Introduction to Cutting Gardens

Purpose for Cutting Flower Gardens

cutting flower gardensCutting flower gardens bring the beauty of the outdoor landscape inside the home. Its bouquets of colorful, fragrant flowers delight friends and family. Bringing the beauty of nature indoors is an ancient tradition. Thousands of years ago, the Egyptians kept vases with water lilies, that grew in the Nile River, inside to enjoy. During the 1500’s, cutting flowers gardens were the norm throughout Europe. Today many styles of cut flower arrangements are an intrinsic part of interior design.


Where to Grow Cutting Flower Gardens

Different methods are used to grow a cutting garden. The flowering plants can be dispersed naturally throughout the entire garden landscape, grown in raised beds, or more commonly, grown in a separate area in rows, like a vegetable garden. Growing cutting flowers separately from the rest of the landscape leaves undisturbed blooms with just the cutting flower garden area looking sparse. Plant cutting flowers in rows for easy access and plant in groups with similar light, soil, and watering requirements. This arrangement makes the cutting selection and procedure easier. The cutting flower garden area should blend into the entire garden design. Areas against property borders or in inconspicuous areas of the backyard are good sites. Breaking up large lawn areas with strips of flowering plant sections incorporates cutting flowers beautifully into a garden design.


Select flowers that bloom from spring through fall and including ornamental shrubs. Do not forget trees with lovely flowers, such as magnolia. Property boundaries are excellent places to plant borders mixed with shrubs, annuals, and perennials. Raised beds for cutting gardens are an effective way to position plants of different soil requirements in sunny areas in the design.


Cutting flowers require full or partial sun, well-drained soil, and easy access for watering and cutting. Though most flowering plants need direct sunlight, some will grow in partial shade. However, some flowering plants are susceptible to diseases caused by fungi, like mildew. The spores attack leaves that stay moist during the early hours from the morning dew. Plant in areas where these plants will receive full morning sun for the first six hours of daylight. The morning sun will dry the dew, reducing or eliminating the risk of disease. Some plants that benefit from morning sun are chrysanthemums and roses.


In the northern hemisphere, partial shade may not be adequate, but bright shade may be enough. The same plants in hotter southern climates may benefit from the partial shade. Ways to create bright shade include arbors and pergolas. Pruning the interior canopy of trees allows for more light and air circulation for flowering plants to grow under them.




Soil pH and Basic Plant Nutrients

Testing your soil’s pH and available nutrients is essential for producing an abundance of beautiful flowers. Most flowering plants grow in a neutral pH soil of 6.8 to 7.5. Some prefer slightly acidic conditions between 6.0 to 6.8, and others more alkaline, slightly above 7.5. Plants not growing in the appropriate soil pH do not absorb the needed nutrients resulting in slow growth and higher susceptibility to diseases and pests.  For acidic soil, raise the soil pH with lime added to the planting area’s soil. For alkaline soils, reduce the pH with acidic organic matter such as peat moss or leaf mold.


Soil Texture

Amend clay soils that are too hard and compact for root growth to a depth of at least 18 inches. It will improve poor drainage, eliminating over-saturation in the ground and standing water that causes root rot. A light sandy soil has the opposite effect, not holding the moisture or nutrients after watering. The solution for both situations is adding compost or organic matter high in rotted manure content or using fertilizer.



Not all flowers the same. Some need different types of fertilizers such as fish or fish-seaweed extracts that are high in nitrogen and micronutrients. For seedlings, use a half dose. For sandy soil that does not hold nutrients well, there are slow-release chemical fertilizers with equal amounts of nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium (10-10-10 on package label). Nutrient release slowly into the soil when watering the plants. For heavy clay soils, too much nitrogen promotes the growth of green foliage and not flower production. For this type of soil use a 5-10-10 fertilizer. Many gardeners who object to using chemicals, prefer an organic fertilizer made from animal manure. This kind of fertilizer provides excellent results for plant and flower growth.


Choosing Plants for Cutting Flower Gardens

Check your climate zone for the flowering plants that will grow best in your location. Select plants with long and medium stems, vine-growing flowering plants, and greenery for bouquets. Any type or style of arrangement is possible. Sweet peas with their soft velvety petals of pink, lavender, and blue are available in varieties recommended for cutting flower gardens. Draw a plot plan giving ample room to accommodate all the chosen plants.


Some flowering plants grow best with direct seeding, while others handle transplanting with no problems or stress. When planting be sure to have enough distance between plants for gardening tasks such as weeding, watering, fertilizing, deadheading, staking, and cutting. After planting, water the area and add two to three inches of mulch to your newly planted cutting garden to help prevent weed growth and retain moisture in the soil.


Tools and Cutting Flowers

Tools for cutting include by-pass pruners, garden shears, garden scissors, and clippers. The tools for cutting depends on the type of stems cut and the personal preference of the gardener. No matter the equipment used, a clean, sharp cut is necessary. Cutting stems at a 45-degree angle allows for more surface area to absorb water. The remaining plant is left in the best condition to fight disease. Cut the stems just above the nodes. Have a pail of warm or lukewarm water with you to immediately submerge the newly cut stems. Look for insects in buds and blossoms. To evict the bugs, give the cut flowers a good spray of water and a cool place in the shade to dry before taking them indoors. Besides using a preservative in the water, there are ways to condition the different types of plant stems to extend your bouquet’s vase life.


Selections for Cutting Flower Gardens

Cutting flower gardens brings the enjoyment of a garden’s beauty into the home and to the hands of friends and family with colors and fragrance that delight and inspire. Following articles will explore the various annuals and perennials in cutting flower gardens.


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