What should you grow in your cutting garden?
You should grow what you love!
To ensure you enjoy a long season of bouquets, consider adding the following to your cutting garden:
Beyond the Usual Annuals
If you’re ready to branch out and diversify your bouquet ingredients, give these heat-tolerant annuals a place in your cutting garden:
- Globe Amaranth: cute button-like blooms last up to two weeks in a vase. Look for varieties like ‘Audray Mix’ and ‘QIS™ Formula Mix’.
- Basil: Not only does it taste great on your plate, but the fabulous fragrance, foliage, and flowers also make basil a beautiful addition to the cutting garden. ‘Aromatto’ produces purple flowers, while ‘Dark Opal’ offers gorgeous purple foliage and blooms. ‘Cinnamon’ produces green leaves with purple veining, violet stems and flower bracts, and lavender blooms.
- Marigolds: ‘Giant Orange’ and ‘Giant Yellow’ make a big impact in bouquets; ‘Starfire Mix’ produces 15-20 branching stems and multitudes of penny-sized flowers; ‘Tangerine Gem’ lasts 7-10 days in a vase; ‘Xochi™ Orange’ is a favorite among florists.
- Celosia: from feathery, upright flowers to the unique texture of the “brain” blooms, you’ll find a wide array of colors to complement arrangements. Look for ‘King Coral’, ‘Flamingo Feather’, and ‘Spring Green’.
- Cosmos: the perfect cut-and-come-again flower: the more you harvest, the more the plants bloom. Try the ‘Double Click’ Series, ‘Rubenza’, Sonata™ ‘Pink Blush’, and ‘Velouette’.
- Strawflower: these pretty, textural blooms look great fresh in the vase or dried for long-lasting displays. Try ‘Silvery Rose’ or ‘Purple Red’ in your cutting garden.
Harvest flowers early in the morning. Use sharp, clean garden snips to cut stems. Dirty tools can spread bacteria, which causes stems to rot more quickly. Submerge newly cut stems in a bucket of water immediately. Let the flowers rest for an hour in the bucket to rehydrate before arranging them in bouquets.
Remove any lower foliage that might be covered by water in the vase and recut the stem again for good water uptake. Arrange in a vase. Flower preservative added to the water helps extend the bouquet’s life.
While some annuals thrive in summer’s heat, others prefer a slightly cooler temperature—and may even tolerate a light frost. Adding hardy annuals to your cutting garden allows you to extend the season of homegrown bouquets inexpensively, as most of these plants can be grown from seed. Before sowing, read the instructions on the seed packet. Some hardy annuals prefer autumn sowing or a stint in the refrigerator to boost germination through a cool period known as stratification. Others can be planted in spring earlier than many other annuals, with their blooms lasting until the first hard freeze in fall. You’ll love the early- and late-season additions to your vases when you grow hardy annuals, like:
- Bachelor Buttons: the old-fashioned blue flowers found along roadsides and in fields have evolved to include blooms in various shades of blue, purple, pink, and white. Look for ‘Classic Magic’ or ‘Choice Mix’ to fill your cutting garden.
- Larkspur: tall, floriferous spikes of delicate blooms look lovely in arrangements. Try ‘Misty Lavender’, ‘QIS™ Dark Blue’, and ‘QIS™ White Cloud’.
- Love-in-a-Mist: lacy, star-shaped flowers in shades of blue, plum, and white are followed by spectacular seed pods—equally gorgeous in bouquets as the blooms.
- Poppies: with so many poppy varieties, it’s a challenge to pick which ones to add to your cutting garden. Florists love breadseed poppies, like ‘Frosted Salmon’, but they also adore Iceland poppies—technically considered a perennial, but they often don’t last in hot climates. Still, these beauties add a phenomenal splash of color to bouquets. Look for ‘Pastel Meadows’, and ‘Champagne Bubbles’. Plus, poppy seed heads make a gorgeous architectural addition to bouquets.
- Snapdragons: a popular flower many gardeners enjoyed as kids (who didn’t make the blooms roar?), these tall, spiky flowers add gorgeous height to bouquets. New varieties in a rainbow of colors provide loads of options for your cutting garden. Try ‘Chantilly Bronze’ or ‘Maryland Plumblossom’.
- Stock: the highly fragrant, fluffy blooms provide the perfect filler for your bouquets. Look for snowy white ‘Avalanche Supreme’, magenta ‘Pacific Crimson’, or rose-pink ‘Katz Bright Rose’.
