Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Northern California Coastal & Inland Valleys
March, 2011
Regional Report

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Even if you don't have a garden, flowers for cutting, such as these beautiful sweet peas, can be grown in containers.

Cutting Garden

Mrs. Henry likes to share flowers from her garden with friends and business associates. Hailing from Washington, DC, fresh flowers from the garden are a real treat for her during the winter months. It's rare when we don't have at least a handful of rose buds ready for harvesting. Right now the bulbs are starting to bloom, so she has the early season daffodils and hyacinth to choose from.

Gladiolas, dahlias, daffodils, lilies, and liatris are all bulb plants that are easy to grow, demand little care, and make excellent cut flowers. Mrs. Henry and I just planted several dozen new dahlias and several astilbes to replace those that were eaten last year. This spring I have noticed a red tailed hawk hanging around the property so I hope my gopher problem is a thing of the past. Bon appetit, M. Hawk!

Plant cosmos, cosmos, and more cosmos! These plants grow quickly from seed, you can cut them again and again, and their delicate foliage makes a good filler. The same applies to Shirley poppies (Papaver rhoeas). Plant from seed while the soil is still cool and stand back!

What could be more welcome than a bouquet of sweet peas! They will continue to provide cut flowers until the weather begins to get hot, usually in mid-May. I'm not crazy for zinnias because once you cut them, that's it -- good bye! On the other hand, marigolds, especially the big African varieties, make great cut flowers and will continue to produce long after most annuals are done for the year. Cornflowers (Centaurea cyanus) are prolific and grow easily from seed. Their deep blue hue makes them invaluable for a bouquet.

Mrs. Henry loves garden penstemon (Penstemon gloxinioides) as a cut flower. It lasts well and because it's a perennial, it will provide several crops of flowers during the growing season. We grow several colors of yarrow (Achillea spp.), but my favorite is still the yellow. I consider the delphinium far too precious to cut, but not Mrs. H. Anything is fair game when she has her shears in her hand. Believe it or not, hellebores make excellent cut flowers, lasting well in an arrangement. Purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea), echinops (if I can ever get it started without the gophers eating it) and coreopsis are all excellent additions to a cutting garden. Agapanthus is still one of my all-time favorite cut flowers. You can use the blooms on their long stems or cut them short to create a "tussy mussy."

Don't forget about foliage when planning a cutting garden. Foliage will "stretch" your flowers by providing bulk to a bouquet. A few colorful blooms surrounded by leafy greens makes an artistic bouquet. Some of my favorite, long lasting foliage plants include nandina, nephrolepis fern, podocarpus, and pittosporum. Heather (Erica spp.) is also a good filler, but be gentle when you cut this plant. It is slow growing and any holes you leave will be there for a long time.

We don't have a dedicated cutting bed, although the terraced beds were originally intended for that purpose. Mrs. Henry likes to "graze" through the garden and select blooms and foliage that please her.

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