10 Essential Cut Flower Gardening Books
Ever since I was a little girl, I have loved two things: books and flowers. I credit my grandparents for planting these passions deep in my heart. My grandfather was an outspoken, well-educated man who always stressed the importance of learning, and my grandmother was a dedicated floral judge who wove flowers into every aspect of her life.
My love affair with books started when my grandfather offered to pay me $1 for every book I read. Always the eager entrepreneur, I quickly discovered that I could devour an entire Boxcar Children mystery in a single evening. Needless to say, at 11 years old I was raking in the big bucks one book at a time. My grandfather quickly realized that his well-intentioned idea was going to cost him more than pack of trident gum, and he immediately added written book reports to the rules. “Fiddlesticks!” I thought. “I can’t be bothered to write when there are so many interesting books to read!” Back to my grandma’s garden I would go to enjoy the latest Frank Peretti novel, hidden inside her carefully clipped burning bush fort.
As the years passed, and my grandparents returned to the earth, my love of reading and flower gardening has only grown. I eagerly anticipate the release of any new gardening book. The moment I crack open the cover, I am transported to to the author’s garden as well as to the garden of my grandparents whose memories live on in my flower-filled backyard.
Creating a list of 10 essential cut flower gardening books wasn’t easy. The titles below are the books I could not live without. They continue to inspire me, are constant references, and the authors feel like old gardening friends. I hope they will become as important to you as they are to me.
When my grandma passed away, I inherited her collection of pin frogs. Since I didn’t know how to use these traditional flower arranging tools, I stuffed them into a cabinet and went on plopping my cut flowers into mason jars. All this changed when I discovered Kiana Underwood. A champion of the floral pin frog, Kiana opened my eyes to a world where centerpieces had movement, character, heart, daring color, and artistic flair. In her book, she creates 40 spectacular monochromatic arrangements, organized by season, with loads of helpful tips along the way. I find the step-by-step pictures invaluable, as you can see how these elaborate displays are created with patience, purpose, and care. So dust off those pin frogs and get out your snips, because once you’ve read this book, you’ll approach floral arranging in a whole new way.
If you’ve ever dreamed of having a backyard cutting garden, this is the book for you. Erin seamlessly covers everything you need to know about planning, planting, and harvesting. From soil testing to plant spacing and ideal varieties for cutting, this book gives you all the necessary tools to live a flower filled life. The beautiful photographs by Michele M. Waite will have you running to the seed store for Double Click cosmos, scouring the internet for Raspberry Sundae peony roots, and begging friends to share their Café au lait dahlia tubers. It’s almost impossible to read this book and not replace half of your lawn with a cutting garden! Once you’ve read this book cover to cover, check out Erin’s other bestselling books: A Year in Flowers and Discovering Dahlias.
This small but mighty book revolutionized the way I grow cut flowers. Lisa demystifies the often-misunderstood group of flowers called hardy annuals. She explains which plants fall into this category and recommends the best varieties for cutting. She also covers when and how you should plant them in your growing zone. Leaving young plants outdoors during the cold winter months may sound scary, but once you see them bloom in spring and outcompete all later plantings you’ll be a believer. Of all the flower books I’ve ever purchased, this is the one I continue to reference every year.
Flower Confidential: The Good, the Bad, and the Beautiful by Amy Stewart
You’ll never look at a grocery store rose the same way after reading this revealing book on the imported cut flower trade. Amy Stewart gives us a behind the scenes look at how overseas farm workers are treated, the use of toxic chemicals that remain on the blooms we sink our noses into, the environmental impacts of long distance transportation, and much more. Most importantly, she points the way to more socially responsible flower production. Perhaps the answer lies right in our own backyards.
