For The Answer
By Calvin Finch, PhD, SAWS Conservation Director, and Horticulturist
Week of May 24, 2004
CUT FLOWER GARDEN
A cut flower garden in San Antonio can provide flowers for the house 12 months out of the year and also attract butterflies and hummingbirds as an incidental value. Raised beds are the best way to maximize production and ease of care. They are essential if you have heavy clay or rocky soil. The bed must be in full sun to maximize bloom availability. A bed 8 feet wide by 24 feet wide will provide enough flowers for a weekly bouquet and, in some seasons, several bouquets per week.
On most sites the raised bed only needs to be one cement block, one used railroad tie, or three landscape timbers tall. Fill the bed with landscape light or rose mix from your favorite horticultural supply and soil retailer. An 8 x 24 foot bed will require 7 cubic yards of soil mix. At $25/cubic yard plus $35 for delivery, your garden will cost about $210 for soil. The railroad ties cost about $10 each so the total cost of the bed is just under $300. The ties are heavy enough just to lay end-to-end without any fasteners as long as the site is relatively level.
Select the long stem and medium or tall versions of the flower varieties rather than the dwarf selections that have become so popular for landscape use. The main goal of a cutting garden is to have flowers to cut and decorate the house.
Here is a rundown of the flowers I use for cut flowers for the house. A good way to reorganize the planting and cutting information is to make a chart of your own. On the top of the chart put the labels “Month”, “Seed or Plant”, and “Cut Blooms”. Down the side of the chart put the months. It also works to write the information in your gardening calendar.
Zinnias—Plant as seeds or transplant in April or May and again in July or August. Harvest blooms throughout the summer and autumn. Zinnias are colorful flowers available over a long season. I like the Dreamland selection planted as transplants.
Sunflowers—Plant seeds in May, June, or July and harvest the flowers until cold weather arrives. Sunflowers respond well to the heat and provide striking blooms all summer. The small and medium sized blooming varieties are most useful as cut flowers—even they have long stems!
Cosmos—Plant seeds or transplants in April, May, or June and harvest the blooms all summer. Cosmos will bloom and reseed all summer. If the winter is mild the seed from the previous year will germinate.
Roses—Plants are placed in the garden any time of year but October through March is best. Harvest blooms from March through June and then again August through November. Roses are the favorite cut flower of most gardeners. You could select a mix of red, pink, yellow, white and other hybrid tea roses if you are willing to provide the necessary care. I prefer a few long blooming tough old-fashioned roses such as Belinda’s Dream and Katy Road to provide a long season of fragrant pink blooms.
Iris—Plant rhizomes in the autumn or container plants all year around. Harvest blooms of the cemetery iris in February and March. The Dutch iris bloom in March and April.
Daylilies—The bulbs should be planted in the autumn or plant containerized specimens anytime. Cut the flowers April through June and even later depending on the variety.
Daffodils and Paperwhites—Plant the bulbs in September, October, or November for blooms as early as December and January. Select the varieties that naturalize. All paperwhites and Campernelle, Golden Scepter, and Trevithian daffodils will naturalize.
Marigolds—Plant American hybrids in July or early August for blooms until cold weather.
Tulips—Plant the bulbs in November and December after six weeks in the refrigerator. They will have blooms for cut flowers in January and February.
Gladiolus—Plant glad bulbs in February for May blooms.
Larkspur—Plant seed in September or October for cut flowers in April and even May. Larkspurs have long stems of blooms in deep purples, blues, white, and pink. They can be seeded in the fall like a wildflower or planted as transplants in early spring. They naturalize well in a raised bed garden.