Shrubs & Hedges
Designing A Cut Flower Garden
There’s nothing like a vase full of fresh cut flowers! Now imagine having them all season long grown right in your garden! A cutting garden is a fantastic addition to your landscape and it's more attainable than you think. This guide will help you figure out the perfect spot, choose and plant the right varieties and then harvest and display your cut flowers.
What is a Cutting Garden?
First, let’s jump into what exactly a cutting garden is. Cutting gardens are gardens used specifically to grow showy flowers for the purpose of creating bouquets and floral arrangements. A variety of annuals are grown and replanted or replaced throughout the year based on blooming periods.
How to Start a Cutting Garden
In order to create your own cutting garden, you’ll want to first consider a few things like location, style, proper preparation and planting, and more. Read on for tips on envisioning and planting your own cutting garden.
Find a Location
First, find a full sun location for your cutting garden that receives at least 6-8 hours of sunlight per day. An area with a bit of shade will suffice, especially if it’s afternoon shade. Make sure your space is protected from wind and other harsh elements that could harm your plants. You’ll also want to ensure your plants are out of reach of any critters like rabbits and deer that might want to snack on your hard work. Adding a protective material like a chicken wire fence around your space will help keep animals away. Lastly, make sure your garden is easily accessible so you can conveniently harvest your flowers as needed.
Define the Space
When it comes to cutting gardens, you don’t need a lot of space. A small designated area for your plants to grow will do. But if you want to go larger, that’s an option too! The size and style of your space is completely up to you, so get creative and play around with different ideas. Use small markers like flags to outline the space you want to work with–this will make things easier when you go to plant. Once you’ve picked your location and defined your space, you can start visualizing the overall look you want to achieve and the types of flowers you want to include.
Choose Your Style
Now, it’s time to brainstorm the style of your cutting garden. There’s several options for arranging your varieties from raised garden beds and large in-ground plantings to containers on your porch or patio. Learn more about these options below so you can choose the one that’s right for your space.
A Raised Bed
Raised beds are a popular choice for cutting gardens, as they do well and it makes it easy to amend the soil and protect them if needed. Raised beds are available in all shapes and sizes depending on your personal preferences.
Collection of Pots on Your Patio
If you don't have the land to hold a raised bed, try some planters. Long planters or a cluster of pots can fit nicely on your porch, patio or balcony and will effortlessly liven up your space. A collection of cut flowers can be just as impactful as in-ground plantings and lends itself well to being moved around as needed.
Section off an Area of Your Yard
If you have a yard, section off a strip of land to designate as your cutting garden. The size is up to you. Make sure all weeds or other plants aren’t encroaching on the space, including grass, and finish with a border of your choice.
Prepare the Soil
Next up, don't skip on prepping your soil–it’s the foundation for your plants to thrive and produce those beautiful blooms! Our favorite thing to mix into soils is compost to add fertility and drainage and improve texture. Compost is also excellent for adding to clay or sandy soils to help even things out.
Another option is potting soil mix. Make sure to weed or remove all existing plants and use fresh potting soil or compost. Till and aerate your soil so that it’s an even texture about 8 inches down. Aim for a soil that’s darker in color and holds its shape lightly when squeezed and gets fluffy from tilling. Depending on your soil, till in some fertilizer if it’s not already included in your potting mix. Now, you’re ready to plant!
Planting Your Cutting Garden
After the soil is prepped, you can get started on the fun part–planting! If you’re starting from seed, use a smaller container until they’re hardy enough to be planted in the ground or in a larger container. This will normally be when the plant's roots are numerous and the plant itself is around 6 inches tall. Depending on the flowers, you might have tubers, bulbs or fibrous roots. Make sure to plant them at the correct depth depending on the type of plant so they can grow with ease. Below, we’ve defined these flower types and their corresponding planting recommendations.
Bulbs for flowers like gladiolus and tulips are planted deeper than you might think but not so deep that they can't emerge. Dig a hole straight down that’s 2-3 times deeper than the bulb is tall. Place your bulb with the rounded side down and pointy end up and cover with soil and mulch. Bulbs can be planted in clusters with very little room in between, which is especially perfect for smaller gardens!
These are found on flowers like dahlias or daylilies and should be firm. If they’re not firm, soak your tubers in water to rehydrate them for better sprouting. Plant the tubers with the eye facing upwards about 6-8” below your soil line. If you’re having trouble knowing where the eye is located, it’s the smaller end with a visibly cut off stem. Most tubers have to be spaced around 18-24” apart from one another.
Flowers such as daisies or sunflowers will have a fibrous root system that looks like standard roots. These plants should be around 6” or taller before planting and spaced accordingly based on the kind of flower. Prepare a hole that’s as deep as the container and twice as wide and place your plant in the center, making sure the roots aren’t circling or compacted. Backfill your hole and your plant is good to go! If you’re starting from seed, protect the area well and plant according to the seed instructions on the packet.
Further Planting Tips
- After your plants are in the ground, make sure to label which is which and ensure everything is properly spaced.
