Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Creating a Cutting Garden

I love having fresh flowers on the dining room table and on the kitchen counter.
With this in mind, I grew a wider variety of plants for cutting this year. I always grow zinnias and marigolds from seed and incorporate them into my vegetable garden. In addition, my 2013 garden included a new bed of annuals (I wrote about it here.) Now that the growing season is over, and all my blooms are zapped by frost, H.H. is clearing the beds, giving me the incentive to plan my plantings for next year.

I tend to associate cutting gardens with annual flowers, but many perennials and woody ornamentals work well for cutting. As a rule of thumb, I choose flowers that have long, sturdy stems and blooms that last a long time once cut. I also like to include fragrant blossoms in my bouquets -- scent is often missing from store-bought flowers.

Here are five of my favorite flowers for cutting:


I can't better White Flower Farms Catalog description of Zinnia 'Zowei! Yellow Flame' (my favorite variety this year.)  -- "Nothing ignites a bed or mixed border like a mass planting of Zowie! Its brilliant, yellow-tipped petals start off magenta-pink then turn to scarlet-rose around a dramatic red-and-yellow cone. The blooms measure about 3in across and are superb in bouquets. An All-America Selections Winner for 2006."

Zinnias bloom incessantly from June to frost if they are provided with fertile soil and some water in dry spells. Newer varieties of these colorful annuals are more heat tolerant and mildew resistant.


Shasta daisy (Leucanthemum x superbum) is an ideal cut flower for its sturdy stems and long vase life. Its white petals provide some calm among the zinnias and other bright colored blooms I love. This perennial is an old-time favorite for the summer, cottage garden. They bloom from July to September, requiring only good, rich soil and lots of sun.


Globe amaranth (Gomphrena globosa) is a prolific bloomer that lasts until frost.  This annual has clover-like blooms that add fun to any flower arrangement. I planted Gomphrena globosa 'QIS Purple' and it proved to be very prolific and reliable. Globe amaranth is very tolerant of heat and humidity and doesn't need special growing requirements. Gomphrena means "everlasting" in Latin and these flowers are wonderful in dried arrangements.


The small perennial sunflower, Helianthus microcephalus, is perfect for flower arrangements. With its cheerful yellow flowers, it is my favorite of the native sunflowers. I like to add the excellent fine textured foliage to my arrangements. Followers of this blog have heard me say that I grow this perennial in containers because it tends to be aggressive.


Purple cone flower, Echinacea purpurea, is valued for its large sturdy daisylike flowers with drooping petals. This prairie native will spread easily in good soil and full sun. Few pests or diseases bother it, and it is a reliable cut flower -- I bring in armloads of it to brighten the house. Birds and butterflies love it. I let the flowers go to seed and the goldfinches come to feast on the seeds daily.

Rosy purple or white were once the only choices in flower color. Recent hybrids have introduced yellow, orange, burgundy, cream, and shades in between.

There are many other flowers you can choose for your cutting garden: annuals such as sweet peas,  calendula, celosia, larkspur, nigella, cosmos and salvia. Perennials such as rudbeckia, Joe Pye weed, coralbells, campanula, yarrow, agstache, lavender, veronica, tulips, daffodils and lily of the valley. My favorite flowering shrubs for arrangements are viburnum, forsythia, and mock orange.

Mock orange and bearded iris
Rudbeckia and Yarrow 'The pearl"

When friends come for an English tea, I always have fresh flowers on the table.
Tips and Suggestions for a Great Cutting Garden and a Perfect Flower Arrangement

1. Be sure your plants are growing in good soil -- test and amend as needed. I apply an annual application of organic matter.

2. Be sure the growing plants receive sufficient water. I use a soaker hose in each bed to water the roots and minimize disease and rot problems.

3. Harvest each flower when buds are just starting to open, or flowers have recently opened, and put the cut stems in tepid water right away.

4. Strip off the leaves, thorns, or other plant material -- if left submerged this plant tissue will decay and shorten the life of your arrangement.

