Flower Gardening

Cut worthy Flowers Come in Many Forms

By Jean Starr


Cutting flowers is a passion for Marilyn Barlow, founder of Select Seeds & Plants in Union, CT. Which is why her company carries a wide variety of seeds and plants that are perfect for bouquets.

“We are carrying more certified organic flower seeds for gardeners and organic flower farmers that seek out heirloom and rare selections,” she explained. “We are also growing some certified organic cutting flower seeds on our farm and buy in from fellow organic growers.”

For those who tend to put things off, Select Seeds also offers plants, including those of Ammi majus (false Queen Anne’s Lace) ‘Graceland’, which is, according to Wayne Winterrowd in Annuals and Tender Plants for North American Gardens, “a superb cut flower, it has the curious capacity of remaining fresh out of water for several hours, even overnight, which makes it ideal for bridal bouquets.”

Zinnias

Zinnias are no-fail cut flowers, Barlow says, assuming you provide lots of room around the plants that promotes air circulation to discourage powdery mildew. Along with the usual Zinnias, Select Seeds & Plants also offers varieties like Benary’s Giant and ‘Queen Red Lime’. The Benary’s Giant Zinnia series are the “gold standard” in cutting zinnias, says Barlow, and they carry several colors of the 4-6″, fully double, dahlia-like blooms. The plants have a long vase life, hold up well in summer heat and rain, and are somewhat resistant to powdery mildew.

I’ve grown several varieties of Zinnias, even in my sun-challenged garden. I’ve grown ‘Queen Red Lime’ for several years, and I still think it is one of the most beautiful and unusual Zinnias available to gardeners. It’s still somewhat difficult to come by, but just as easy to grow as the others. Imagine a combination of dusty mauve gradually shading to chartreuse with a deep red center and you still won’t have the full picture. Each flower is just a bit different in the amount of shading and colors, and nearly all of the flowers are full doubles.

Another newcomer called ‘Zinderella Peach’ didn’t fare as well for me—most of the blossoms offering only single flower petals. This variety is grown for its tufted, domed center of closely-packed petals, the look reminiscent of a Scabiosa. After the fact, I learned that Zinnias that suffer transplant shock could revert back to singles. Johnny’s Selected Seeds recommends avoiding root disturbance when cultivating or transplanting Zinnias into the garden. If you decide to plant the seed where the plants will be growing, wait until the soil warms up, as the seeds require warmth to germinate.

Centaurea wildflower

Centaurea (AKA bachelor’s buttons or cornflowers) are easy direct sow annuals for cut flowers, and can be sown at least twice during late spring and early summer for long-term blooms. Flowers should be cut when they’re about half open so they’ll last longer in bouquets. This European wildflower came by its common name from its presence in corn and other grain fields. Farmers saw it as a weed, and it’s been eradicated throughout the farm fields in parts of Europe.

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