Planting Shrubs and Perennials for Cut Flowers

While I was driving around today, I kept hearing a commercial for one of the big box home improvement stores, advertising a special on Knockout (R) roses. In the ad, they talk about how easy they are to care for, and “they make great cut flowers.”shrubby-roses

Are they high? Seriously, Knockout roses have their place: if a client wants months of blooms on a plant that requires almost nothing from them, they’re great plants. I actually use them a fair bit on commercial sites, because Knockouts aren’t susceptible to many of the common rose issues, they’re inexpensive, and you could throw a rookie landscape crew member at them and he or she would be hard pressed to screw up so badly as to kill the plant. But as a cut flower? Not so much. If you want roses for cut flowers, plant real, old-fashioned roses. We all know what a rose is supposed to look like, and Knockouts are just different enough that they’ll disappoint you.

Anyhow, it got me thinking about some good cut flowers. Whether you’re entertaining or just treating yourself, a vase full of flowers can brighten up your home. Here’s a list of a few you can grow yourself very easily:

  • Solidago (Goldenrod)- Beautiful bright yellow flowers- this one’s a favorite. As a perennial, it grows like a weed… because in many cases, it’s regarded as a weed. There are some gorgeous, prolifically flowering varieties like “Golden Fleece,” or you may even find it growing wild at your place.
  • Achillea (Yarrow)- Achillea comes in a wide range of colors, from gold to pastel pinks. It’s a really bulletproof little plant, too.
  • Paeonia (Peony)- This one’s a nice spring bloomer. You can find peonies in some very soft, pastelish hues of pink, as well as pure white. However, my color preferences are in the “obnoxious” family, so I like the fuchsias and magentas. ‘Felix Krousse’ is a beauty in that range.
  • Daisy-looking flowers- These include Echinacea (Coneflower), Rudbeckia (Black-Eyed Susan), and Leaucanthemum (Shasta Daisy).  Rudbeckia, especially, is a tough little plant. It’s also a self-seeder, so… give it some space. Trust me.

There are also shrubs that can provide beautiful cut flowers:

  • Hibiscus syriacus (Rose of Sharon)- Beautiful, small, hibiscus flowers, BUT be warned: it’s an aggressive spreader, and one rose of sharon wil pop up all over your bed. I finally cut mine down, yanked the stump, and built my compost bunker over it. If you have the space, or the free time to stay on top of it, though- very pretty!
  • Rhododendron- I love rhodies. They don’t feel the same way about northern Virginia or the Piedmont, though. Rhododendrons love a sandy, well-draining soil, which means your best bet here is to plant them on a hillside or a mound. The blooms make it all worthwhile, and one in a bowl is a centerpiece.
  • Beautyberry (Callicarpa)- not for the flowers, but the berries. The branches get covered with bright purple berries.
  • Forsythia- They’re such a classic harbinger of spring that we even time gardening tasks by them: “Oh, forsythia are blooming? Time to put down pre-emergent!” Forsythia can also do a great job of brightening up your house as we head out of winter.

Obviously, this list is far from exhaustive; any flower can make a gorgeous cut flower. However, these are some easy ones to get the wheels turning. If you want it all worked out for you, give me a call- I’d love to help create a cutting garden for you!

One Comment

    May 1, 2009 REPLY

    Great Advice. I cant wait to give it a try.

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