Cutting gardens require care, more attention

Posted: Sunday, August 22, 2004

AMARILLO, Texas Gardeners don't all have the time or space for a cutting garden.

But experts say they shouldn't be afraid to take advantage of existing plants for indoor enjoyment.

"Cutting gardens are quite a lot of work," said horticulturist Greg Lusk, who cares for several gardens, only one of which has a cutting garden.

"Most gardeners don't like to cut their flowers," he said. "They'd rather enjoy them in the yard."

The demands of a formal cutting garden are undeniable.

A formal cutting garden requires frequent dead-heading to assure continuous blooms. Its purpose is to provide cuttings for fresh flower arrangements used indoors.

Lusk might grow an entire bed of sunflowers, timing them for peak blooms to use at a specific function, such as a late-August country party, or a bed of purple gladiolas for a wedding party.

Ideally, cutting gardens are set aside, away from eyesight from the home or yard since cutting makes them less visually appealing. Bed design should be long and narrow to make flowers accessible to cutting.

But today's gardeners are finding ways to intermingle cutting garden plants - annuals and perennials into their landscapes, going as far as using shrubs and evergreens to fulfill their needs, indoors and out.

Parie Villyard, co-owner of The Secret Garden in Amarillo, Texas, said trends in flower design make home arranging easy. She's even offering discounts on cash-and-carry items to promote European trends of buying flowers as often as groceries.

Floral design is headed toward simple arrangements. So don't be afraid to try, she said.

"You want things in your house that look like you cut it yourself, out of your garden," Villyard said. "The great look is to grab all of one thing, just grab a bunch of it."

Fifty carnations, cut short, in a bowl look fabulous. And so do three stems of one flower for a simple clean design.

When arranging, always strip your foliage if the flower is what you want, Villyard said. Leaves in water will cause bacteria to grow. She adds a drop of bleach to arrangements. And she says to switch out water daily.

For cut arrangements, people need to think of plants in terms of shapes: spikes, filler and round forms, said Dusty McGuire. Her garden once was planted with flower arranging in mind.

McGuire learned to use everything in her landscape. Shrubs formed lining material. Evergreens, fall and winter color. Berry-bearing bushes - barberry, pyracantha and nandina - are lining for arrangements or wreaths.

Advanced planning is necessary. Think in terms of color choices. And opt for variety. Usually, a sampling of many things beats a plethora of one bloom.

Many perennials outlast annuals in cuttings. But annuals keep a cutting garden alive and usable throughout the growing season. Annuals bloom throughout the season as long as they are dead-headed. Perennials bloom once a year.

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