Cut flowers bring the natural world into the house. To provide them, decide if you want to have a separate cutting garden or choose plants that serve as both a source for indoor arrangements a beautiful garden scene.
When your main garden serves both functions, plant a few extras of your favorite annuals and perennials and choose shrubs that will provide a profusion of blooms and colorful foliage (or just plain green) so there are plenty to go around.
Creating layers in the garden will allow you to make maximum use of space, starting with groundcovers and proceeding through low to tall perennials and shrubs to trees.
Spring bulbs make great cut flowers, so when purchasing bulbs in the fall, buy some extra for arrangements. Often, the more you buy, especially from a mail-order source, the less expensive each one is.
Plant them closer then you normally would, and you won’t notice when you pick some for the house. Let the dying bulb foliage be covered by emerging perennials, making good use of space.
Narcissus, jonquils and daffodils naturalize and come back every year; tulips need replacing every few years. Lilies come from bulbs, too, and give midsummer blooms.
Perennial plants will return each year and, when chosen with an eye for differing times of bloom, provide flowers through the seasons. Plant groups of them big enough so that you can thin them for arrangements without diminishing the effect.
Peruvian lily (Alstroemeria) is easy to grow; indeed, some species can become invasive in the garden. The wide range of colors and long-lasting bloom has made them staples in the floral trade.
Other perennials for cutting are astilbe, yarrow (Achillea), Japanese anemone (Anemone x hybrida) and peony. Lenten rose (Helleborus orientalis) provides blooms in late winter and has good foliage for cutting, too.
Asters are a classic fall plant. Aster x frikartii ‘Monch,’ however, starts blooming in early summer and continues into fall with lavender-blue petals around a yellow center, reaching to 3 feet. For a contrast in texture, heath aster (Aster ericoides) brings a galaxy of star-like white or pink flowers to the composition.
Annuals bloom all summer, and most bloom again when the flowers are cut. Dahlias — grown from tubers that can be left in the ground or lifted, divided and stored — are a wonderful cut flower. The wide range of colors and flower forms make them terrific for working into combinations with other plants in mixed beds, instead of relegating them to a bed of just all dahlias.
The annual sweet pea (Lathyrus odoratus) will bring fragrance into your home if you pay attention to the variety you buy. These grow on annual vines started from seeds planted in the garden in late winter.
Consider also snapdragon, zinnia, stock and spider flower (Cleome).
Climbing plants squeeze in more flowers in a small area. Clematis makes good cut material, and since different types bloom at different times, a selection will provide flowers from May to October.
Shrubs provide a great source of both flowers and foliage. Prune vigorous shrubs and use the trimmings for arrangements.
Korean spice bush (Viburnum carlesii) provides fragrant, white clusters of flowers.
Purple-leafed ninebark (Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Diabolo’) has both tiny, pinkish flowers in spring and fabulous, dark-burgundy foliage that looks good combined with the burnished leaves of golden boxleaf honeysuckle (Lonicera nitida ‘Baggesens’s Gold’).
Camellias — with their lustrous, dark-green foliage and luscious blooms — make great additions to a bouquet. Select varieties such as ‘Donation’ that drop off before they turn brown on the branch.
Lilacs (Syringa vulgaris) send forth fragrant flowers in the spring. Choose roses and hydrangeas for summer bloom.
Elaeagnus x ebbungei ‘Gilt Edge’ has evergreen leaves with a golden margin.
Euonymus fortunei ‘Emerald Gaiety’ is an evergreen with finer texture. The deep-green leaves edged in white will light up the garden and the arrangement any season of the year.
Our native salal (Gaultheria shallon) is a standard florist’s filler; you can grow your own in a shady spot.
Japanese holly (Ilex crenata) and its cultivars provide both an informal hedge and a source for greenery.
These are just a few of the many plants that serve double-duty: looking good in your garden and bringing nature in a vase into your home.
PHIL WOOD is the owner of Phil Wood Garden Design in Seattle.