I know not everyone pays attention to such things, but in the midst of the holiday season, we had the winter solstice, which is the shortest day of the year. Gardeners everywhere took note that the days were getting longer, and planting time was coming up, and the beautiful glossy seed catalogs were about to arrive.
In our house, when the Christmas tree comes down, the seed catalogs come out, and we use those precious extra minutes of light every day to discuss the planting plan.
In previous years, as market farmers, that discussion has been complicated by Excel spreadsheets marked up with performance notes on each crop variety from previous seasons. We’ve had to estimate yields and do sales forecasting and decide on percentages of vegetables vs. cut flower rows and such. It was very complicated.
But we’ve closed down our farm operation, and I am having so much fun planning a cut flower garden just for me that I thought I’d share some tips. If you’ve never planted anything before, but think this might be your year, go for it!
- Start small. If this is your first year growing annual cut flowers, choose just 3-5 varieties that will bloom at about the same time and look good together in a vase. The pictures show examples of early and late season bouquets. You are going to get these beautiful, glossy catalogs from Johnny’s Selected Seeds or Burpee or Seed Saver’s Exchange, and you are going to want to buy everything. Resist this impulse by any means necessary (at least the first year)!
- Plan to use annuals. Perennials are great, but they just aren’t usually as showy as annual flowers in a vase (though there are some notable exceptions). Some annuals, like sweet pea, hyacinth bean, bachelor’s buttons, larkspur, euphorbia and zinnias, can be planted from seed either before or just after frost and perform well. Other longer season annuals like snapdragons, black eyed Susans, statice, and globe amaranth, need to be started early, in seed trays, or purchased as starts from your local garden center.
- Look for varieties that grow well in our climate, and purchase seed mixes. For example, I recommend “Benary’s giant” zinnias, and a mix will give you a lovely variety of 8-9 colors. For black-eyed Susans, I’ve had great luck with “Indian Summer” and “Goldilocks”. Larkspur “sublime” mix is beautiful, but you have to plant it early and be very patient. It takes a while to germinate.
Any of these varieties will give you lovely arrangements in your home as they bloom, and really, even if you haven’t grown anything before, I think you should give it a try. Any other experienced flower gardeners have advice for the beginners out there? Leave your advice in the comments or check out our pinterest page.