- Stake or add supports for flowers like dahlias or peonies that tend to flop over when flowering. As your plants grow, guide them through the supports.
- Water well and consistently make sure the area is moist but not overly dry or wet, and let nature do the growing!
Helpful Tools to Have in Your Gardening Kit
- A sharp pair of pruning shears
- Rubbing alcohol in a spray bottle to sanitize the cutting shears
- Gardening gloves
- Garden spade
- Garden hoe
- Hand tiller
- Watering can or rain shower hose attachment
Flowers to Include in Your Cutting Garden
Types of Flowers
Successful floral arrangements feature different colors, shapes and sizes of flowers, and your cutting garden should have a cohesive look. Below are some general flower shapes featured in arrangements and some examples of flower types that fit each category. Use the chart below to make sure your cutting garden includes a range of flowers.
Flowers with a long line or elongated shape
Large mass flowers
If your goal is to have a homegrown flower arrangement, make sure you have a variety of plants to choose from. Growing only large statement blooms might limit the arrangements you can create, so diversify your plant pallet to also include smaller flowers that cluster and long flowers that offer shape. We’ve listed some of our favorite flower combos further along in this article to help inspire you!
Other Things to Consider
- Swap out flowers depending on the season. Grow a different crop in spring, summer and fall to enjoy an array of varieties and reap long-lasting, successive blooms.
- Coordinate the flowers that you’re growing. You can create a color theme or choose unique standout favorites–it’s up to you! Utilize different shapes, heights and textures to balance out your space and create your picture perfect garden.
Ideas for Enjoying Your Flowers
Harvesting Flowers for Bouquets or Arrangements
When it comes time to harvest your flowers, there’s a proper cutting method that you’ll want to adhere to, which we’ve detailed below. You’ll then be able to enjoy your blooms in various vases and arrangements. Plus, you can even preserve or press your flowers to enjoy their beauty long after they’ve been cut. Keep reading to learn about ways to enjoy your cut flowers.
Proper Cutting Techniques
- Don't harm your plant while you’re trying to pick a flower!
- Make sure your pruners are clean and sharp before making cuts.
- Locate the sharp side of your pruners and turn them so the cutting edge is towards the base of the plant.
- Cut flowers at a 45 degree angle right above a grouping of leaves or where the stem branches off (called a node).
- Make sure you leave the stems long enough to use them in bouquets and vases.
- Place in a cool place (like a fridge or cooler) with the stems in water until they’re ready to be arranged!
Dry flowers are practical as well as pretty and very easy to achieve! Not all flowers will dry the same and many will lose their color or not hold together. Test out a flower or two to figure out which ones in your garden can be dried and which ones are better enjoyed while freshly cut.
How to Dry Your Flowers
After snipping off the flowers and any foliage you want to dry and preserve, follow one of the methods below to dry your flowers.
Method 1: One method of drying flowers is by letting them air dry. Form the stems into a bouquet, tie them with a string or twine and hang them upside down. Typically, it takes about a month for the flowers to fully dry.
Method 2: This method is faster than air drying and will preserve the flower’s colors. Simply submerge your flowers in a container of silica gel crystals. The gel absorbs moisture and your flowers will be dried out in a week or two.
FGT Tip: Face flowers petal side up in the gel to better preserve their shape and allow for even drying.
Once your flowers have dried, choose where you’d like to display them! You can place them in a vase or arrange them in a shadow frame to appreciate your garden all year round. Drying flowers is the perfect way to preserve the beauty of your favorite flowers and enjoy them indoors.
Pressing your flowers is another great option for preserving them in a unique way. To do this, snip off the flowers and also any foliage you want to preserve. Place the cuttings into an airtight container and stick it in the freezer for 10 mins. This step won’t harm your plants and will kill any hidden bugs on your flowers. Then, take your cuttings out of the container and arrange on a flat piece of paper (parchment or baking paper works well for this step). Once you’re pleased with the arrangement, gently press your flower flat with another piece of paper, and place a heavy object on top. The tip on getting a flat pressed flower is to have equal weight on top. You’ll want to leave the weight on it for a day or so.
FGT Tip: Pressing flowers can turn messy depending on what you’re pressing so make sure that any book you use to press the flowers won't be ruined in the process.
Then, remove the weight and top paper but keep the bottom one and place it in a dry, hot space. Your flower will dry out over a period of days. Once your flower is completely dry, you can display it any way you like. Try using it as a bookmark or in a card, frame it or gift it to a loved one!
FGT Tip: It’s best to press flowers one by one instead of all together to get a better end result.
Flower Combinations We Love
Cutting gardens lend themselves to some of the prettiest blooms and brightest colors. And there’s so many stunning flower combinations to choose from. As you’re planting your garden and harvesting your blooms, consider using the flowers and plants in the chart below to create color, size and texture contrasts. Grouping the varieties in each row together will allow for vibrant, eye-catching arrangements, but there’s so many other combinations you can create, as well, so get creative, have fun and become your own florist!
Japanese Gold Dust Aucuba, At Last® Rose & Julia Child Rose
Shop all of our Flowering Shrubs for further inspiration!