Do those zinnias blooming their heads off in your garden right now make you smile every time you look at them? Do the cosmos and the celosia tickle your fancy?
If so, you may already have the beginnings of a cutting garden right in your own front yard.
Learn more on the topic when Megan McHugh and Denise Richter, of Pistil & Stamen Flower Farm and Studio, deliver the Parkway Partners’ Second Saturday talk Saturday, Aug. 8 at 10 a.m. at the nonprofit’s headquarters, 1137 Baronne St.
The two entrepreneurs, who developed a thriving flower farm and business on a garden site in Central City, plan to share what they know about designing and growing a cutting garden.
“Some people in the country may have enough room to have a whole bed dedicated to cutting gardens, but in the city, the best way to get started is to mix your annuals into a perennial bed or to extend a perennial beds a few feet to make room for annuals,” McHugh said. “Some people worry that their gardens will look raggedy if they’re cutting flowers all the time, but the fact is that they’ll look that way if you don’t because plants will go to seed.”
McHugh has an excellent point: If you must deadhead flowering plants anyway to ensure that they continue blooming, why not collect your cuttings and put them in a beautiful vase? Sounds simple enough, but McHugh said there are several factors to take into consideration when planning to have flowers in your home and garden at all times.
“First, make sure you get good advice on what annuals grow well in our area. Don’t rely on information for other places, because what works as a cut flower somewhere else may not work well down here,” she noted.
Second, it’s important to plan ahead so that there’s always something in bloom for cutting. During the hot months (June to October), zinnias are what McHugh calls the “No. 1 blooming plant” because they can take the heat and grow fast. They also come in a wide variety of colors, heights and flower sizes.
“But you don’t have to rely on zinnias alone. There are sunflowers and cosmos now, too,” McHugh said. “In the winter months, that’s when bulbs like ranunculus and daffodils can be cut.”
Early spring brings a buffet of fragrant and lovely flowers from which to choose. McHugh favors sweet peas and bachelor buttons and is especially fond of nigella or “Love in a Mist.”
To make sure cut flowers last a good while after they are plucked, McHugh says to take into consideration the time of day the flower is cut and its degree of development at that time.
“In the heat of summer, we only harvest during the coolest part of the day. So we’re out early in the morning and after 7 p.m., and we always keep flowers in the shade,” McHugh explained. “Also, you want to cut a blossom like a sunflower when it’s beginning to unfold, not when it’s fully opened, so that it will continue to open after you put it in a vase. Make sure your clippers are sharp so you get a good clean cut.”
Getting your cut flowers to last for a week or more depends largely on the cleanliness of the vase and water used, she noted.
“We tell people not to put flowers in a vase that you would not drink out of. It should be that clean,” McHugh said. McHugh recommends washing the vase out with bleach before reusing it and adding a tiny bit of bleach to the flower water.
Before putting flowers in a vase, strip all of the leaves off the stalk, except for one or two at the top, to avoid having leaves underwater, which will cause them to decay and dirty the water. If you’d like more greenery in your bouquets, McHugh recommends growing foliage plants to add and likes to use herbs like basil and perilla (a Japanese green in the mint family) in arrangements.
“If you’re really dedicated to making the flowers last a long time, you can change the water every day and cut the stems every three days,” she said. “Or you can just enjoy them as they fade and appreciate their sleeping beauty.”
The talk is free, and the Parkway Partners greenhouse will offer herbs, sun-loving tropicals, heat-tolerant flowers, flowering shrubs and vining plants for sale from 9 a.m. to noon.
Call (504) 620-2224 or got to www.parkwaypartnersnola.org for more info.
R. Stephanie Bruno writes about houses and gardens. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org