegetable garden. I started with a few flowers in the borders, and then an entire 16 x 3' bed, to the point I am at this year which is 2, 16 x 3' flower beds. Plus a few mushed into the borders which is where the sweet peas live.
This was the first year I dedicated so much space to flowers and it was the first time I grew a lot of the varieties I put in.
I liked everything I grew this year, but after a season of observing the flower habits I have a better idea of how many of each I need to grow.
I've made a mental note for instance that I don't need to plant 8 cosmos plants because 8 cosmos plants produce enough flowers to fill a very nice smelling garbage truck.
Here's a recap of what I planted in my flower beds for cutting this year:
Cutting Garden Flowers
- Sweet Peas
- Iceland Poppies
- Chocolate Laceflower
- Bupleurum (not shown)
- Snapdragons (not shown)
- China Aster (not shown)
This probably seems like a lot of varieties, and it is but it's not as many as I could have packed in the over 100 square feet of space I had for them. I whittled everything down so I had a LOT of each flower. It just makes creating a professional looking arrangement (at my skill level) easier.
How you decide what you're going to plant in your cutting garden is dictated by how you want to arrange the flowers.
I mean that's why it's called a cutting garden right? Because you're going to eventually cut those flowers. Here are some things to consider for a cutting garden no matter how big or small it is:
- Are you pretty confident arranging flowers? If you are then you probably have the skills to create beautiful bouquets with a multitude of flowers. Think Tulipina type arrangements.
- Are you less confident in your floral arranging abilities? Designing a beautiful bouquet with 1-5 varieties of flowers and greenery is MUCH easier. Keep it simple you big stupid.
- Don't forget the GREENERY. If you don't have access to greenery from the rest of your yard or garden make sure you devote ¼ of your space to greenery/filler. It's the biggest mistake people make when planning a cutting garden - not including enough greenery. The filler is .. well ... filling in the bouquets, plus the green makes the colourful flowers POP.
- 6" x 6" plastic mesh that's normally used for growing peas is a great way to force flowers to grow straight and stop them from toppling over. Thanks to Erin at Floret Flowers for this brilliant growing tip that saved my bum many times this year.
- DON'T just randomly buy flowers. Pay close attention to the colours you're growing. Growing a cutting garden is like decorating a room. You want your colours to all look good together. Get a palette in mind and stick with it.
Dahlias: After dusk (dark red), Cornel Bronze (orange), Ice Cube (dinner plate sized ones) Unknown (red ball dahlia in centre)
With things that are light and airy like lace flower or cosmos, you don't need a lot of them because you use them sparingly in arrangements and they produce TONS of flowers per plant.
Mignonette, good for a sweet scent and greenery.
And don't forget about the scent! A lot of hybridized flowers don't have any scent anymore. It's why old varieties of peonies and roses always smell so good. They haven't been tortured into submission by cross breeding to get the perfect colour or shape.
So try to plant something that will smell GREAT. Sweet peas always smell delicious, and this old variety of flower Mignonette, used specifically in nosegays is delicious smelling. Kind of like - I don't know - a candy necklace? Plus it makes any posy look properly Victorian.
In this posy: Cockscomb, Mignonette, Zinnia (Queen Red Lime), Sweet Peas (Spencer Giant Mixed), China Aster, Cosmos (Cupcake Blush), Chocolate Laceflower.
In Friday's post I'll be showing you how to do a simple, dramatic arrangement with all those dahlias I recommended you plant earlier this year.
You know, the ones you thought would never grow and are now the size of an ice cream truck. Those dahlias.
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These are all so gorgeous. Your color choices are quite lovely. I'm in love with your chocolate lace flowers. *Swoon* Also, you got me, I pick rando flowers and hope for whatever to grow into a magical color palette.
Not that I actually cut any of them....because what if I bring bugs in the house?
I always pick flowers and find things like earwigs or spiders (which aren't bad per se but I don't want them either) dangling or crawling out of foliage. *shudder* Do you just suck it up and deal? Do you give everything a quick spray down with water? Do you shake things violently until earwigs fall out, and if a few petals go missing NBD?
I completely agree! Bugs and I have an agreement, I will plant flowers and stuff for bugs to enjoy, they stay out of MY stuff and especially my house! Anything that comes in my house is then dead.
Hi Meg, A lot of the bugs immediately run for cover when I cut the flowers. The rest I shake out a few times. Earwigs are surprisingly strong so you do have to shake violently, lol. ~ karen!
I’m afraid to mention this but I haven’t seen ANY earwigs this summer! Is it an off year for them or am I just lucky? Now that I’ve said it, I’ll prob see tons!