5. Use clean water in your vase.

6. Re-cut each stem prior to placing it in the vase. Cut off approximately 1/2 inch of the bottom of the stem under water in a bowl in the sink, and immediately place it in the vase.

7. Check the water level daily and replace every few days.

My flower arrangements are very simple, casual even -- like my cottage garden. In fact, I don't have a cutting garden per se, but grow flowers for cutting in most of my cottage garden beds ...

While recovery from my recent illness is slow, and I can't work outside, I am able to plan next year's garden. Have you started planning for the next gardening season?

Thank you, for all your kind wishes and prayers for the return of my good health! Garden bloggers are the best of friends!

Pam x

The heady fragrance of roses.
~~ I love reading your comments. I hope you leave one so I’ll know you visited!
I look forward to visiting your blog in return.


  1. What a wonderful idea to grow plants just so you can have fresh flowers inside! I especially like your mock orange and iris arrangement. It must smell heavenly! I rarely bring flowers inside, but I've been eyeing a piece of pottery - it would look perfect with flowers in it. Maybe I can take one of the vegetable beds and put some flower seeds in it instead!

  2. I really love the Mock Orange and Iris, beautiful Pam. I agree on the Shasta for cutting. It is also nice to cut from wild meadows. I cut weekly and even into the cold weather for forcing and dried arrangements.

  3. I keep saying that I'm going to create a cutting bed at the allotment, but I still haven't got round to it. My garden is only small so I don't like to take flowers from there for the house as I like to enjoy them outdoors, but having a patch specifically for cutting at the allotment would be a good idea. I do love to have flowers in the house.

  4. I like to have flowers inside, too, a habit I inherited from my mother. You are growing some very lovely flowers for bouquets. My 'Zowie' zinnia was a little disappointing, but I will try it next year in a different area. I really like the iris and mock orange arrangement!

  5. Lovely flower arrangements, and I especially liked your perennial sunflowers, I have now added them to my wish-list. I will grow them in containers too, I grew sunflowers for the first time this year but they are annuals, I assume – hope everything will die back and vanish over winter!

    I love flower arrangements too but I am a bit worried about taking them inside as I am afraid I will bring aphids and other pests to my houseplants. I take daffodils inside, as they flower so early in the year, but the rest of the year I only make arrangements to keep on my tables outside.

  6. What a great list! I don't usually bring flowers inside, sadly, as I have a cat that eats them. I worked at a community farm this summer, though, that sold flowers as well as veggies and so had several small fields of flowers. So pretty! I just love the Globe Amaranth. I don't think pictures can do them justice, as they just look so pretty in a bouquet!
    I hope you feel better soon! Since I have a brand new still-bare garden, I'm in full spring planning mode. I plan to do a good amount of wintersowing this year, so I have to admit I've already started perusing seed catalogs online and buying seeds!

  7. I loved this post! Such useful information. I, too, have just begun planning my cutting garden for next year as our fall clean up is underway now. I grew zinnias, dahlias & roses this year. I was delighted that they lasted right up until frost! Can't wait to see them and add more of your suggested flowers to my garden next year!

  8. This was such a lovely post. I too love simple flower arrangements out of my own garden on the table and certainly with guests for an English tea. It is fun to think about what kind of annuals we are going to sow next spring and browsing in the seed catalogues.

  9. Creating a cutting garden is such a nice idea and having cut flowers in the house always cheers one up. This is a good time to plan for next year as well and I am hoping you are feeling better each day while yo are planning. I enjoyed your very informative post!

  10. Great ideas for a cutting garden and beautiful flowers. I am sorry that you have been ill and hope you recov soon. Happy Fall to you and HH.

  11. Sending more healing thoughts your way Pam. I learn so much from you and especially about cutting gardens, blooms best for cutting and how to make the most of the blooms.

  12. Really liked this post Pam. Having fresh bouquets of flowers in the house is one of my favourite garden perks. I'm pinning this for future reference as I sometimes forget which flowers are long lasting with good stems. Your list is very helpful.