Everlastings: How to Grow, Harvest and Create with Dried Flowers by Bex Partridge
One look at Bex’s beautiful book and I knew we were kindred spirits. For decades, dried flowers seemed to carry the stigma of being stiff, outdated, dusty creations with a faintly musty smell. I have never felt this way. My grandmother’s “dried flower room” in her basement was always filled with buckets of papery blooms. In the winter, she and I would take loads of lunaria, statice, and eucalyptus to the nursing home for the residents to enjoy. I’m not sure whether dried flowers needed a fresh dose of creativity, better photography, or just someone to pioneer their beauty. Thankfully, Bex accomplishes all this and more in her stunning book. It’s filled with drying instructions, innovative projects, and touching floral tales.
Cultivated: The Elements of Floral Style by Christin Geall
Reading Cultivated is like taking a high-end floral design course from the comfort of your home. Christin is a gardener and internationally-known floral designer. In this book she covers growing and sourcing flowers, choosing vessels and tools, balancing color and form, historical design lessons, finding your own style, and even how to photograph your work. This is a floral masterclass you don’t want to miss – and one you’ll find yourself returning to again and again.
When I opened the big glossy pages of The Flower Hunter, I knew I was in for treat. This book sounds like poetry, looks like a dream, and will embrace you in all things floral. Lucy creates seasonal designs that marry the romance and spontaneity of her grandmother’s garden, and will inspire you to do the same. Although some chapters have step-by-step lessons, this book feels like a floral journey alongside a friend. In addition to her ethereal fresh flower arrangements, Lucy showcases flower sculptures and everlasting installments that look like floral paintings come to life. The most unique idea is her handmade journal. Within its delicate pages, she mingles pressed flowers, hand dyed silks, and vintage floral fabrics. How deliciously romantic.
The Posy Book: Garden-Inspired Bouquets That Tell a Story by Teresa H. Sabankaya
Do you remember tussie-mussies? May Day bouquets? Or the “language of flowers” dictionaries? The Posy Book combines these vintage concepts in a fresh, energized way. We often gift flowers, but do we think about the meanings they convey? Did you know that Lily of the Valley says “you’ve made my life complete?” Or that a single stem of astilbe tells lost lovers “I’ll still be waiting?” Or that a bouquet of sweet peas is a wonderful way to tell a hostess “thank you for a lovely time?” Flowers can carry messages that go well beyond their beauty. When you know these deeper meanings, your bouquets can speak for you.
A Year Full of Flowers: Gardening for All Seasons by Sarah Raven
England’s queen of the cutting garden delivers her best book yet in A Year Full of Flowers. Sarah takes us through an entire year in her garden, Perch Hill, revealing hundreds of flowers, plant combinations, growing tips, and design lessons. Photographs by Jonathan Buckley capture gorgeous details as well as a full sense of Sarah Raven’s property. You’ll be amazed by the Eden she’s created.
Martha’s Flowers: A Practical Guide to Growing, Gathering, and Enjoying by Martha Stewart with Kevin Sharkey
My grandma’s name was Martha, so it seems appropriate to end my list with a book by another Martha. Martha’s Flowers is an informative and inspiring read. It covers growing, propagating, harvesting, and arranging a wide range of flowers and shrubs. The large, glossy pages feature single-variety arrangements that highlight each type of bloom. Additionally, each type of flower has a “troubleshooting” section with valuable (and often hard-to-find) advice on steps to take when things go amiss. This is a practical and beautiful book you’ll definitely want in your floral library.
So many good books didn’t make this short list. Here are a few more that I can’t resist mentioning:
Dahlia Breeding for the Farmer Florist and the Home Gardener by Brion Sprinsock and Kristine Albrecht,
The Flower Farmer by Lynn Byczynski
The Flower Farmer’s Year by George Newbery
The Cutting Garden by Sarah Raven
In Bloom by Clare Nolan
The Flower Yard by Arthur Parkinson
Vegetables Love Flowers by Lisa Mason Ziegler
Styling Nature by Irini Arakas and Lewis Miller
Life in the Studio by Frances Palmer
Seasonal Flower Arranging by Ariella Chezar and Julie Michaels.