I’m trying to give you five stars for the recipe rating, but they won’t light up. Thought you should know.
This is exactly the flower information I needed for next year.
All the flowers have to be really tall, exactly like your last picture. Were those flowers the dahlias?
And can you give me the names (or numbers noted above) for four more species of tall flowers.
I need to block the view of a neighbor, and I’m planting them in that box on legs you told me to buy a few years ago. Flowers in the back, herbs in the front.
Thank you so much.
PS: I planted herbs in Miracle Grow Soil for flowers by mistake. They are massive, but are they still okay to consume? I know that you would know.
Thank you so much!! Love everything you do.
Hi Susan! In the foreground of that photo are dahlias, at the back though, the really tall ones are cosmos and behind them Amaranth. So you can add that to your list of tall flowers. Herbs grow in Miracle Grow for flowers are fine to eat. Miracle Grow is Miracle Grow. A lot of people won't use it based on their relationship with Monsanto and the fact that it's a synthetic fertilizer which can be harmful to the environment and potentially (possibly) humans. BUT like I said, it makes no difference whether you're using Miracle Grow for Flowers or Miracle Grow for vegetables. They're basically the same thing. ~ karen!
I find my cosmos wilt after 24 hours . Any tips ?
Hi So. Just make sure when you cut them you put them right into water. Also, the bigger the stem you cut (as opposed to just cutting one of the little thin stemmed branches) the more water it'll be able to take up and it'll last longer. ~ karen!
It looks like you can grow many things us gardening further south don't have great success with. The chocolate lace flowers I have tried over and over, sweet peas as well. It just gets too hot and dry for too long. We tend to have gorgeous dahlias tho. My cosmos never look that good, at least the fancy pastel ones don't. But I have a patch of the old yellow and orange ones that just never stop blooming all summer. I use a lot of celosia and globe amaranth. Both seem to do well if planted from seed, not nursery starts. Zinnias are a work horse for me until they get all fungus-y. The plus side to zinnias is the huge amount of butterflys they attract.
Sweet peas are tricky everywhere. This is my best year for them for sure. I think half the trick is to plant a billion of them (give or take). But yes they like cooler weather for sure. I've found the celosia is a HUGE hit with the bees. ~ karen!
Thank you again for the terrific gardening tips! The big "but" is that I don't know what 6″ x 6″ plastic mesh is? I've looked at Lowes and Lee Valley, could you please give me your source? Thanks again for your great site! Love your recipes too!!
Hi Elizabeth. I get my netting at Dam Seeds. ~ karen!
Also, do you put your mesh right under the dirt when you seed and then cover all with dirt? Please explain! Thanks again. :-)
ps: I've ordered the netting and fell into the trap and bought a bunch of seeds too for flowers next year!
Thanks for the link.
Thanks for asking that “mesh” question, Elizabeth! I was just about to ask Karen the same thing. Thanks also to you, Karen, for the info.
I have given up on vegetables and only grown cut flowers for the last couple of years. One of my favorites for cutting has been the Lisianthus. They look like roses and their vase life is amazing. They can't be grown from seed, but you can order starter plants from Burpee.
At a gardening event I went to this summer they were trialing Lisianthus and they were a HUGE success. They're one of my favourite flowers and after seeing how well they did at the trial I'll be growing them next year. ~ karen!
I think that basket of flowers would make a fantastic wedding bouquet for the bride - it is glorious. But so many of your beautiful flowers won't grow down here in FL. We have a lot of other ones that are beautiful but I'm envious of your beautiful flowers just the same. I think the mesh is an excellent idea. We also have hurricanes and big storms that just laugh at the mortals foolish enough to grow iris, day lilies, gladiolus, and basically anything tall that doesn't have a trunk. I love the idea you have in this post - about planning ahead. Brilliant! I bet that would work for other things, as well.LOL It is also brilliant to grow some deeply scented things to add to the arrangements - it is so sad that man has removed most of the fragrance - just like the way dogs have been bred so that they have trouble breathing and seeing. Kind of like wearing tall high heels - why in the world is that a thing? I'm going to go outside and sink my nose into the basil and lemon balm and think about the simple pleasures - like reading your blog.
I know what you mean about cosmos...planted “a few” last summer. They reseeded this summer. By the tens of thousands. I was pulling them out by the arms full. Before they dropped seed again. Pulled out a 10’ dump trailer full of them, but I do love them!
