Grow Your Own Bouquets All Summer Long

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Gardening expert Melinda Myers shares tips for growing cut flowers and recommends some easy-to-grow varieties.

Queeny Lime Orange is an easy-to-grow zinnia that livens up any garden with its dahlia-like blooms and vibrant color. Photo credit: All-America Selections

Gardeners can jump-start the season and enjoy earlier blooms by purchasing transplants for their cut flower garden from a favorite garden center or starting them from seeds indoors to transfer into the garden after the danger of frost has passed.

Dedicate some space this year for a cut flower garden. Then bring a bit of the garden indoors with beautiful garden-fresh bouquets to use as centerpieces or other indoor décor or surprise guests with lovely bouquets to take home.

“Gardeners can jump-start the season and enjoy earlier blooms by purchasing transplants for their cut flower garden from a favorite garden center or starting them from seeds indoors to transfer into the garden after the danger of frost has passed,” explained Melinda Myers, host of The Great Courses “How to Grow Anything” DVD series. “If there’s no hurry, stretch the garden budget and extend bloom time by sowing some seeds directly in the garden according to the seed packet directions.”

Select a variety of flowers to fill gardens and vases with colorful cut flowers all season long. Start with annual flowers known for season long bloom and an extended vase life. Annuals need to be planted each year, but the continuous bloom is well worth the effort.

Increase growing success with proper soil preparation. Add several inches of organic matter such as Hsu Leaf Compost to the top 8 to 12 inches of soil. The leaf compost improves soil health, increases drainage in heavy soil and the water-holding ability in fast-draining sandy soils. This means healthier plants and more flowers to cut and enjoy.

Extend the beauty in the garden and keep the cut flowers coming with regular picking. More picking equals more flowers. Share extras with friends, neighbors or senior centers. Studies at Rutgers University found cut flowers immediately increased happiness and had a long-term positive impact on the recipient’s mood.

Myers recommends starting with these easy-care annual flowers. Every one of these sun lovers can easily be started from seed or purchased as plants at the garden center. Just wait for the danger of frost to pass when moving transplants into the garden.

Include a few zinnias. Start seeds indoors four weeks before the last spring frost or sow them directly in the garden. Either way flowers will appear about eight weeks after planting the seeds. Grow taller varieties like the Benary’s Giant for long stems, Queeny Lime Orange or Zowie! Yellow Flame for eye-catching color, or Profusion for small daisy-like flowers on compact mildew resistant plants.

Add cosmos to the mix. Start seeds indoors four to six weeks before the last spring frost or directly in the garden. The fine foliage adds texture to the garden and the white, pink, lavender blooms light up the mid-summer through fall garden. Plant tall varieties en mass to eliminate the need for staking. Or grow shorter varieties like Sonata and Cosmic.

Don’t forget sunflowers. Look for varieties like Suntastic Yellow with Black Center or Ring of Fire with smaller flowers that will be easier to include in arrangements. Avoid pollen on your table top and furniture with pollenless varieties like Pro Cut. Plant a variety of sunflowers and make successive plantings for an extended harvest.

Add vertical interest with annual salvia. Mealycup varieties have narrow flower spikes that resemble lavender while scarlet Sage has more robust flower stems in a variety of colors. Both look great in the garden and a bouquet. Start seeds indoors eight weeks before the last spring frost or purchase transplants for an earlier bloom.

Increase flower shapes, color and size with celosias. The crested varieties resemble colorful coral while the plume types look like feathers. Use the small flowered wheat forms for more subtle additions to bouquets. Start seeds indoors six weeks before the last frost.

With these additions in mind, scope out a garden or space within an existing planting bed where a few or many cutting flowers can be added. Once the garden is planted be prepared to harvest and enjoy beautiful bouquets and some natural aromatherapy all summer long.

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Diana Paul
Melinda Myers LLC
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