Luther Burbank’s quote says it all, “Flowers always make people better, happier, and more helpful; they are sunshine, food and medicine to the mind.” A cutting garden is just that, a place of happiness, sunshine and a balm for the soul.
We live on a wooded lot with lots of great shade in which to grow luxurious foliage such as ferns and hosta. There is one small area, though, next to the house, that gets good sun. It is in that space that I created a cutting garden. I planted it so that there is something blooming almost every month of the year (see How to Make It Last below). It is the place I go to lift my spirits by bringing the outdoors in.
Here is the basic prescription for cultivating that “medicine to the mind”.
What is a cutting garden?
A cutting garden is an area planted with flowers that are suitable and intended for arrangements. It can be an element of your landscape plan or it can be a standalone garden.
What plants are best for a cutting garden?
Envision a flower arrangement. What comes to mind – pastels, bright colors, large blossoms – will guide you in what to include in your cutting garden.
- Annuals are the most commonly used plants in flower arrangements. They require replanting each year. By working with annuals, you can learn from year to year what works in your garden’s location, in terms of soil and sun, and you will learn which flowers you love and cherish. Popular annuals that offer color and pizazz are sunflowers, phlox and feather celosia.
- Perennials are a long-term investment in that they are a permanent addition to your landscape and come back year after year. Hydrangeas are a popular southern favorite; hellebores bloom early in the season; delphinium offers brilliant color. As perennials, these plants need some degree of maintenance such as trimming and fertilizing to cultivate healthy and showy blooms.
- Plants with sturdy stems such as peonies, gladiolus and larkspur will produce flowers that can provide structure and height to an arrangement.
What else needs to be considered?
- An array of colors and shapes is what makes a striking flower arrangement. (See Image 1) In planning your cutting garden, consider what role the flower will play in the arrangement in your home. Which will grow tall, which are short. Which bloom presents a bold color and which is more gentle in both color and texture. Some have soft petals, others have more structured, geometric blossoms.
- In addition to flowers, think of foliage – something feathery green and something big and green. Hillary Alger at johnnyseeds.com writes that fillers give “arrangements a lush, full, and balanced appearance, often offer background color, and tie together all the blooms.” While there are many options, these three aromatic plants can “cross pollinate” from the herb garden to the cutting garden. Dill is the tall, delicate one. Mint presents a classic green. Sage offers broad leaves and dusty color.
How to make it last
- Succession planting, sowing seeds or planting seedlings more than once during the growing season, will create a garden that refreshes itself over and over again. Some flowers that can be successfully planted multiple times in a season include larkspur, calendula and cosmos.
- Cutting across the seasons. Consider planting flowers in your garden that will bloom across the seasons so that there will almost always be something to cut. Most of those listed here are also deer tolerant.
- Spring – Once planted, these plants flower from February to May: daffodils, baptisia (a member of the pea family), and iris.
- Summer – Nothing says summer like the colors in Image 1. This arrangement from my garden includes snapdragons, lily, coreopsis and foxglove (Just keep foxglove away from the cat and the kiddos; it is a very poisonous plant.).
- Summer to fall – Bright and vibrant zinnias are easy to grow from seed. They need sunshine and dry, well-draining soil.
- Late summer through fall – Blackeyed susans, Russian sage, fall daisy, and shasta daisy love the dry heat of late summer and early autumn.
- Winter – Foliage and evergreens such as ferns and red berries speak for the season, but don’t forget camellias!
Feed your soul and sooth your mind. Be happier and more helpful. Who knew that the prescription is as simple as planting a cutting garden? Happy planning and planting!