I have a raised bed garden in about 4000 sq ft, fenced against deer, bear and elk. There are several beds of flowers, mostly perennials and far too many daylilies and irises. This year I grew cosmos from seed and planted FAR too many so there is a lopsided mess in my cutting bed. In one of the perennial beds, I planted bee balm to attract, you guessed it, bees, and those little suckers are having go much fun on the bee balm that I can work right beside them without getting stung. The bee balm is pretty in arrangements, too, so serves more than one purpose. The prickly bright blue ernygium and drumstick allium are also pretty in the garden and in arrangements. Sounds like I'm an expert who spends her days my days arranging flowers, right? Wrong! In fact, I can't bring myself to cut flowers from the cutting garden. Seriously. So my cutting garden gets overrun with flowers and messy I buy my flowers for arranging from my local grocery store. Go figure. Next year, next year, for sure, I will use my own. Honest!
I like your idea of using the pea mesh to keep the flowers straight but I’m not quite sure how you placed the mesh. Could you send a photo of the beds earlier in the year that shows us how you placed it?
Hi, Karen. As always your flowers look great. I have a flower garden in my front yard that runs up the driveway, across the sidewalk (both sides), to the front door and across the front of the yard along the road to the corner of our lot. A lot of what I have are perennials now but I always plant some annuals too. Several years I plant mammoth dill (I just scatter the seeds between the flowers. It grows tall & looks lacy, too. Plus you can cook with it. I have bought mixed wild flowers a couple of times (seed), scattered them & am surprised with whatever comes up. Sometimes I have to not dig up the garden in the spring so the biannual ones will sprout but I'm ok with that. That is how I got a start of Virginia Bluebells. I now have them planted all along the fence by the road. I just love the blue flowers.
To paraphrase that old saying, if I had only $10 I would spend half on bread and half on flowers---probably sweet peas.....or dahlias. Flowers are good for the soul.
I love sweet peas. Never thought to bring them indoors for a flower arrangement, although I bring everything else in.
Thanks for the information about Miracle Gro and Monsanto, Karen. Do you have a suggestion for a replacement?
Hello from Kentucky! Your flowers are beautiful and you inspire me to do more around my house. I just wanted to note that the Cockscomb are very pretty but they are really hard to get rid of. I planted some over 10 years ago and they are still coming up! The butterflies and bees do love them but I really wanted my purple Angelonias to live in that spot so I had to work really hard to pull them up. But they still pop up here and there. They are very good at reseeding themselves. Though, when I planted them years ago, I also had yellow but they didn’t thrive like the fuschia. Anyway, thanks for all you do!
Also a request for how to place the mesh. I got run over with grasshoppers this year. They decimated so much of my garden. Would love any tips on how to decrease the evil hoppers for next year.
I just found your blog by accident this morning and have spent the last 3 hours trawling through it, love your writing and sense of humour!
I am a ISTJ by the way and would like to suggest that you have your links open in a new browser window so that I don't lose the original page when I get sidetracked down the black hole of the web when I come across something of interest through any of your posts. Hope you don't get offended:-)
I would also love to know how you use the mesh in the picking garden?
HI Heather! I used to have my links open in a new window, but that's actually not the right way to do it when it comes to SEO. Best practice is to have links that lead to pages outside of my blog open in a new tab, and links that lead within my blog to open in the same tab. :) With the mesh, in some of the photos you can see that I've strung it lengthwise over posts at the ends of my flower beds. That way the flowers can grow up and through it. ~ karen!
Did you start your cutting garden from seeds or starts?
Hi Karen. I started everything from seed. Most bought from Floret Flowers or William Dam Seeds (in Canada). Snapdragons, Mignonette, zinnias, celosia, amaranth, poppies ... all of it. :) That way you can get the exact colours and varieties you want and not just the very common ones you find at nurseries. Plus - it's WAY cheaper to start seeds. ~ karen!
Hi karen, I am so inspired by your gardening tips (and pretty much everything else - cue the shameless flattery). I am trying to make an intentional cutting garden this year and want to start small. In one of your posts you provided some of your suppliers. I know about Floret, but there were some other canadian ones also. And now I can't find the post. Plus everytime i search on your feed, i come up with more beautiful arrangements, and flowers, and my intentions of keeping small go out the window. Can you point me to the blog where you gave a list of seed providers?
Thank you very much!
The cutting garden looks great. I have planted almost all the varieties you've listed. But, my stem length is pitiful. Any tips?
Pinching back the top of the plant at the beginning of the season helps get longer stems later on. Also if you're growing dahlias, pinch out the two outer buds. (they usually grow in 3s, with the middle bud emerging first and being the biggest) Getting rid of the side buds will give a bigger flower with a longer stem. :) ~ karen!