Mason jars filled with bright zinnias, pumpkin coloured calendula and bold sunflowers are one of my earliest memories of flowers. My love for flowers most definitely comes from my mom. My mom grew up on a ranch and as an adult she combined her knowledge of farming with her creative side and she has grown some of the most beautiful gardens you will ever see. Though most of her gardens are perennials, we always planted a few rows of annual flowers in the vegetable garden to be used as cut flowers. Anytime we were going to visit someone, we would make them a bouquet in a mason jar to take with us. Sometimes in the summer, early on a Friday morning, we would wake up and go out and cut many flowers and make bouquets for my brother and I to sell on the roadside that afternoon. We always sold out and seeing the way people’s faces lit up when they saw the fresh flowers has also really stuck with me and is why I grow flowers now.
There are many great resources out there on growing flowers for cutting, and there are an absolute overwhelming number of flowers you can grow when it comes to cut flowers. When I am looking for flowers to grow for cutting I am always thinking about colour schemes, textures, interesting fillers and a mixture of shapes (ie. disks, spikes etc.). I do use a mix of annual flowers and perennial plants in my bouquets and am slowly growing the number of perennials I use. I really rely on perennials for filler and texture but most of my colour comes from annuals. Again, the options are endless when it comes to annuals and some are much easier than others to grow and higher producing. This is just a quick run down on some of my favourite, easy to grow and high yielding annual varieties for growing in a backyard cut flower garden.
My Annual Favourites
The great thing about the varieties I have included here are that they are very low maintenance. Most of them prefer poor soil and have low water requirements so they are easy to grow! These varieties do require full sun so they should be planted in a place where they get 6+ hours of sunlight per day.
DS = Direct sow (these are directly seeded into the garden after the last frost)
TP = Transplant (these are started inside early and then transplanted out after last frost)
Zinnia’s are one of my favourite flowers. They are the easiest thing to grow, they come in a myriad of colours, they will produce like crazy until the first frost, have superb vase life and their seeds are very easy to save. There are more and more varieties becoming available and I am trying a new ‘cupcake’ variety this year but my 2 must haves in the garden are the Benary’s Giant (a mix of colours) and the Queen Red Lime.
It is hard to go wrong with sunflowers! Again, they are so easy to grow, they produce like crazy, have an excellent vase life if you harvest them at the right time and again seed saving is easy and they seed themselves down like crazy. Sunflowers are probably our top seller at the market. There are so many types of sunflowers and I love them all but a couple of favourites that I grow year in and year out Music Box, Velvet Queen and Sunrich Gold. I am super excited to try the unique Sun Fill Green this year.
Basil, Mint, Dill (DS or TP)
I love herbs in bouquets and so do our customers. They give wonderful fragrance and are a beautiful filler. As long as you cut these herbs in the cool of the day and put them directly into water, they have good vase life. Mint and Dill varieties are all pretty prolific and similar, but the varieties I like best for basil are Amaratto, Purple Ruffle and Thai Basil.
Depending on what planting zone you are in and what varieties you are growing, rudbeckia might actually be perennial for you but it can be grown as an annual and it is another one that seeds down like crazy. I like any variety but my absolute favourite is Cherokee Sunset.
This is more commonly known as honeywort and for me it is a new favourite but I love it. It is a gorgeous filler for bouquets and produces well all season long. It does have flowers but they aren’t the focus and even as they wither, their seed pods add interest.
I have really liked strawflowers since I was little. They are so unique and they are just as beautiful dried as fresh, they last well in the vase and seed harvesting is easy. My favourite is an Apricot/Peach Blend of colours.
Sweet Peas(DS or TP)
It’s hard to deny the scent of fresh sweet peas. They have a rather fleeting vase life but the scent they give is worth it. Variety wise its really up to you what you like for colours but I have to say I really like the colours in Enchante and White Frills have a nice elegance that can mix in with anything.
This is more commonly known as a pincushion flower. What I love most about this flower is that it can be used in bud or full flower and it has a beautiful seed head. All 3 stages have really interesting texture. Again, favourite varieties come down to colour preference.
Echinops (DS or TP)
I love echinops because it really adds texture to bouquets and it does have a good vase life. It always intrigues customers when I use it in bouquets. Traditionally, these flowers tend to be blue but if you want something a little different try a Globe White or Star Frost as both are a silvery white colour.
Another great one for drying but also is quite prolific and adds texture to late summer bouquets. My favourite colour preference is Sunset Mix but whites and purples are also great.
Dhalias are show stoppers there is no doubt about it! They usually have a fleeting vase life but I haven’t met anyone who doesn’t feel they are worth it for the moments the last. I have to include Dhalias in my list because they are a favourite but they aren’t as simple to grow as the flowers above them and I will try to do a future post outlining how to grow them. Unlike the flowers listed above, Dhalias do need good soil and consistent watering. You plant your tubers in the spring and then they must be removed from the ground after the frost in the fall and stored inside for winter. I don’t think I can pick a favourite, when I do my dahlia article I will give more info but for bouquets, the pom pom varieties are most practical, but if you are growing dhalias you want at least one dinner plate variety for that awe factor!
So as you are browsing through seed catalogues during these chilly winter days and dreaming of the colours and warmth of summer, hopefully this provides you with some ideas for what you might want to add to your cut flower gardens this summer! I will try to do a few more articles on growing specific flowers and bouquet making later in the season so stay tuned!