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Ask a Master Gardener: How cut flowers can benefit your garden

by Peter Sutter | February 4, 2023 at 4:00 a.m.

If you are working on your garden plan, I have something you might want to add to it.

A cut flower row. Cut flowers are flowers that are grown to be cut and put in a bouquet. Although I have flowers blooming in a few perennial beds around the house, I am always a little reluctant to cut the blooms. It seems like they belong there and there would be something missing if I cut them. Hence the cut flower row in the garden.

Flowers in the garden have the added benefit that they are great for attracting pollinators and other beneficial insects. Some, like marigolds, have a repellent effect on some harmful pests. There are therapists that hold therapy sessions in a flower garden because patients are more relaxed and show quicker progress there. I am not saying us gardeners need therapy, but ...

Many vase-ready flowers are low maintenance and some are drought tolerant. If planted densely in a wide row, they can choke out the weeds after an early spring weeding. To get the best and healthiest blooms that will last longest in the vase, they will need about 1 to 1 1/2 inches of rain per week.

When preparing the soil for annuals, work in 3-4 inches of aged manure, compost or other organic matter. Or a fertilizer such as a 5-10-5 also may be scattered over the surface, about 1 to 2 pounds per 100 square feet of row.

If you are planting seeds directly in the row, the surface should be raked until lumps are broken up and a fine level seedbed is developed. If plants are to be set directly into the soil, you do not have be concerned with small lumps as much. A level or slight outward slope is best. Low spots permit the development of disease because they remain too wet too long. Most annual flowers grow and flower best in full sun.

Some of the more popular annual flowers to grow for cutting in Mid-Missouri are; Aster, Cosmos, Snapdragon, Sunflower, Sweet pea and Zinnia. Of course there are more but this will be a good start. A true annual such as these is a plant that will grow from seeds, flower, produce seeds and die in one season.

Other plants to consider in the bouquet garden are fillers such as Coleus and Baby's Breath. These are great filling in around the flowers in the vase to give your bouquet a professional look.

I am going to have to admit, growing flowers is not really my thing. I am a vegetable grower and that is where most of my concentration has been. Up until a few years ago, the only flowers I had grown were the ones that came in Gurney's jumbo package for kids (anyone remember those?) and that was a long time ago.

Recently, I have found flowers to be a nice addition as well as a challenge in the garden.

They say, and my wife agrees, nothing brightens up a room like a fresh bouquet of flowers. Of course I could say the same thing about a nice head of red cabbage or a fresh bunch of celery. Be sure to leave room for both in the garden.

Peter Sutter is a lifelong gardening enthusiast and a participant in the MU Extension's Master Gardener program. Gardening questions can be sent to [email protected].

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