- Sweet Peas: these nostalgic beauties may have graced your grandmother’s garden, climbing a trellis and filling the air with sweet scent. Available in a rainbow of colors, these delicate-looking beauties add charm to any bouquet. Look for ‘Nimbus’, ‘Streamers Chocolate’, and ‘Mars’.
Beautiful Bulbs & Terrific Tubers
There’s nothing like the joy of seeing the first spring bulbs emerge after a gray, dreary winter. By adding your favorite bulbs to your cutting garden, you can fill your vases with early spring blooms to bring inside to brighten chilly days.
Along with daffodils and tulips, consider adding summer-flowering bulbs and tubers, too. Perhaps your wedding bouquet included Casablanca lilies. Why not add them to your cutting garden to enjoy a sweet scent from the past? Dreamy dahlias fill the feed of every floral Instagrammer. Pick your favorites and add these tubers to your cutting garden for stunning focal points in bouquets.
With thousands of bulbs, tubers, and corms to choose from, here are just a few to try in your cutting garden:
- Narcissus: the traditional bright yellow blooms of ‘Dutch Master’ scream spring and are sure to brighten your mood, but also look for unique double daffodils, interesting colors, and highly-fragrant varieties. Try ‘Bridal Crown’, ‘Tahiti’, and ‘Petit Four’.
- Tulip: from single, lily-shaped blooms to ruffled, peony-type flowers, you’ll find tulips available in brilliant colors or soft pastels. Look for early, mid-season, and late varieties to extend your season of blooms. Consider ‘La Belle Epoque’, ‘Charming Beauty’, and ‘Apricot Parrot’.
- Dahlia: These summer-blooming beauties add drama to any vase, with their gorgeous forms and colors. The massive blooms of dinner-plate dahlias dominate bouquets, while smaller varieties look lovely in mixed arrangements. Try the popular ‘Café au Lait’, ‘Sherwood’s Peach’, or ‘Hayley Jane’.
Perfect Perennials & Beautiful Biennials
Imagine the joy of plants that produce beautiful blooms for years—that’s why you need to add perennials to your cutting garden. Choose easy-to-grow plants that will keep your vases filled not only all season—but for years to come. Look for plants such as:
- Rudbeckia: perfect for producing blooms even on the hottest, driest days of summer, this low-maintenance plant provides gorgeous additions to vases until the first frost. Look for ‘American Gold Rush’, ‘Cherokee Sunset Mix’, and ‘Cherry Brandy’.
- Phlox: pretty clusters of blooms on the tall stems of garden phlox fill vases with color and fragrance, depending on the variety. Newer introductions resist pesky powdery mildew that plagued phlox for years. Look for ‘Bright Eyes’ and ‘Luminary™’.
- Coneflower: pretty pink, daisy-like blooms always look lovely in bouquets, but this old-fashioned perennial recently received an update: AAS Winner ‘Cheyenne Spirit’ produces flowers in red, orange, purple, scarlet, cream, white, and yellow. But best of all, this perennial flowers the first year when grown from seed, unlike many perennials that don’t bloom until the second year.
- Foxglove: a charming biennial beloved for its spikes of pretty, often freckled blooms, many gardeners think that foxglove is a perennial. In fact, although a biennial, it often self-seeds, giving you a continuous supply of flowers for your cutting garden. Try ‘Camelot Cream’ or ‘Dalmatian Peach’.
Harvest flowers often to keep the plant producing new blooms. Deadhead any spent flowers to encourage the plant to direct energy into producing new flowers, not seeds.
Fabulous Fillers & Foliage
While big, brilliant blooms star in your arrangements, fillers also play an important part in creating lush, lovely arrangements. From the silvery leaves of Dusty Miller to the bell-shaped bracts of Bells of Ireland, plan to add your favorite foliage plants to your cutting garden to help add fullness and balance to your bouquets.
Likewise, florists incorporate light, airy flowers as “fillers” in arrangements, serving to add texture and interest to bouquets. Umbels like Ammi and Dill look lovely filling gaps in vases.
And don’t forget: you may find gorgeous foliage growing elsewhere in your garden. Rosemary, grasses, mint, and even evergreen branches snipped from shrubs provide terrific seasonal interest. As temperatures drop and blooms fade, a pretty arrangement of evergreens adds seasonal ambiance.
“This post is provided as an educational/inspirational service of the National Garden Bureau and our members. Please credit and link to National Garden Bureau and author member when using all or parts of this article.”