Garden Planning: Essential Flowers For Cutting Year Round

How to plant blooms for year-round cutting. Fill your house with fresh flower arrangements all through the winter, spring, summer and fall.

You surely would laugh if anyone suggested that you could step outside your mountaintop chalet in the dead of winter to cut an armful of roses. Instead, camellia blossoms--a winter blossom similar in look and shape to a rose--can fill your winter vases while filling the floral void between the last holiday poinsettia and the first late-winter crocus. Unless you live in an extremely cold region, it's possible to enjoy year-round blooms without a trip to the florist; in fact, some consider flower arrangements essential to everyday living.

Winter doesn't provide a plethora of blooms, but it provides just enough color to mix with winter foliage and berries to create a stunning display. Add a few dried and preserved summer flowers, force some spring bulbs and branches, and you can fill your home with the beauty and fragrance of fresh cut flowers throughout the year.

The easiest way to ensure a year-round supply of flowers is to plant a special cutting garden. While cutting gardens are not essential, if you reserve a special garden for that purpose, you don't have to worry about creating holes in your well-designed garden beds.

Plant your gardens, especially your cutting gardens, to take advantage of the unique offerings of each of the four seasons. Don't worry about design or complementary plants and colors in cutting gardens. You can easily plant four seasons' worth of flowers in the same bed for year-round pleasure. Spring flowers are so abundant that there's no need to confine your cutting to special gardens. Regardless of the season, use foliage, berries, and flowering shrub branches to add texture, height, and interest to arrangements.

Steps to Creating a Cutting Garden

1. Plan four gardens, one for each season even if you will plant it all in the same space.

2. Include plants with long bloom times, and include a variety of sizes, shapes and colors:

* showy, large flowers,

* small, delicate flowers,

* brilliant blazes of color,

* muted, dusty tones,

* soft pastels.

3. Prepare the garden bed in an out-of-the-way location. You don't want your cutting garden to occupy center stage. Share excess flowers that you can't use in your own home, with family, friends and neighbors. The object is to cut as many flowers as possible for indoor use!

4. Plant bulbs, rhizomes, and tubers first.

5. Some plants require more than one season to flower. Plant these early in the fall to hasten the first blooming season by up to one year.

6. Plant perennials on top of bulbs.

7. Leave a little room for annuals.

Plant flowering shrubs and trees all around the yard. You can prune branches for indoor use when they mature, and you can force blooms in the middle of winter when few flowers are in bloom.

Season-by-Season Guide to Endless Blooms

Space does not permit a full list of flowers, but each of the essential cutting flowers below easily makes the transition from garden to home.

Spring

Plant spring standbys everywhere""in regular garden beds, in cutting gardens, around trees, naturalized throughout the back yard. In fact, you can use your entire back yard as a cutting garden in the spring.

Daffodils, narcissus and buttercups - The beauty about these traditional flowers is that you can expect blooms from February through May in moderate climates if you plant different varieties. In fact, there are several summer bloomers available. The color array is seemingly endless with new hybrids emerging each season. They are available in endless combinations of white, yellow, orange, salmon, pink and chartreuse. Be sure to plant some split coronas and double blooms.

Tulips - Just as the daffodils reach their peak, the early tulips begin their show. Tulips not only spring forth in every imaginable color from stark white to midnight black and every color in between, but shapes and heights vary by more than a foot. To extend the blooming season, plant multicolored, double and parrot varieties along with traditional monotone tulips.

Iris - Add a touch of velvet to your flower arrangements with bearded and Dutch iris. Be sure to plant bearded rebloomers to enjoy iris twice a year, once in the spring and once in the fall. Dig and divide iris every few years to double your bounty.

Asiatic Lilies - Just as the last of the spring bloomers fade, Asiatic lilies begin their show, signaling that summer is right around the corner. Plant densely--once you've cut the stem, you won't get flowers from the same plant until next year. Plant the bulb variety packages to get started, and add exotic varieties a few at a time.



Magnolia blossoms - Depending on the variety, magnolias may bloom as early as spring, but some varieties bloom into midsummer. Cut magnolia blossoms every day, and display in wide, shallow bowls. After cutting, pound the cut end with a hammer to extend the blossom's life by one extra day.

Cut branches from flowering spring trees and shrubs to add height and color to your arrangements. Rhododendrons and peonies add brilliant color to flower arrangements.

Summer

Monarda - Also called bee balm, monarda is pleasantly scented as well as striking. Plant it in dense clusters, and snip regularly to enjoy an entire season of scarlet, pink-purple and deep purple blooms. Expect late spring blooms, and pinch dead blooms to encourage blooming well beyond the height of summer.

