Cut your own bouquets using home grown flowers
Cut flowers such as self-seeding tulips have been popping up across the United States recently, as farmers and small growers take advantage of the trend toward home-grown cut flowers.
Interest in local flowers began to grow as part of the shopping local/eating local wave, but it really took off when COVID-19 cocoons bought bouquets to brighten up their isolation at home.
Numerous studies highlighting the benefits of flowers at home haven’t hurt either.
Harvard, Rutgers University, and Texas A&M are among the universities that have recently documented the health value of flowers, including alleviating feelings of depression and anxiety, improving mood, stimulating productivity, and even aiding memory.
Although the majority of cut flowers are still imported (primarily the big four roses, carnations, mums, and tulips, and primarily from the Netherlands, Colombia, and Kenya), more options are now available at local sources such as farmers markets, and on roadsides. Terraces, cutting your own operations, and CSAs (community supported agricultural farms).
In the past five years, membership in the Specialty Cutflower Growers Association, a trade group made up mostly of small, local cutflower growers, has doubled.
If you’re interested in purchasing from nearby members, the group’s website allows you to search for members by zip code.
Gardeners have the added option of growing their own cut flowers – another trend that has been brewing over the past few years.
Most of the same cut flower options grown for the local trade can be grown just as easily in the home garden. And the flowers don’t get any fresher (or cheaper) than when they’re harvested through the back door.
Many gardeners also like the idea of adding flowers to benefit pollinators as well as interior decor.
With a wide variety of species, it is possible to have a steady stream of flowers ready to be cut throughout the growing season.
Besides popular annual cutting flower options like zinnias and marigolds, many yard-worthy perennials and flowering shrubs are fair game for the vase.
Add foliage options like conifers, ferns, ornamental grasses and colorful perennials to the mix, and it’s possible to harvest DIY bouquets almost year-round.
Author Debra Prinzing, who started the “Slow Flower” movement to encourage home-cut flowers, has devoted a book to the subject called “Slow Flowers: Four Seasons of Homegrown Bouquets from the Garden, Prairie, and Farm” (St. Lynn’s Press, $16.95). Paperback, 2013).
(Prinzing’s Slow Flowers website also has a section dedicated to helping flower buyers find sources of locally cut flowers.)
Enthusiastic gardeners don’t need to do anything extra or special to start harvesting cut flowers from their yards. They likely already have plenty of options blooming week after week that work well with cut flowers.
The only difficult part for some gardeners is gaining the ability to cut the flowers they prefer on existing plants in the landscape.
As author Dr. Alan Armitage once stated, “Cutting is not murder. Half the fun of gardening is taking flowers with you or taking a bouquet of flowers with you to your friends.
Otherwise, the alternative is to plant a garden dedicated to cut flowers.
Cut flower gardens are production-oriented gardens, more similar to vegetable gardens than landscape gardens.
The Pennsylvania State Extension advises that sunny locations are usually best for cut flower gardens since most flowering plants produce best with at least six hours of full sun per day.
Good soil is also a must.
Work 2 to 3 inches of compost into compacted or poorly drained soil to create raised beds that are better suited to small roots.
Soil testing is also a good idea to determine what nutrients your bed may need and in what amounts. DIY Penn State soil testing kits are available for $10 at county extension offices, online at the Penn State soil testing laboratory, and at some garden centers.
If you don’t have a good location or your own soil truly Bad cut flowers can also be grown in pots.
To maximize blooms, the Penn State Extension recommends fertilizing according to test recommendations, keeping the soil consistently moist, and trimming the flowers regularly.
This includes “dead-heading” any spent flowers left on the plants. Especially with annual flowers, new flower buds continue to emerge when energy is no longer diverted to seed production, which occurs after the flowers mature.
The Pennsylvania State Research Farm in Lancaster County found that 10 of the best cut flowers in Pennsylvania gardens are annual bachelor’s roses, calendula, celosia, cosmos, dahlias, snapdragons, zinnias, black-eyed perennials, susans and yarrow. And Shasta Daisy.
Other good annuals worth trying are ageratum, angelonia, sweet pea, globe amaranth, sunflower, larkspur, marigold, blue and red sage, cleome, lisianthus, and Mexican sunflower.
Other good perennials for cutting are purple coneflowers, lilies, perennial sunflowers, heliopsis, mums, goldenrod, astilbe, baby’s breath, carnation/dianthus, lavender, liatris, foxglove, iris, gailardia, aster, salvia, coreopsis, lupine, phlox. Tall. , bee balm, penstemon, poppy, and veronica.
Besides the obvious roses, some of the best flowering shrubs for cutting use include hydrangea, lilac, caryopteris, viburnum, mock orange, cherry, wild apple, forsythia, and sterile types of butterfly bush.
To maximize the life of cut flowers, take a bucket of lukewarm water to the garden and place the stems in it while cutting. Early morning and evening are the best times.
Use sharp scissors or secateurs and look for flowers with buds that are about to open.
Exceptions are calendula, dahlias, zinnias, marigolds, black-eyed Susans, coneflowers, sunflowers, Gaillardia, and ficus, which are best cut when the flowers are fully in bloom.
While harvesting, cut the flower back to the main stem or as long as you can get it so you have plenty to work with when arranging.
Then remove the lower leaves before placing the stems in the pail of water.
When you’re ready to arrange, make new cuts at desired heights while holding the stems underwater. Then insert the flowers into the vase with water as quickly as possible. This prevents the base of the stems from sealing, which will shorten their life by preventing the cut stems from absorbing water.
Most florists recommend using a commercial preservative in vase water. Preservatives contain carbohydrates to encourage bud growth and antibacterial agents to discourage rot.
Change the water every two or three days to increase the life of the flower. Use fresh preservatives and make fresh cuts at the bottoms of the stems when changing the water.
Or replace the flowers as they emerge with whatever is ready to be cut at that time.
Besides fresh cut use, many of the same flowers can be dried for later use in grouped arrangements or pressed to make handmade greeting cards or framed wall hangings.
- Read how to start your own rose gardening by planting them directly in the garden