How to grow a cut flower garden

by Isabel Vinton

This weekend we're celebrating Mother's Day and all of you amazing moms. Mother's Day has long been associated with the gift of spring flower bouquets, but we also like to celebrate the promise of home-grown bouquets to come.

If you haven't planted your flowers yet, it's likely not too late! Many flower varieties like to be direct sown following the last frost date which here in the Hudson Valley is right about now.

There are a few things to keep in mind when planning for cut flowers. You’ll want to plant some "show stoppers" - the blooms you want to display. You’ll also need coordinating filler that will accent your blooms, give substance to the bouquet and help to fill out the vase. All flowers, whether the main attraction of the bouquet or the filler, should hold up well in a vase.

1. How to choose your cut flower varieties

Popular and easy to grow cut flowers include:

Tower Chamois Aster

Pumila Mix Zinnia

Double Click Cosmos Double Click Cosmos







Teddy Bear Sunflower

Bishop's Children Dahlia

Senate House Marigold







For showstoppers, we love:

Coral Fountain Amaranth

Lacy Phacelia Lacy Phacelia

Mammoth Magenta Celosia







Fillers serve as the "background" and give shape to the bouquet. They can be quite bland, like Baby's Breath or quite exciting, like Celosia. Some great fillers include Forest Fire Celosia, Statice Mix, Sulphur Cosmos, Baby's Breath, German Chamomile, Love Lies Bleeding, and Multi-Hued Yarrow Mix. There are some amazing fillers that you might find in your herb patch or your meadow. Try basil or dill, especially if they are flowering and look out for goldenrod and Queen Anne's Lace in meadows.

Accent Flowers add color, substance and balance but aren't necessarily the most interesting part of a bouquet. If you have an abundance of zinnias, they can be used as an accent alongside with larger, more interesting blooms. Other excellent accent flowers include:

Snapdragon Mix

Bachelor Button Polka Dot Mix

Love in a Mist







2. How to plant your cut flowers. Flowers range quite a bit across the board regarding planting window, fertility needs and hardiness zones. Just as appropriate timing is important to planning a continuous harvest in the vegetable garden, using succession techniques in the flower garden can yield colorful results from spring into winter. The key is to pay attention to "days to maturity" which in flower planting indicates the bloom time. Plan your plantings according to your specific use and time needs. Some flowers bloom early, some late, and some continuously. Some flowers should be sown in succession if you want fresh blooms all season long, while others are very finicky and have a short window.

3. How to cut your flowers. Key to a long lasting bouquet is the timing of cutting the blooms. This is particularly true of the main flowers and the accent flowers. Cut the flowers early in the morning before they reach their peak bloom stage. Once a flower reaches this stage, it can be a matter of hours before it fades and the petals start to fall, so cut it before. Your blooms will open more in the vase, so you can even cut blooms when they look like buds that have just began to open. This is especially true of larger flowers like sunflowers. Change the water daily for best results. Another tip: work with odd numbers, especially when arranging your main, larger cut flowers.

4. How to dry flowers for year-round bouquets. If you think that the end of summer means the end of home-grown flower bouquets, don't be so sure! There are some flowers that will look beautiful all winter long. The seed heads from Breadseed PoppiesEchinacea, and Love in a Mist are spectacular. Use Strawflower, Hydrangea, Love Lies Bleeding, and Starflower flower heads in dried arrangements. For best results, let the flowers and seed heads to dry almost completely on the plant, then cut with as long of a stem as you can and finish the drying process in a dry, warm, dark place. Hang flowers upside down for the best shape.