A beautiful bouquet for an apartment, a pretty posy for a friend or a country bunch for your house; plan a summer cutting garden
In the Victorian era, in order not to deplete the ornamental gardens of wealthy land owners, separate areas, usually walled, were set aside for cut floral material to decorate their stately homes.
In today’s properties, where garden space is limited, borders would quickly become depleted if plants were picked for floral work. The answer is to set aside part of the garden as a cutting garden where you can grow your favourite flowers for the vase.
The right place
The cutting garden is a functional garden where appearances are not important; where seasonal annuals, perennials and bulbs are grown in a variety of colours, shapes and textures.
Screen the area from the rest of the garden with shrubs for picking that can also act as a windbreak. A trellis screen can be both decorative and practical as support for climbing roses, clematis and sweet peas.
There is a wider choice of plant material if the cutting garden gets five to six hours of sunshine a day, with easy access to beds and water. Soil should be free-draining with generous amounts of compost and a slow-release fertiliser to keep plants healthy through the season. Refresh the soil when planting new crops.
A grid of squared wire stretched across plants and attached to stakes will keep flowers upright.
The flower palette
In today’s floral world, there is a move from formal to natural and free-flowing, using garden flowers for a lighter touch and being adventurous with colour. Flowers of dark plum burgundy and maroon foliage add depth and shadows to arrangements.
Flowers for summer Seed is the cheapest way to grow cut flowers. Some can be sown in situ, which simply means sowing directly into the ground where they are to flower.
Seed: Clary sage (Salvia horminum), cosmos, baby’s breath (Gypsophila elegans), lavatera, marigold, salvia, sunflower, viscaria and zinnia.
Seedlings: Aster, celosia, cleome, dianthus, echinacea, nicotiana, penstemon, Shasta daisy and zinnia.
Perennials and bulbs: Achillea, agapanthus, alstroemeria, arum, canna, crocosmia, torch lilies (Kniphofia spp.), eucomis, gerbera, hosta, liliums, tuberose and watsonia.
Dahlias are invaluable as cut flowers for their range of colours and flower shapes, and tubers planted now will continue to flower well into autumn. Insert sturdy stakes when planting.
Early morning is the best time to cut flowers. Take a bucket of water into the cutting garden, make clean cuts with a sharp knife or secateurs and place cut stems in water.
The foliage palette
The following foliage is useful for outlines and fillers. The arching stems of abelia, the fine yellow or green foliage of coleonema, dark green needles of rosemary, colourful croton and leucadendron, ferny heavenly bamboo (Nandina domestica), and silver-grey artemisia, bold leaves of hosta, canna and arum, vertical leaves of iris and New Zealand flax (Phormium tenax), and the whorled stems of lion’s ear (Leonotis leonurus) and phlomis (Jerusalem sage).
Scented geranium (pelargonium) leaves make attractive edgings for posies and table arrangements. Ferns, provided the fronds are mature when picked and the cut ends seared, last well.
Seeking plant material can open a new world of floral possibilities, and perhaps spark a trend or innovative idea in the floral industry.
It becomes personal when you gather each part of your design, always leaving some flowers for pollinating insects and seeds for wildlife. Material that at first appears to have no merit can have unexpected qualities.
Search for branches for height and interesting outlines, curly ends of pride of De Kaap (Bauhinia galpinii), loops of dried wisteria stems, grass plumes and tassels, sprays of berries and fruits, feathery fennel, pine cones, palm spathes, feathers, seed heads and pods.
Foraging should be done ethically and legally, and always with the permission of the landowner. It is illegal to remove plants growing on public and private property and in the wild.
Not only are you depleting and destroying wild plant habitats, you are also depriving future generations of their floral inheritance.
Take time for Garden
Kick off your gumboots and down your
garden tools to celebrate the fourth
annual Garden Day on October 20. Weave a
flower crown and invite family, friends
and neighbours to join you for refreshments as you relax in the garden.
Gardening is not only beneficial for your
physical health, it’s sldo a great stress
reliever and good for mental health.
“Sometimes I rush around so much that
I feel I’ve left myself behind,” says Gundula Deutschländer, master gardener at
“Gardening grounds me. The physical
exertion clears my head of worrying
thoughts. My pride in having made
something beautiful is humbled by
the magnitude of nature’s gratitude. I
garden to feel alive and to find purpose
Garden Day is associated with Candide, a gardening app that connects a
community of gardeners with public
gardens and nurseries. The app features
an extensive knowledge base of plants,
articles, plant identification, growing
tips and virtual garden tours.