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September 15, 2022 10 min read
I AM really good at taking photos of flowers, creating artwork and printing prints, but when it comes to growing flowers honestly - I have probably killed more than I have grown well!
I'm also really good at jumping into growing things and getting my hands in the soil. And I have grown so many things during the past three growing seasons that some of them work!
I love to experiment and grow something new every year. Some work out - some don't. I'm on my third year of growing sweet peas. I know you have to start them early and give them lots of fertilizer and water, but so far I haven't figured them out. This year I stuck the 10 that I started early in my raised vegetable beds (thinking I'd give them more attention there). Only one died and as of July 5 I've had two purple blooms. As of September 15, all of them but one have died and I got a grand total of two purple blooms and one blush bloom. For the whole year!
I just told myself I'm going to try one more time next year then I'm done. Hopefully they'll work next year and my 91 year old grandma will still be around so I can give her some bouquets of sweet peas (she tells me she used to grow glorious sweet peas). Lol! Even when she can't find all her words due to previous strokes, she still tells it like it is.
When I started growing flowers on a scale larger than the landscaping around my house I leaned on many generous growers sharing their knowledge via many different ways. There are books, blogs, podcasts, youtube channels, online courses, memberships, facebook posts and others to get information about how to grow flowers and I have explored most all of them. If this interests you - I encourage you to explore all these ways to get information as well!
Some of these girls (and guys) have been growing for decades and some of them either still do or used to grow crazy amounts of flowers that they provide for all sorts of customers.
We started growing flowers a bit over two years ago because it was a really hard time in my life and I needed something to break me out of the hard spot I was in mentally (three little kids who I let drive me crazy). Covid came along right before we started growing flowers and so as a family we weren't going anywhere for awhile - so we created a floral escape in our land attached to our house and yard.
We use our flowers to supply our self serve flower cart located outside Steel Cow in downtown Waukon, bouquets for family and friends, and for the artwork I create from them.
Here's a hot tip from my hours spent online researching how to grow cutting flowers: If at all possible plant your cutting garden out of sight from your kitchen. That way you won't be tempted to keep the blooms on the plants. The point of a cutting garden is to CUT THE FLOWERS!
I haven't grown all the flowers - but I have tried about 250 different types/varieties of flowers over the past two years. Most of them I start from seed, but some of them are bulbs or roots I purchase. We are right on the border of zone 4a/5b and are in Northeast Iowa. Some of these won't work for you if you are in a different zone, but most will. This is not an exhaustive list, but just a few that have worked for us with the limited experience we have growing flowers.
Sunflowers are happy, glorious flowers. They are very easy to direct sow and that's how we grow them. There are two different types of sunflowers - single and branching. We plant single sunflowers - which means you get one flower per stem. The ones we plant are pollenless - so when we cut them and bring them inside they don't shed pollen all over our kitchen tables. Branching ones are a good idea if you have limited space, but we have lots of space so we plant singles. We also plant daylight neutral sunflowers - which means they will flower and produce consistently from the time we put them in the ground. I like quick sunflowers and the ones we use flower 60 days or so from planting. We plant many times throughout the year - usually 7-14 days apart from each other for about 7 weeks. This way we have a nice supply of sunflowers for the late summer/early fall. You should cut sunflowers when the first petal lifts off the face. If you cut them before the bees visit them the vase life will be longer.
Oh how I love zinnias! My dad used to go on and on about how great zinnias were and I paid no attention until I stared growing flowers myself. They come in a great variety of colors and sizes and flower their little heads off. We either direct seed or start them inside about 4 weeks before we plant them outside. With zinnias the more you cut the more they flower. When the plants are about 8 inches tall you should pinch them (or cut the top off!) It seems harsh, but when you do this, it will signal to the plant to start branching more. And the more branching you get, the more flowers you will get. Zinnias are a bit different than other flowers in that you want them full and big and beautiful before you pick them. If you pick them too early, they will wilt in your vase. To see if the flower is ready to pick or not, do a wiggle test. This means you grab the stem and wiggle it a bit. If it is stiff - it is ready to pick. If the flower kind of flops over it is not ready to pick yet. Zinnias do get a bit tired throughout the season, so we usually plant one group around May 15 and another group about a month later. Varieties I like: Queen Lime Red, Queen Lime Orange, Giant Salmon Rose, Oklahoma Salmon, Oklahoma Mix, Benary's Giant in all colors - especially Wine and Purple, Zinderella Lilac and Persian Carpet Mix. But honestly - they are all great!
Daffodils aren't annuals - but they are so easy and reliable every year! I have over 4,000 planted on our farm in over 14 different varieties. I really like the double varieties - they are some of my favorite flowers. You order daffodil bulbs in the summer and they ship to you in the fall. Plant them about 3-6 inches deep (depending on the variety) and they will come up in the spring simple as that! Different varieties bloom at different times so if you get early, mid and late bloomers you can have an extended daffodil season. Pick when they are just starting to open up (you should pick the doubles when they are a bit more open). Give them a bit of fertilizer when they poke up through the ground in the spring and they will bloom better for you. Also - let the foliage die back naturally in the summer because the bulb needs the energy from the sun and the foliage for next year's blooms. Varieties I like: Pink Charm, Replete, Tahiti, Petit Four, Double Pam and Yosemite Valley - but I do love them all especially the double ones!
