A New Backyard Cutting Garden Takes Shape
The cut flowers that are available at today’s farmer’s markets are nothing short of spectacular. Bunches of zinnias and sunflowers are now accompanied by irresistible mixed bouquets including dahlias, scabiosa, sea holly, lisianthus, lilies, bells of Ireland, larkspur and other delights.
One of the leaders in this new golden age of locally-grown cut flowers is Debra Prinzing, founder of slowflowers.com. Debra is a tireless advocate for cut flower farmers and a highly respected spokeswoman for the movement. Her website has become a go-to resource for growers, floral designers, retailers and consumers. It now includes more than 700 businesses across the U.S. and Canada.
Longfield Gardens is a lead sponsor of slowflowers.com and proud to be cheering on these hard-working flower farmers and floral designers. We also appreciate the opportunity to learn from them about innovative growing techniques and market trends.
Debra lives in the Seattle area and is an avid home gardener. Last spring, she asked us to recommend a collection of plants for a 3′ x 7′ raised bed in her backyard. Her vision was a mini-cutting garden that would give her at least 10 weeks of stunning summer bouquets.
We proposed a color-coordinated assortment of spring-planted bulbs with high-impact flowers that would complement the annuals, perennials and shrubs that she was already growing in other parts of her yard.
A Small Space Yields Lots of Flowers
Debra planted her miniature cutting garden in May and added a few of her own favorites, including chocolate cosmos and some zinnias and nasturtiums that she grew from seed. At the heart of the bed are eight dahlias in shades of gold, peach and burgundy. They include Noordwijk’s Glorie, Hawaii, Karma Choc, Rip City, American Dawn and Mirella.
When these photos were taken in early August, some of the dahlias were just starting to bloom. But it was prime time for the first batch of gladiolas. Debra discovered she can see the glads from her kitchen window. And when she’s out in the yard, the 18″ high bed puts the flowers at eye-level
Debra’s goal for this 3′ x 7′ raised bed was to get at least two bouquets a week. To fill out her arrangements and add extra interest, she incorporates annuals and perennials from other parts of the garden. These include rudbeckia, cerinthe, roses, hydrangeas and yarrow. For foliage, she clips stems from shrubs growing around her yard including ninebark, cotinus, golden privet and baptisia.
Now that it’s peak dahlia season, Debra has more than enough flowers to share with everyone who stops by. She invites visitors to come out into the garden with scissors and choose their own flowers. She loves seeing how excited people get about composing a custom bouquet.
Spring-Blooming Bulbs, Too!
When fall comes, Debra plans to remove the summer bulbs and replace them with tulips. For her spring cutting garden, Debra will be planting two of our newest tulip collections. They include early, mid and late-season varieties to ensure 6 to 8 weeks of colorful blooms.
When flower farmers plant tulips for cutting, they place the bulbs very closely together. The tulips don’t seem to mind, and the growers can harvest twice as many flowers from the same footprint. Using this approach, a 3′ x 7′ raised bed will accommodate as many as 200 bulbs.
Debra is already imagining a different color scheme for next summer. In addition to eight dahlias and 30 glads, she will add acidanthera, calla lilies and liatris. This year she’s been surprised by how many plants she can grow in a small space. She is also discovering that planting densely means almost zero weeding!
Thinking ahead to next spring, we will be offering several cutting garden collections that are perfect for raised beds. These pre-planned gardens will make it easy for almost anyone to participate in the slow flowers movement. Hopefully you’ll want to join the fun and plant your own pint-size cutting garden!