Cheyenne Garden Gossip

Gardening on the high plains of southeastern Wyoming

Cutting Gardens: Grow Your Own Bouquet

Rudbeckia

Rudbeckia (Black-eyed Susan)

Published Nov. 18, 2012, in the Wyoming Tribune Eagle, “Grow your own bouquets: whether you prefer a formal cutting garden or the more informal cottage garden approach, a little planning—and some tracking with a spreadsheet—will have your garden yielding seasons of colors indoors and outside.”

Bloom Chart

Click this link for the chart in Excel: Gorges Greening & Blooming 2012 (2)

Click this link for the chart as a PDF: GorgesGreening&Blooming2012(3)

When I first started this list in March, I was excited about spring and listed everything as it greened up. Later I wasn’t as rigorous so green-up times for some of the later blooming perennials are estimates. If no green is mentioned, it could be a plant was already blooming when I planted it, or I noticed it in the neighborhood and thought I might try it someday.

Gaillardia

Gaillardia

Not everything on the list might lend itself to cutting for traditional floral arrangements, but overall, you get a sense of seasonal progression of garden color.

Note:  Greening up but not blooming in my garden this year because they are biennials, newly planted–or stubborn–were mullein, Verbascum Thapsus; hollyhock, Alcea spp.; poppy, Papaver spp.; gayfeather, Liatris punctata; and peony, Paeonia spp.

You’ll notice that after I list the common name of a plant it is followed by the Latin genus name, but sometimes I’ve put “spp.” after that instead of the species name because I never recorded it or it wasn’t available. On the other hand, on my list some variety names appear after the plant’s common name.

By Barb Gorges

asters

Fall blooming asters

Why grow flowers

There’s more to harvest from the garden than the edibles. There are the flowers.

The practical vegetable gardener may already have companion flowering plants, such as marigolds, that either ward off insect pests or shanghai them, but let’s talk about flowers–flowers that make you want to pick them and bring them in the house, and even share them with friends.

If you have the urge to cut flowers, then you want to consider the cutting garden.

The vegetable gardener may scoff at flowers, but the enormous flower industry is meeting an important need, even if it is merely human happiness.

Flowers in the garden make the bees happy, too, and they in turn may add to vegetable prosperity. Plus, growing your own is cheaper than the florist imports, sometimes from South America.

“Cutting garden” is a searchable Internet term and immediately I found an article from the University of Vermont advising me to plant my flowers in mono-species patches, like vegetables, in some out-of-the-way place where you won’t have to look at the destruction you wreak when you cut all that’s in bloom.

The Cheyenne Botanic Gardens has a plot in its community gardens where cutting flowers grow, said its assistant director Claus Johnson. It features long-stemmed, showy varieties like dahlia, gladiolus and zinnia, and Bells of Ireland, which has a green flower, for contrast.

Not having a place or desire to do that, I went to the Laramie County Public Library and found Suzanne McIntire’s book, “An American Cutting Garden, A Primer for Growing Cut Flowers.”

Strawflower

Strawflower

Cottage Gardens

While perusing the 20 feet of gardening books five shelves high, I discovered books on the cottage garden and realized, in a tiny way, that’s how I already grow my flowers. A true cottage garden would leave no turf inside the fence except paths since the historical British cottager was growing food and herbs as well. But I’m still giving the dogs lawn space in back and blending the front turf with all the neighbors’.

No symmetrical borders or large swathes of color for me, simply a profusion of whatever will grow–cottage-style. I bring a few blooms indoors for closer examination and appreciation of beauty than is afforded by the view out the window or the passing glance during garden chores. Having a garden  that is considered messy means that cutting a few flowers is not noticeable.

November is a little late to be telling you fall is the time to prepare new flower beds and plant spring bulbs, the first of the cutting flowers. If the ground is actually frozen, then stockpile leaves and compost to dig into your future bed, rustle up your seed-starting equipment and sit back and enjoy the plant catalogs while anticipating what the local garden centers will carry in spring.

In your plans and dreams, don’t forget to take into account growing greenery for your future flower arrangements. And plan to leave paths so you can reach everything with pruners or scissors.

Much of my cottage/cutting garden is on automatic pilot: perennial plants and self-seeding annuals. Every year I fill in spaces with new perennials or annuals. Sometimes the spaces happen because perennials get tired and disappear, or I pull out some of the overly vigorous, such as feverfew or lemon balm, a mint. My flower garden is populated by hardy specimens I like.

McIntire advises us to correlate the cutting garden to future flower arrangements, but my bouquets are as informal as my garden. Any blooms that are incompatible, such as the violets that are too short for an arrangement with penstemons, get their own appropriately sized vase/jar. As a long-time quilter, I never worry anymore if my quilts or flowers match my décor—the more color I have, the less it matters.

Cosmos

Cosmos

Keeping records 

Last summer, I decided to keep records on an Excel spreadsheet showing my garden bloom dates in color. My dates won’t be the same as yours due to differences in plant exposure to sun, wind, soil and moisture, as well as particular horticultural variety.

Although many bloomed two weeks early this year, the list of plants is more useful to Cheyenne gardeners than McIntire’s. She gardens in Virginia in cold hardiness Zone 7 and has a long, hot growing season. We reside in Zone 5 with a short season, though squint-eyed optimist that I am, I usually aim for perennial plant varieties with the colder Zone 4 rating.

Finding dianthus, pansy, violet and calendula blooming in November is a little like discovering Easter eggs, but there they were Nov. 9, despite 9 inches of snow the month before. I’m reluctant to tuck the blanket of leaf mulch over them just yet.

Even in winter, there will be a few things to cut. The yarrow and rudbeckia left standing would make a nice dry flower arrangement, maybe with the strawflowers I dried earlier.

In December, I look forward to coniferous evergreen prunings, or a whole spruce or fir tree as is customary, the ultimate in cutting plants to bring indoors.

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