We plant tulips as annuals. I know it seems wasteful - but it really is the best way if you want to cut them and use their blooms. I put them on this list because they are so easy and reliable - and beautiful. Plant the bulbs in the fall about 6 inches deep, water well and wait until spring! When you cut the flower in the spring, you can cut when the tip is just showing some color. The flower will continue to open and grow even inside. It really is amazing! I have loved all the varieties of tulips I have planted, but these are some of my favorites: Mondial, Apricot Parrot, Charming Beauty, Columbus, White Mountain, Sensual Touch, Renown Unique, Foxy Foxtrot, and Jackpot.
Peonies are my favorite flower. Peonies are best planted where it is cold for a good chunk of the winter so in warm climates they might not work. But- after you get a peony bush established it will come back year after year. Some bushes even live more than a hundred years! That's crazy AND easy. Peony roots are shipped in the fall and you can plant them when they arrive. (We live in a northern climate and we have planted several in the spring and they did great - so if you can find them in the spring that's fine too if your summer doesn't get too hot.) Don't plant them too deep! Water them well and wait until spring. Then when spring comes, clip off the buds when they are the size of a pea for two, up to four years. Trust me - this is agonizing. But, it is worth it because once the plant is established it will provide years and years of blooms for you. In the fall you should cut the stems/foliage to the ground and throw them away. Peonies only bloom for a short time in the spring, but similar with the daffodils if you get early, mid and late bloomers you can extend your season. They also store well in the fridge so you can have blooms a month after they actually bloom. Pick when the peony blooms are in the "soft marshmallow" stage. They will open up in your house and will have a longer vase life this way. Some of my favorite varieties: Coral Charm, Duchesse De Nemours, Kansas, Sarah Bernhardt, Festiva Maxima.
Cosmos are lovely, dainty sweet little flowers that I just adore. I like to use them in arrangements and have them "dance" above the other flowers. They are "cut and come again" flowers because when you cut the flowers, they come back again. It is important to keep these little guys cut in order to keep flowering. Cosmos come in a vast number of different varieties and I love them all! It is important to pinch cosmos when they are about 8 inches high so you get more flowers throughout the season. Pick them when they are still in bud form - as with the sunflowers if you can pick them before the bees get to them they will last longer in the vase. If you don't cut the flowers off before they go to seed, the plant will think it did it's job of creating seed and won't flower anymore. So, for an extended flowering season - cut those flowers! One more tip on cosmos - before they flower the foliage actually makes great foliage in bouquets. Some of my favorite varieties: Purity, Psyche White, Apricot Lemonade, Xsenia, and Sensation Mix
I love celosia and for the past two years I said I was going to grow more of this amazing plant. I didn't plant as much as I planned to this year - but I still have quite a bit. Most celosia varieties benefit greatly from pinching. They work wonderful in bouquets by themselves and mixed in with other flowers and come in a large number of shapes and sizes. I haven't tried enough varieties of celosia and I've loved all that I've planted! But here are some of my favorites: Celway Salmon, Supercrest Mix, Sunday Mix, and Cockscomb Rose.
Oh basil. I love pesto and basil is the base for most of the pesto I make every year. But - it is also lovely in bouquets! Definitely pinch and pinch basil so you get a big healthy bushy plant. For flower arrangements - once I've pinched it for a while, I let it go to seed and use the flower spikes in the arrangements. It smells lovely and comes in varieties like lemon, lime, cinnamon, purple and others. The lemon, lime and cinnamon varieties really do smell like their names. It's amazing! And with the leftover ones you can make pesto! Ellis and I spent a lovely day one year last September when the other boys were in school making and freezing pesto for our family. Yummy! Varieties I like: Mrs. Berns Lemon, Cardinal, Cinnamon and Purple Dark Opal.
I really like bachelor buttons and they are so easy to grow. They are a bit of a pain to pick because they flower and flower and you have to keep the flowers picked or they will go to seed and stop flowering. But they give a lovely little pop in arrangements. So far, I've only grown the blue ones as I love that intense blue color and they really pop when paired with sunflowers or zinnias. One really goes a long way. They come in other colors too, but they are a small flower and my guess is that the other colors blend in so they aren't very powerful. I don't have many bachelor button plants, because it's hard to keep them deadheaded. So if you are just starting out - stick to just a couple of plants and that will be plenty! I've only grown one kind of Bachelor Button: Blue Boy.
Be warned - mint is a perennial and will spread. But, even though that is the case it is a lovely addition to flower bouquets! It smells very good and clean and light and is handy both before it gets flowers and after it has flowered. Once you plant it, you will probably have it forever. So - maybe plant it in a spot all to itself. I keep meaning to move my mint to a mint garden all on it's own, but I haven't gotten to it yet.
There you go! There are many other flowers to grow - but if I was limited to only 10 different easy to grow flowers for my dream cutting garden these would be it. I may or may not go into more detail about how to grow these in future posts, but if you do a pinterest search or google search for how to grow any of these flowers you will be rewarded with long lists of options and knowledge!
I hope this is helpful to you!
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