On The Garden Path: Flower Farming

How to plan a cutting garden.

| August 2008

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    THE BEAUTY OF FLOWERS: The soft-lilac petals of this dahlia (top) in the author's garden in Perryville, Mo., contrast brilliantly with the orange center. Pale-yellow dahlias (above), like these at the Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis, make a lovely arrangement when picked and placed in a simple vase.
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    PERFECT PETALS FOR VASES: Sunflowers (top), like this one growing in the author's garden, are great for vases because of their brilliant color and large blooms. Enormous shaggy heads of dahlia­ 'Café au Lait' (above), also make great bouquets for the house.
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  • 2-dahlia-cafe-au-latte.jpg

What could be nicer than fresh-cut flowers for the house? A bouquet of flowers enlivens a room and brings the garden inside. However, while many gardeners enjoy cutting and arranging flowers for the house, they hate to take blossoms away from their gardens. They're afraid to pick the flowers, because they're afraid there won't be any left in the garden.

The best solution to this problem is to plant flowers especially for cutting. Set aside a garden area, preferably one that's not in constant view, in which to grow blossoms for picking and bringing inside the house. Here, you will plant flowers chosen for their performance in the vase.

Planning your garden

A cutting garden doesn't have to be large. A 10-foot by 10-foot area planted with heavily blooming annuals will provide enough flower blossoms to assemble many bouquets. You might want to set aside a small area near your vegetable garden for growing cut flowers. If you don't have room for a separate cutting garden, simply plant a row or two of flowers for cutting amid your vegetables.

Most flowers suitable for cutting prefer full sun, so choose a sunny, well-drained area. Prepare the soil as you would any new garden bed, adding compost to improve the soil's nutrient levels. Eliminate all peren­­nial weeds and try to keep annual weeds to a minimum. If you have problems with animals that roam the neighborhood, a fence might be necessary. 

Although you won't be overly concerned with the appearance of the cutting garden, it's best to try to plant it in an orderly manner. For example, even if you're into a relaxed style of planting in the rest of your garden, it's a good idea to plant the cutting garden in rows. This will make weeding much easier, and you won't forget where the dahlias­ are supposed to come up. 



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