While our current food system gets a lot of negative press for food miles and chemicals, rarely do we see much about cut flowers. In reality, they have a very similar system in which flowers are grown in far-off places and shipped in for our enjoyment. This mass production involves both transportation as an environmental bane as well as pesticides and chemicals to keep production at its most profitable. Of course, as with food, this isn’t necessary, and we can actually benefit from growing our own cut flowers.
For those who like to have fresh flowers in the house, not only does growing flowers at home cut back on the flower miles, but the local ecosystem will get a boon as well. Pollinators like bees and butterflies will have more flowers to enjoy. Our lawns and gardens will have greater biodiversity. Our environments will have appreciated flashes of color and seasonal change as opposed to mown paddocks of grass year-round.
Ultimately, enjoying cut flowers needn’t be a guilt-ridden venture. Instead, a cut-flower gardener gets to delight in the showy displays outdoors and has the pleasure of a vase in every room, for a fraction of the cost no less.
20 Perennials & Bulbs
Many of us think of growing flowers as something that requires cultivation every year, but not all blooms come in flats from the local garden center. In fact, some of our favorite flowers—iris, daffodils, tulips, dahlias, crocus–are bulbs that pop back year after year without the annual expense and effort. There are even edible varieties like daylilies, hostas, and ornamental onions. Once in place, they just further establish their presence, providing more flowers to enjoy. What’s more, planting a variety yields a mix of flowers throughout much of the year.
There are also plenty of other perennial choices for cut flowers. Multi-purpose edible herbs like bee balm, sage, echinacea, and lavender can all provide additions to the vase as well as the kitchen. Then, there are perennial flowers that are magnificent but don’t require much attention, if any: phlox, columbine, and Alaska daisies will all spread their roots and thrive without pampering. There are even shrubs—roses (also edible)—and trees, such as redbuds, mimosas, cherries, and magnolias.
The Annual Avenue
Source: John Benson/Flickr
Of course, even with perennials and bulbs flowering freely out in the yard and in gardens, many people still want to dedicate spaces to annual flowers, and that’s okay, too. Annual flowers provide more fodder for pollinators and simply increase the biodiversity. Many annual flowers like to reseed themselves as well, making them great choices for the lazy gardener. Cornflowers, coneflowers, calliopsis, cosmos, love-in-the-mist, sweet pea, verbena, and calendula (edible and medicinal) are some great options for this.
There are also lots of edible and/or vegetable garden-friendly choices. Sunflowers are another fantastic, easy option for cut flowers, and gardens love them because they distract aphids from crops. Zinnias are great garden companions, too, and there are edible varieties. Marigolds are wonderful pest deterrents for gardens. There are edible pansies, and nasturtiums are delicious as well. Dill flowers are great, colorful fillers for vases, as well as provide a fantastic herb.
Planting Them Out
Methods for planting each sort of flower will be different.
- The right bulbs for a climate—plant ones that don’t require digging up in the fall—tend to readily establish themselves in the lawn (less to cut!), and they will create colorful colonies that pop up each year as a familiar surprise of the passing season. Perennials will do the same in flowerbeds and corners that don’t always get a lot of attention.
- Shrubs and trees, of course, need the space to spread out a little, though roses—all varieties are edible and medicinal—will often need some seasonal controlling. Leguminous trees, like redbuds and mimosa (both with beautiful and edible flowers), will often reproduce prolifically, but that can be remedied by a once-a-year cleaning.
- For annuals, it’s a good idea to dedicate cultivated spaces to them, particularly self-seeders. Once established, these areas can largely be left to thrive as “wild” flower production, allowing those that work best to do their thing, making the job of gardening easier and the garden itself more resilient.
Don’t Be Shy to Cut Them
While many people like to have flowers in their garden and wouldn’t dream of cutting them, the truth is that cutting flowers from a plant isn’t a horrible thing. Flowers are part of the reproduction process, so like most living things, plants will do all they can to encourage the existence of their next generation and the species. In fact, cutting flowers often frees up energy for plants to grow more, equating to flowers inside and out. In other words, growing cut flowers at home is well worth the initial effort because they’ll keep on coming.
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