Grow Fresh Flowers For Amazing Arrangements

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Flower Arrangements

Interested in growing flowers for your own fresh-cut bouquets? Expert grower and arranger Laura Bigbee-Fott of Whites Creek Flower Farm in Whites Creek says even a modest cutting patch can yield a profusion of blossoms throughout the spring, summer and fall.

“It’s amazing how many buckets of flowers you can get off a small area,” she says. “If you’re careful growing them and the soil is good, they just produce – buckets and buckets.”

She suggests starting with one 4-by-12-foot row, or two or three 4-by-4-foot beds, supplementing with perennials, greenery and grasses from the general landscaping. “For your cutting patch, I would just have the annuals that you plant by seed,” she advises. “Then the other things you could have scattered around your property.”

Flower Arrangements

What to Plant

To be able to cut flowers spring through fall, think early, mid and late bloomers, as well as staggering plantings to keep those blossoms coming.

“I would start with daffodils,” Bigbee-Fott says. “They are easy, and they naturalize well.”

Additionally, Byzantium gladiolus, snowball viburnum (native to Tennessee), forsythia, spirea and even flowering dogwood branches make beautiful early spring bouquets. Bulbs and some bushes should be planted in the fall. All of these can be part of the overall landscaping.

Other landscape perennials that are good for cutting include peonies, veronica, lilies, hydrangeas and astilbe. Hydrangeas take up to three years to get established, but their dramatic blooms make lovely bouquets.

Bigbee-Fott’s favorite May blossoms include snapdragons, Nigella (love-in-a-mist), bachelor’s buttons, black-eyed Susans and Ammi majus (bishop’s flower). Some of these can be winter-sown directly into prepared beds, or as in the case of snapdragons, started indoors and set out two weeks before the last frost. Once snapdragons have their first three sets of leaves, pinch the terminal stem to get them to branch out. Snapdragons prefer cooler weather and can be planted again in the fall.

Zinnias are a staple of any cutting patch, with brilliantly colored blooms opening mid to late June. Planting them in succession, say, a section in April, one in June and another in August, will yield abundant flowers through October.

Sunflowers and dahlias produce large, striking flowers, and along with calendula, come on midsummer and last through the first frost. Again, pinching terminal stems – and simply harvesting the blossoms – will cause these plants to branch out and produce more blooms.

Flower Arrangements

Cutting Patch Care

Cutting-patch plants typically need full afternoon sun, plenty of water and healthy soil. “You want to read the seed packets and basically just follow the instructions,” Bigbee-Fott says. “Drought-resistant plants need a little less water than others; the highly cultivated, highly hybridized things need more fussing over. They are divas, and they’re going to want more water and more compost. I very quickly improved my soil by using worm compost.”

Additionally, she takes advantage of Davidson County’s mulch facility, where leaf compost can be purchased for just $14 per yard (available in many counties throughout the state). “I mulch everything really heavily,” she says. “That helps with water retention. It improves the soil, and it suppresses weeds. I use about 4 inches of leaf compost once the plants are up.”

Furthermore, she chooses not to spray any of her plants. “I’m a real believer that if your soil is good, your plants will be strong and healthy.”

Flower Arrangements

How to Harvest

The best time of day to cut flowers is early morning, Bigbee-Fott says. Some varieties should be picked before they are fully open; for instance, sunflowers will continue to unfurl and last longer in the vase if they are picked as soon as the first petals start to open. Zinnias will not continue to open, however, and for the longest vase life, should be picked before they develop the center pollen ring.

And while zinnias and sunflowers can be plunged directly into a bucket of water after cutting, other varieties, such as dahlias, last longer with post-harvest treatment. According to Bigbee-Fott, placing the stem ends of dahlias in boiling water for 30 seconds increases their vase life by several days.

3 Comments

  1. Virginia Laux

    June 1, 2015 at 2:18 pm

    This morning I sent you an e-mail subscribing to the recipe of the week and I am thinking I put in the wrong address. I think I put in vlaux@comcast.com and it should be.net.

    At the time I said how much I liked your magazine and wish I could subscribe. I received an e-mail from you saying you had changed my subscription to the e-mail news letter to a new address.

    • Rachel Bertone

      June 16, 2015 at 1:54 pm

      Hi Virginia,

      Thanks for your comment! I have checked and added the correct email address to the Farm Flavor Recipe of the Week newsletter. Please let me know if you’re having any other issues. Thanks!

      Rachel Bertone
      editor, TN Home and Farm

  2. Petunia Evans

    May 16, 2016 at 2:07 pm

    I haven’t really loved these floral care tips, as I’ve been trying to add more colors to my yard through planting more flowers. I absolutely love the look of the snapdragon flowers, and the ammi majus. I think that they could go well with the daffodils as well. Thanks for this inspiration!

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