Growing Flowers for Beauty and Cutting

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Imagine a never ending supply of beautiful flowers for your home, bouquets and arrangements to give to friends, flowers to pluck at will for gifts, get well visits, anniversaries and birthdays. By planting a garden stocked with flowers that happily give up their blooms for your pleasure, you can have fresh flower arrangements in every room in your home all throughout the spring and summer.

To create your own flower garden, start with a sunny spot in your yard. A garden spot that gets 6 to 8 hours of direct sun a day is ideal. It should be within easy reach for watering, since a cut flower garden will need daily watering during any dry spells. You'll also want to design it to make it easy for you to reach all the flowers in it, so a raised bed that can be approached on four sides is perfect. If you decide to plant against a fence or as a border, make sure that you can get to all the plants without stepping on others by putting in footpaths or trenches for walking.

The best way to start your garden is with bulbs planted in the autumn. Daffodils and tulips are among the most popular spring bouquet flowers. By getting them in the ground in the autumn, you'll be able to start cutting early in the spring.

Naturalized bulbs look beautiful in a wooded setting. You can plant them and leave them to multiply. After the bulbs bloom the foliage will die down, but you can intersperse bulbs with ground covers and other perennials for a carefree and beautiful garden. For a natural look you should arrange your bulbs informally. If you toss them and plant them where they land, with small adjustments for spacing, it'll look much better than if you arrange them.

Perennials are the basic flowers for any garden. Each year they die and renew themselves for the next growing season. They are long-lived and last for many seasons. Perennials are also, historically, among our oldest plants. They have been cultivated for centuries and often, as a result of breeding and crossbreeding, bear no resemblance to their wild forebears. In some of the perennials, the blossoms have become so specialized through centuries of cultivation that they no longer grow 'seeds.

Annuals are also of use as a filler between shrubs set some distance apart. This permits the shrub to grow, yet prevents too stark an appearance. The sowing of annuals, of course, depends upon the class to which they belong. The hardier flowers, such as larkspur, poppies and cornflowers, can be profitably planted in late fall. The ground preparation must be just as careful as for spring planting.

Flowers can add a perfume as well as a visual aspect to your outdoor area. You may choose climbing plants that flower each year. These will take several years to reach their full potential but once they do they will create climbing plants of color on a gazebo, a fence or even up the side of a house. If you are looking for a variety that will provide lots of color, try the blue trumpet vine. This climbing plant blooms from autumn through summer and has bright blue flowers on a twining stem.

There are a number of ways to solve the problems of short-flowering periods and the resultant unsightly spaces. One way is to intersperse perennials with annuals and other bulbs and flowering plants whose bloom occurs either later or earlier than that of the perennials. Some perennials are easy to transplant: chrysanthemums, for example, can be moved from one place to another with no noticeable effect on their vigor. This is another way to keep color and bloom throughout the growing season. A garden of perennials, either by themselves or mixed with annuals and other bulbs, should be placed along a path, or as a border, with a background of trees, shrubs, a wall or fence.

The background shows the brilliant coloring to best advantage. Some varieties can flourish in the shade, such as anemone, lily of the valley, day lilies, sweet pea, primrose, hollyhock, harebell and peonies, but these flowers must be chosen carefully and faced so that some sun reaches them every day.

Roses are an entire subject of their own, but they deserve special mention when discussing cut flower gardens. Rambling and climbing varieties of roses are especially suited to cut flower gardens, putting out masses of blooms and responding to cutting with even more flowers. Trail a rambling rose along a wooden fence rail and you'll have sweet smelling roses for your bedroom dresser all summer long.

Bleeding Hearts - heart shaped, pink to rose flowers needing moist soil and partially shaded location.

Chrysanthemums - single, semi-double, and double flowers in all colors but blue. They need moist well drained soil and full sun location.

Crocus - blooms in early spring, though there are varieties that bloom through autumn

Delphiniums - very tall flowers of many colors, though, mostly blue needing moist, well drained soil and full sun location.

Geraniums - easy to grow flowers of many colors needing mostly any soil type and full sun or partial shade location.

Giant Flowering Onion - grows 3 to 4 feet tall, with huge purple blooms. Great as a back border in a cut flower garden. Blossoms from mid-spring through early summer

Hosta - showy flowers with bright foliage from 4 inches to 3 feet. They need moist well-drained soil and, partial to deep shady location.

Hyacinth - tall clusters of blossoms that are stunning in arrangements. Pink, blue, purple and white, they grow up to 12 inches tall. Bloom in early to midsummer from fall planting.

Lupine - large spiked 3 to 4 foot tall flowers of many colors needing a cool location.

Phlox - soft pastel flowers, some with a contrasting center, ranging from low lying to tall flowers needing moist soil and full sun or partial shade location.

Rudbeckia - yellow, daisy like flowers with contrasting centers needing any soil type and full sun location.

Windflower - also known as anemone, with daisy like deep pink and white flowers, booms through midsummer

Early in the spring, you can start planting gladiolus. These huge, showy blooms are a mainstay of cut flower arrangements, and come in just about every color imaginable. Gladiolus bulbs can be planted as early as two weeks before the last frost. If you plant a new set of gladiolus every two weeks, you'll have cut flowers from early summer all the way through the first frost.

In early spring, you can also plant your annuals. Snapdragons, cosmos and zinnias all bloom at different times during the summer, which will extend your bouquet season into the fall. Don't forget to include filler flowers in your cut flower garden. Foliage grasses and flowers like alyssum, baby's breath, and Queen Ann's Lace can fill spaces in your bouquets and add a lacy, delicate touch to a vase full of flowers.

These simple bits of advice can keep your garden in glorious bloom all summer long.

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Author: Luann Hays
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