Growing Your Own Bouquet
Photo by Pam Sawyer: gaillardia
May 9, 2014
Go out into the yard and cut your own bouquet? Well, with a little planning and effort you can. If you have a sunny spot with good, well-drained soil, you are half way there.
Plant selection is key, since not all plants produce good cut flowers. Some wilt when cut and never recover while others seem to perk up and last longer in a vase. You can choose annuals and re-plant each year, like a vegetable garden, or you can plant perennials which come back each year. The obvious advantage of perennials is after the initial investment you don’t have to keep buying seeds or plants. The advantage of annuals is they usually bloom for longer and you can choose different flowers each year. For myself, I choose (drum roll) both! The perennials will hold the space and keep it from being empty when the annuals are done. The annuals will keep things interesting and new each year. You just need to leave space amongst the perennials to plant the annuals.
Let’s start with perennials. My favorite plant and the best cut flower on earth is purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea). It is really pink, but now is not the time for a debate. They come out with new colors every year, but none stands up as well as the original. Try Rudbeckia, both annual and perennial forms, hardy chrysanthemums (Chrysanthemum x rubellum) and shasta daisies (Leucanthemum x superbum). These are all daisy-shaped, so for some variety you want to choose other shapes. Try cat whiskers (Orthosiphon aristatus), Verbena bonariensis, agapanthus, salvia, both annual and perennial varieties, Stokes’ aster (Stokesia laevis), swamp sunflower (Helianthus angustifolius) and yarrow (Achillea millefolium). My favorite perennial salvia is Mexican bush sage (Salvia leucantha), velvet leaves and foot long purple spikes in fall. Swamp sunflower blooms at the same time and its yellow flowers go well with the purple of Mexican bush sage.
Zinnias are the absolute queen of cut flower annuals for summer. In our area we plant summer annuals in spring and winter annuals in fall. Some other good summer annuals are cosmos, cleome, gaillardia, gomphrena, and marigold (Tagetes spp.). For winter plant bachelor’s button (Centaurea cyanus), larkspur (Consolida ambigua), love-in-a-mist (Nigella damascena), snapdragon (Antirrhinum majus) and sweet pea (Lathyrus odoratus). There is a newish gomphrena called Fireworks. The flowers are small round balls of magenta pink with flecks of yellow. It is supposed to be an annual but mine have comes back for three years now and still I keep buying more!
Sometimes, if your soil is very good, you can get away with not fertilizing perennials. However, annuals are like vegetables; they need the fertilizer to look their best and produce flowers and fruit. If you want to reduce the amount of chemicals in your life and support your soil, go for organic fertilizer and liquid fish emulsion. The liquid has to be applied more often.
Something people don’t think about cutting is herbs, and even vegetables, when they flower. One of my favorites for winter is cilantro. You eat the leaves in winter when it grows and then when it goes to seed in spring, you cut the flowers and use them in arrangements. They are light and airy like baby’s breath or Queen Anne’s lace. This weekend I made a bouquet of crimson clover, which was planted as a cover crop on the vegetable garden, flowering cilantro and some early gaillardia. Red and white and yellow. Beautiful.
Pam Sawyer is a Master Gardener. For more information about gardening in our area, visit the UF/ IFAS Leon County Extension website at http://leon.ifas.ufl.edu. For gardening questions, email us at Ask-A-Mastergardener@leoncountyfl.gov