In years gone by, grand estates often had special gardens where flowers were grown just for cutting and bringing indoors. That concept is catching on again, — if it ever really went away — and with good reason: a well-planned cutting garden lets you enjoy fresh flowers in every room, from spring until the very end of the season.
Any garden can function as a cutting garden, of course — a few quick snips and you can fill a vase to bring a splash of colour indoors.
But do that too often and you can find yourself looking at blank patches in your flower beds.
The cutting garden is the solution. Here, flowers are treated more like vegetables, as a crop that’s meant to be harvested rather than as a plant that’s meant to be enjoyed outdoors.
In fact, many gardeners combine their cutting garden and their vegetable garden, growing dahlias, snapdragons and cosmos amid the lettuces and carrots. This approach has the double benefit of giving your vegetable garden some floral beauty as well as providing a source of flowers for the vases.
Other cutting gardens are planted in a little-used area of the property, somewhere out of sight of the main part of the grounds where you won’t mind if the floral display dwindles as you harvest the blooms.
So what flowers should you grow in your cutting garden? It depends in part of how you intend to use them.
Some people plan their cutting garden around a single event. If you’re hosting a wedding or a party (once such things are allowed again!) filling the space with masses of blooms that you grew yourself is a wonderful personal touch. In that case, you probably don’t need to worry about growing flowers that will last a long time in a vase. Rather, your choice can be driven entirely by the aesthetics of the event itself: if you want to have displays of daylilies everywhere, then go for it.
Most people, though, want flowers with a little more staying power in a vase. Zinnias and chrysanthemums are among the all-time champions in this area, looking fresh in water for up to three weeks. Geraniums excel in vases — they do so well, in fact, that a stem that still has leaves attached will often sprout roots when left in water.
Other flowers don’t last quite as long, but are still fabulous indoors. Peonies and dahlias can start to drop their petals after five to seven days, but until then a bowl full of them can make an eye-catching display.
Consider whether you want to bring scent indoors as well as colour. Lilies — particularly the oriental varieties — can fill a room with fragrance, but some people find their aroma a bit overwhelming. The same can be true of some roses, hyacinths, lavender and more. Floral scent can be a delight, but it’s just worth bearing in mind when planning your cutting garden.
A cutting garden can have a mix of annuals and perennials, and even flowering shrubs like lilacs. Be sure to include some plants with interesting foliage, so you can add a spray of greenery to your cut flower display.
As with any garden, plan it so that you have blooms available all season long, from the earliest spring bulbs right through to orange calendulas and fall mums that can look amazing on a Thanksgiving table.
Give it a try this year. Just don’t be surprised if you get addicted to having fresh flowers throughout the house all summer long.