• Design Plans: Grow These Herbs for a Cutting Garden
For most people, a bouquet of flowers marks a special occasion, birthday or anniversary, or an apology for bad behavior. But for a gardener, flower arrangements are a graceful way to bring the riotous beauty of a garden indoors on a regular basis, adding calm and color to all the corners of your life. One dear friend of mine sends her husband to work every Monday morning with a different arrangement of flowers from her garden, and his whole office staff looks forward to it.
This little garden bed is planted specifically for that purpose—to provide a constant source of cut flowers for the home or office or to take to your friends. What a luxury for the flower lover, not to have to choose between leaving a beautiful flower in the landscape and snatching it just before its peak to put on a bedside table.
Just for fun, this bed is in the shape of a flower; the pathway to it becomes the stem of a daisy-type flower, and the center cone is—what else?—a rose bush. Each “petal” of the garden can be a different flower or flower color, or a mix. The garden is filled with herbs, which offer a diversity of form and fragrance that lends itself to many different flower combinations in a vase or bowl. A cutting garden can be any size or shape in a full-sun location, and some people devote a few rows of their vegetable gardens for this purpose.
Plant for the Vase
The cutting garden, in whatever shape you plant it, is for flowers that you know will last in a vase and not shrivel in a day or two. Choose plants with fragrances that you enjoy, as that becomes an important factor when you bring the blooms into an enclosed space. Plant with the vase in mind, for a variety of flower colors, sizes and shapes. Include plants that have intricate seed pods or foliage that will add an interest to your arrangements.
Remember to include plants that will provide the frothy filler that surrounds and accents the bigger and more spectacular blossoms in arrangements. For that purpose, florists’ perennial favorite, baby’s-breath, is only one possibility; others include the leaves and lovely chartreuse flowers of lady’s-mantle, the soft blue spikes on catmint stems, and the silvery gray foliage of artemisia.
To choose plants for the cutting garden, observe how they perform in a garden setting. Feverfew, purple coneflower and Shasta daisies, for example, are carefree in both gardens and arrangements. If garden plants hold their blooms for a long time, they’re probably suitable for living indoors in a vase.
Get a Good Start
Before you plant, prepare this plot as you would any garden bed, digging deep, working the soil, removing rocks and weeds, and amending your soil as needed. One nutrient essential to flowering plants is phosphorous, which strengthens stems and ensures proper fruiting, flowering, seed formation and root development. Adding rock phosphate, available in garden stores, to your soil when preparing the bed for a cutting garden can help ensure an ample supply of beautiful blooms.
During the growing season, a quick fix for a possible phosphorous deficiency, or anytime the plants need a boost, is to spray the leaves with a diluted solution of fish emulsion. To keep the developing flowers in their best condition for cutting, avoid overhead watering. When you cut flowers for indoors, take a minute to deadhead the spent blooms as well, in order to keep the garden as productive as possible.
Cultivate an Addiction
Of the myriad reasons one might want to have a garden, a steady supply of fresh flowers is one of my favorites. Lay in a supply of flower-arranging supplies, such as vases in various sizes and styles, floral frogs and foam. Being creative is easier when you have the proper supplies.
Cut your flowers for the house in the morning after the dew has dried and before the sun heats up. Changing the water daily, as well as Grandma’s remedy of adding an aspirin to the water, will help the blooms last longer. Don’t position the arrangements near a heating or air-conditioning vent.
Caution: The luxury of fresh flowers in the house can be addictive. Much like gardening!
Kathleen Halloran is a freelance writer and editor living and gardening in beautiful Austin, Texas.