Cutting garden can remedy flower picking guilt


Flowers are a renewable resource. When you cut them, more follow.

t’s about as simple of a premise as there is, but it took me years to allow myself to cut flowers from the garden for bouquets. I’d spent so much time nurturing those flowers and planting them in a very purposeful way so that they all worked in concert with one another that I was loathe to pluck them out of the display. But I finally loosened up, and when I gave myself the permission to cut flowers from the garden, I was able to enjoy them in a whole new way.

Bringing flowers that you’ve grown indoors allows you to appreciate them differently than when viewed from afar in the garden. Combinations assembled in a vase can inform plant pairings in the garden. But more than that, there is nothing better than sharing flowers and being able to say, “I grew these.”

A lot of gardeners suffer from the same reluctance to pick hard-earned flowers, but there’s a cure — a cutting garden. Even a small area planted with flowers specifically for cutting offers great opportunity for guilt-free bouquets all summer.

But there’s no sense in overcomplicating such an endeavor. I plant flowers that look good in a vase and don’t need a lot of special treatment once they are in the ground.

Zinnias should be at the top of everyone’s list. They grow best from direct seeding and come in a wide range of colors, shapes and sizes. The Queeny series — interesting combinations of lime plus red, orange or blush — are particularly fun, but classics like Benary’s Giants, in almost any solid color you can imagine, are stunning. I also like the Lilliput series, which has inch-and-a-half wide flowers that are cute in a bouquet.

Dahlias, grown from tubers or seeds started indoors and transplanted out, are perfect for cutting, and single flowering varieties will produce flowers all summer starting in early July.

Nigella, also known as love-in-a-mist, is a classic cottage flower that fills the early season gap in a cutting garden. After several attempts at growing it, I finally tossed some in a raised bed and walked away, and sure enough, they were everywhere. Their seedpods are equally lovely in bouquets. They also reseed prolifically.

Larkspur appreciated the toss-and-go approach last year as well and has reseeded as much as the Nigella and brings brilliant blue flowers to the party.

The most surprising cut flower I’ve grown is snapdragons. Longer-stemmed varieties are some of the earliest to flower when started early inside and have bloomed all season in my garden. I don’t stake cut flowers so they tend to flop a bit and develop interesting curves that add excitement to a bouquet. The Madame series with more open “mouths” is my go-to.

Some flowers grown for cutting are worth a bit of trouble, and sweet peas certainly fall into this category. Whatever effort it takes to nuture them is well worth it. I start them inside in long, skinny pots called root trainers and plant them out a week or so before our last frost.

Plant a few flowers just for cutting this year. I promise you’ll be hooked.



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Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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