Long-time readers may recall that the Cutting Garden was begun on a bull-dozed slope devoid of decent soil, after two dormant years in which even weeds failed to grow. The year the official CG began, the plants were basically those left from planting other garden areas, and even a couple of daylilies that needed moving were stuck in, even though they are not a good cut flower. The first plants to actually take hold and thrive were, of course, the black-eyed Susans quickly followed by “May Queen” shastas. Since that time, a bit more effort has gone into choosing plants specifically for the Cutting Garden. Here’s what’s looking good there today. 1) Yarrow, White
White is always a desirable color in a bouquet, bringing out the brightness of all other colors and making them all friends. This old-fashioned white yarrow (the variety preferred for medicinal use) is sturdy and a very easy to grow perennial that loves full sun and heat, and thrives in poor soil. It should love this location! I’ll let it expand a bit, but then do a little maintenance to keep it from being too aggressive. Definitely won’t let it go to seed.
2) Gold Yarrow “Coronation Gold” was added this year, coming as plugs for a quicker start, although it is very easy from seed as long as one remembers that it takes light to germinate, so no seed covering except clear plastic. Another sturdy growing perennial, and flowers can also be dried for winter arrangements.
3) Also in the above photo, “Miss Jekyll White” nigella. I love nigella, or “Love in a Mist” and the blue variety is abundant in the potager’s interior border, but I really wanted a patch of white somewhere, and the Cutting Garden is the perfect spot. It’s growing in the partial shade of some taller sunflowers, and I hope it self-seeds and expands nicely. It’s an annual that prefers cool weather, although so far it’s doing fine despite our record heat and dryness.
4) I’ve sprinkled white larkspur seeds on the snow for three years, and admittedly some was very old seed, and once I failed to mix in a handful of potting soil, so I’m sure the birds saw it easily, the black seeds on white snow and made quick meals of it. Last year there were a few plants, which I allowed to self-seed, but I also added some new seed in late winter. Finally, there are some nice seedlings blooming here and there, although they are shorter than I’ve grown in other gardens. Probably the poor soil, which is improving by adding layers of newspaper covered with mulch each year, and this year it even got some compost from the bins! Larkspur is an annual, and can also be dried for winter use.
5) Frequent readers will recognize this flower, because I rave about it often. A half-hardy perennial, it’s wintered over all five years and does a good job of self-seeding as well. I dig up seedlings from the other gardens that are in the “wrong” spot and stick them in here and there in the Cutting Garden. I love the variety of shapes and colors that come from the self-seeded plants, and even the size of the flowers varies from 2″ to nearly 6″ across, which can make for some interesting bouquets.
6) Zinnias are the workhorse of a Cutting Garden…reliable, strong straight stems and a range of colors that can’t be beat. This shaggy cactus form is “Mighty Lion”, a strong orange (looks a bit washed out in the photo, but trust me, it’s a brilliant orange) is one of my favorite annuals and so easy from seed.
7) Another zinnia that I wasn’t crazy about last year in the North Island, but it redeemed itself as a Cutting Garden plant, for the exact reasons I wasn’t happy with it in the North Island…too much variety in size, shape, and color of flowers and too tall and lanky. But those are good attributes for bouquet material. And, there was seed left, so in they went! There should have also been Zinnia “Queen Lime Orange” but the rabbits of course preferred the most expensive seed, and nipped off every one that went into the Cutting Garden, despite Liquid Fence!
8) Blue is complimentary to orange and yellow, so it adds a punch to most of my bouquets. A half-hardy perennial, most of my plants do return unless we have a horrendous winter as long as they have good drainage. Tall, straight spikes of dark blue add a vertical element to any bouquet, and if not picked, the hummingbirds and butterflies will visit often. Can get 4′ tall in good soil, but stay about 2-3 in the Cutting Garden. Also self-seeds well, usually in the path!
9) Verbena bonariensis is a must-have for any Cutting Garden. Also a half-hardy perennial, so some plants will return but there will be dozens that have self-seeded. From a rosette of leaves, 3-4′ stalks arise with a cluster of dainty light purple flowers at the top. Two side stems eventually also form. They are a good plant to add visual height to a garden, without really interfering with the view. Long, straight, strong stems for cutting, and a butterfly favorite as well.
10) This little flower is only 1 1/2-2″ across, and a dainty pale peach in color. Supposedly gets 3′ tall, but these are staying about 18″. Blame the poor soil. As you can see, each stem is a mini-bouqet, so it makes a good filler flower. An easy to grow annual, but I’ll have to see if once I cut the stem, that’s it, or maybe another stem will grow?
11) Feverfew for the Cutting Garden, and also used in some of the other flower beds is “Double White.” So reliable, self-seeding, strong stems, attractive foliage, it is the perfect filler flower, the great supporting actress for other more showy blooms. I wouldn’t be without it even if I didn’t have a Cutting Garden, because it plays so well with others and looks tidy even when not in bloom.
12) The new kid, Cosmos “Apricot Lemonade” is not exactly the color I was hoping for, and the flower size is only about 2″. It also seems to be a favorite of a variety of bugs, as you can see by petal damage, which is not conducive to good looks in a bouquet. Rather short stems as well, so this one may not be returning next year, unless something major happens. However, the foliage is lovely and it is serving good purpose in another garden (more in another post later on) and if I start seeing any butterflies enjoying it, it may have a return engagement. Cosmos is easy from seed, and there are many, many varieties that make a better cut flower than this one.
So that’s what’s blooming in the Cutting Garden right now. There are lots of sunflowers and some new celosias to come, and hopefully those lazy mums will actually flower this year! Watch for another update later on!