I never (well, hardly ever) buy a flower from April through October...It's so easy to grow your own fragrant bouquets this time of year. But there are so many possibilities, and most of us don't have time or space to grow every kind of flower we love. So I turned to Whidbey Island artist and gardener Cheryl Kamera for advice, for she tends a huge, beautiful cutting garden (above), orchestrated by color.
Cheryl's advice is impressively hard-earned - she plants, tends, cuts, arranges from her garden. Here's she's winnowed out for Plant Talk readers the flowers she's learned perform best in the ground and in the vase....(like the 'Stargazer' lily, above...)
"My favorite flowers are easy to grow and last a long time in a vase. Most are bulbs or bulb type plants (as opposed to annuals or regular herbaceous perennials). I think they make the best cut flowers - but I could also be influenced by growing up on a bulb farm."
For Early Summer:
Peony - easy to grow; very long lived; bloom reliably; don't need frequent dividing. Dramatic in a vase, foliage is useful after the blooms are over.
Iris - I grow lots of kinds of iris but my favorite for cutting is Iris 'Gerald Darby' - looks great with peonies (& blooms at same time). 'Gerald Darby' takes some space but looks good even when not in bloom - will bloom insun and some shade. For range of available colors, I like Dutch iris.
Summer through Fall:
Lilies - Asiatics, martagons, trumpets, Orienpet and Orientals - all kinds for a long season of bloom. Easy to grow and will increase in time to a clump but still will not take a lot of space. Lilies are dramatic in large bouquets - or you can use one stem with a hosta leaf for a simple small bouquet. I take the stamens off all lily flowers when I cut them.
Dahlia - Dahlias take some space and need to be staked but are worth it because they give armloads of flowers from July until November - and because they come in so many different colors and flower shapes. I seek out varieties with long stems for cutting. Dahlia catalogues usually list those that are good for cutting. I deadhead religiously to keep them blooming and looking good.
Alstroemeria - the long stemmed type - takes more space and needs to be divided periodically to keep it blooming well. Blooms over a very long period; colors are lovely. (Val's note: beware for those of you with smaller gardens like mine. Alstroemeria loves to spread....the more beautiful, subtle colored ones are less aggressive - the old fashioned orange ones are invaders...)
Crocosmia (left) also need dividing every few years. But there are crocosmia varieties that bloom from July through October. Are wonderful in the vase (and garden) with dahlias.
Aster - easy to grow, good filler in bouquets, good with dahlias, types available that bloom from midsummer to frost.
And I can't forget these favorites:
Campanula persicifolia (self sows, early); Phlox paniculata (easy to grow, nice color range, fragrant); the
hairy sunflower Helianthus hirsuta (long blooming, great with dahlias - nicer than Lemon Queen - I LOVE this flower, pictured left).
Spiky flowers - I like to use spiky flowers in the vase as a foil to the bolder flowers - salivas (my favorite for cut flowers are 'Indigo Spires' and 'Mystic Spires' because of extremely long bloom period & long stems); Astilbe (tall varieties, early); Cimicifuga (Actaea) simplex (no special cultivar, very fragrant, late bloomer); Persicaria amplexicaulis 'Firetail' (long bloomer, lots of flowers, but sadly, foliage of all persicarias wilts in a vase).
Favorite foliage plant - hostas - bold enough to work well in a vase with all the showy flowers on my list."