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Garden Care: Annuals

Annuals Cutting Garden

If you'd like to have containers full of flowers brightening your home, a perfect source is a cutting garden filled with annuals. Most gardeners are unwilling to cut many blooms from their regular flower beds because they want as full and colorful a display as possible. Therefore, a garden specially set aside to supply flowers for cutting is a good solution. This can be a separate flower bed, or you can devote a row or two of your vegetable patch to a flower crop.

Picture of pink and white daisies, Livingstone daisy.
Livingstone daisies will brighten up
any room as cut flowers.

Most seed companies offer packets of "Cutting Flower Mix" that contain a variety of flowering annuals. The mixture varies, but it will always include seeds that are easy to grow and produce nice, bouquet-type flowers.

Mixes usually include some, but not all, of the following plants: marigolds, zinnias, plumed cockscomb, baby's breath, bachelor's buttons, pot marigolds, cosmos, asters, blanket flowers, and seedling dahlias.

The major disadvantage to buying such a mix is that you don't know in advance what colors the flowers will be. If you want to key the flower colors to the colors in your home or if you only want specific kinds of cut flowers, then you'll need to purchase those varieties separately.

When cutting for indoor use, select flowers that are in bud or in early stages of bloom. Those in later stages of bloom should be cut from the plant and discarded. If they're left, plant strength will be wasted on the formation of seeds.

To obtain the longest period of enjoyment possible from cut flowers, pick them in the early morning. Use a sharp knife and make a slanted cut. Cut just above the point where another flower bud or a side shoot is beginning to grow. This way, plant energy will quickly shift to production of additional blooms.

As you cut, place the flowers in a container of water and bring them indoors promptly. Remove the leaves from the lower portion of each stem, immediately putting the flowers back into a tall container of fresh water. You can either arrange bouquets right away or keep cut flowers in a cool location to arrange later.

Each time you recut a stem, always use a sharp knife and cut on a slant. This keeps all available stem cells open to the transfer of water up into the cut flower. Scissors and shears can pinch some of these water channels closed.

Also, remember to remove all leaves that will be under water once the flower is in a container. If left on, they'll rot, which not only causes a terrible odor but also shortens flower life by clogging stem cells needed for water transfer.

Elements of Attractive Bouquets

Image of two cut flowers.
When arranging a bouquet, make sure you
remove the leaves that will be under water

Annuals are lovely in both elaborate formal arrangements and in simple, informal bouquets. It's easy to quickly make attractive bouquets if you keep these hints in mind as you pick and arrange flowers:

  • Select flowers in bud as well as in early bloom.

  • Select colors that blend well.

  • Separate clashing colors with gray foliage or white flowers.

  • Cut flowers at different lengths. Leave longer stems on smaller flowers; shorter stems on larger ones.

  • Mix flowers of varying sizes and forms.

  • Choose flowers in different stages of bloom to provide more variety of form.

  • Use containers that are narrower at the top than at the bottom for an easy, informal bouquet. If a different effect is desired, use cylindrical vases or containers with flared mouths.

  • Match container size to bouquet size to keep a good balance between flowers and container.

Annual flowers can decorate your home all year long -- even in winter. In the next section we will look at some methods for preserving your summer flowers by drying and pressing them.

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