Growing cutflowers is easier than you think. You don’t need a large plot of land and a white picket fence. A sunny border and a shady nook is enough space to supply fresh flowers for inside your home from spring through fall.
May means peonies!
Photo Credit: Kelly D. Wilson
May is synonymous with the old-fashioned peony (Paeonia). Hundreds of cultivars exist for this sun-loving perennial. ‘Bowl of Cream’ and ‘Charles White’ (both double white blooms), ‘Big Ben’ (double red blooms) and ‘Duchess d’Orleans’ (double pink blooms) are just a few of the cultivars that professional growers often suggest gardeners try in their own gardens.
If you can’t find these specific plants, don’t let that deter you; pick whatever appeals to you. A little secret for cutting peonies: Cut the stems when the fat flower buds feel like marshmallows, being mindful to leave some foliage behind. Carefully wrap stems in dry newspaper and store them in the refrigerator. They can be kept in cold storage up to four weeks. When you’re ready, remove the desired number of stems, and voilà!
Just about the time the peonies finish blooming, the white-petaled Shasta daisy (Leucanthemum) takes center stage. ‘Becky’, a 3-foot-tall variety that needs full sun for best flowering, is hands-down the best Shasta daisy for cut flower use. One small plant clump will provide you and your neighbors with daisies for the whole month of June. Stake when plants are short and you won’t have to deal with floppy flowers after a rainstorm. Divide every two or three years.
June gives way to a wonderful summer-blooming hydrangea (Hydrangea arborescens ‘Annabelle’). It thrives in morning sun but wilts with strong afternoon sun. A deciduous shrub (meaning it sheds its leaves in winter) that grows to 4 by 4 feet, ‘Annabelle’ produces 10-inch, creamy-white flowers about the size of softballs. The flower heads are best cut when they feel rough to the touch. (You’ll know when you’ve picked them at the wrong time because they’ll wilt before you have a chance to even get them inside!) Because the flowers are produced on new wood, a late winter pruning won’t effect flower production.
And once we’ve hit fall, September and October wouldn’t be complete without Tatarian aster (Aster tataricus). Small, lavender-blue flower petals with a yellow center cover the tops of 5- to 6-foot stems. This quick-spreading aster will be the centerpiece of your fall garden and tabletop. Shorter plants can be achieved by cutting all stems back by half in mid-July.
November is a great time for planting daffodils (Narcissus) and tulip bulbs for April harvesting. Brent and Becky’s Bulbs of Gloucester, VA, recommend double late tulips like ‘Angelique’, ‘Black Hero’ and ‘Mount Tacoma’, and daffodils such as ‘Angel Eyes’, ‘Felindre’ and ‘Milan’. Whatever the bulb size, plant at a depth three times its height.
Happy growing, and then happy harvesting!