How to Design a Cutting Garden

And have fresh-picked bouquets all summer long.

Grow your own bouquets!
Photography by Mariia Boiko/Shutterstock

There are few things more beautiful than a vase full of fresh flowers in your home, though it can be a costly decoration to keep up with. Fortunately, you don’t need to go to the market every week to always have a colorful bouquet on display. If you have access to outdoor space, you can easily grow your own—and save a bundle of money by doing so.

By planting a cutting garden, you’ll have homegrown flowers to enjoy indoors all summer and fall. Here are some tips for getting started.

Determine the best location

A cutting garden can be as large or small as your space and budget allow. You’ll want to choose a sunny spot with well-drained soil. If you care about things looking a bit overgrown, pick a spacious plot in your backyard. There are some plants that grow beautiful flowers but don’t exactly have a well-manicured look for curb appeal.

To get the ground ready for planting, remove any grass and weeds and then till or rake over the soil to break it up a bit. To create a barrier from outside grass, add landscape edging around the area. You can also use a raised garden bed.

Choose the right assortment of flowering plants

There are so many excellent cutting garden candidates. Don’t worry about how they’ll look together—that’s not the point. You want to select plants that produce beautiful blooms. So think about what kinds of fresh flowers you like. Long-stemmed annuals, perennials and bulbs are a good place to start. Get creative by selecting plants with different colors, heights and textures and have fun making arrangements with them.

Good cutting flowers include annuals like sunflowers, cosmos, baby’s breath, sweet pea, zinnia and larkspur. You’ll get two years of growth out of low-maintenance perennials like blazing star, bee balm, yarrow, garden phlox, cluttered bellflower, purple coneflower and peonies. Be sure to plant bulbs like daffodils, dahlias and tulips during the right season (either spring or fall). Flowering shrubs such as hydrangeas and lilacs, or herbs such as lavender and sage are also great additions to a flower arrangement. 

Pro tip: Ask your local nursery for recommendations on flowering plants that grow well in your area.

Design a planting layout

When you’re designing your cutting garden, keep in mind that some mature plants grow higher or wider than others. Keep the tall ones in the back, so you don’t damage their flowers when reaching past them to cut others.

To make plant care as easy as possible, plant similar flowers together. Keep the perennials together, since they will blossom again for a second year and you can swap them out at the same time. Do the same with the annuals, so you know which section needs to be replanted next spring.

Time to get planting

If planting from seed, be sure to put them in the ground after the danger of frost has passed. You can add mulch to your cutting garden once everything’s in the ground. This will help maximize output while preventing the growth of weeds.

Keep up with deadheading and maintenance

Watering and feeding the plants is important, but in a cutting garden deadheading will be your primary maintenance task. This involves removing dead or dying flowers to encourage annuals (and some other plants) to continue putting out new buds. If you don’t trim away the dead blooms, the plants will take that as a message that the season is over and stop all new growth. Dead flowers also attract pests and diseases, nuisances you don’t want to deal with in your garden.

 

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