Oriental lilies - When the Asiatic lilies begin to sing their swan song, the Oriental lilies step up to center stage. A bit larger than the Asiatic lilies, the Oriental lilies come in a variety of white and light colors, dotted with speckles. Plant a variety to get started, including stargazers, and add exotic varieties a few at a time.

Daisies - Available in all sizes and colors, here is a rare chance to add true blue to cut flower arrangements.

Roses - Need we say more""except feed and cut regularly, and enjoy?

Dahlias - Midsummer, dahlias begin their long-awaited bloom. Their giant, plate-sized, brilliant blooms are perfect as the focal point of your summer arrangements. Dig up the tubers at the end of the season, and store them in the warmest place in the garage or basement.

Snapdragons - Add summertime velvet to your cut arrangements. Snapdragons provide some of the deepest, richest color in the summer garden. They will bloom from late spring right into a mild winter, and don't be surprised to find this annual returning year after year in moderate climates.

Gladiolas - In moderate climates, plant glad bulbs every two weeks from spring through summer for a continuous supply of blooms through early fall. Use in summer arrangements for height and focus as you would use iris in the spring.

Hydrangeas - The blue, purple, white, pink and green blooms make exquisite arrangements all by themselves. Fill an ornamental teapot or short vase for a nice tabletop arrangement. You can also dry the blooms to add to arrangements all year long.

Fall

Crocus - Some varieties of crocus bloom in the late summer and fall. Unlike their spring cousins, they are huge and they more closely resemble pond lilies. Colors vary more widely than the spring varieties and include a brilliant shocking pink.

Mums - In a moderate climate, you can cut mums all the way up to Christmas. Mums return each fall, but they tend to get leggy. Pinch back early in the season before any buds emerge to force the plants into a rounder, fuller shape.

Sedum autumn joy - Sedum autumn joy actually begins its clumpy green bloom in spring atop succulent greenish-blue leaves. By summer, the blooms begin turning pink, reaching their best color just in late summer or early fall before finally turning maroon. Look for the florescent pink variety to add a little sparkle to fall arrangements. Divide sedum every year or two, because they will take over the entire garden given half a chance.

Iris (rebloomers) - If you planted rebloomers, look for more blooms throughout the fall.

Pansies - Fall is the time to plant, snip and enjoy pansies. Display in bud vases, and add to each place at the dinner table.

Winter

Camellias - Sometimes called "Queen of the Winter Garden," camellias are long-living plants, requiring little more than a slightly acidic soil to thrive. Camellias come in a multitude of varieties and colors, their blooms resembling a small rose. They're not fussy about direct sun, and live happily in dappled shade. When you cut a stem of flowers, that stem will not bloom the next season. Cut blooms from all around the plant so that you don't have any bald spots next year.

Hellebores - Winter rose, Lenten rose, Christmas rose""hellebores come in many varieties, but bear little resemblance to the rose. Their colors range from white to pink to purple to green, and most are speckled. Hellebores require a couple of seasons to establish, and they do not transplant well. During the dormant season, Hellebores provide attractive foliage. Once established, hellebores are carefree. If you plant several varieties, count on blooms from Thanksgiving through March.

Holly shrubs and trees - Make liberal use of holly leaves and berries in your holiday arrangements. Spray with snow or gold for a festive touch.

Viburnum shrubs - Plant a few viburnum shrubs for a spectacular show of blooms in the dead of winter. If you plant them by the cutting garden, you can lop off entire branches rather than having to prune carefully. The dawn viburnum varieties sport beautiful pink blooms. Depending on the variety, you must cut branches frequently; otherwise, you'll end up with a tree. This shouldn't be a problem when you see the splash of color against a thick blanket of snow.

Crocuses - Plant crocuses by the hundreds (or even by the thousands) in the fall. Their first splash of color peeking through the snow signals relief--spring is right around the corner. While they're considered an early spring bloomer, crocuses often bloom as early as the beginning of February. Fill bud vases with different colored crocuses, and scatter the vases throughout the house. Crocuses multiply, and they are perfect for naturalizing the yard or planting around large trees. Squirrels love crocus bulbs, but there are two sure methods for discouraging squirrels: liberally sprinkle red pepper on the ground, or cover the ground with chicken wire.

Hyacinths - Not only do hyacinths provide brilliant color to the late-winter garden, but they are also the first fragrant bloomer of the year. Cut hyacinths are long lasting and carry the smell of spring indoors.

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