The perfect garden is just a cut away
By Doreen Trudel
Although we have experienced a wet winter the promise of spring must be starting to entice you into the garden. By now the garden beds should be clean, fed and ready to receive new residents. If you haven’t gotten to all of these chores don’t worry because most of the planting in our climate happens in April and May depending upon the plant.
After five years of creating new beds, planting and mulching I am finding that I cannot produce enough compost to feed my whole garden and although the mulch does break down and add to the soil nutrients, it is a slow process so this year I am using organic chicken manure as a topical additive to my garden beds. Local nurseries also sell steer manure but my father-in-law tended incredible gardens of perennials, vegetables and fruit and nut trees using only an annual dressing of chicken manure so I am going to see if I can be so blessed.
I have also realized that I am a shrub person. I enjoy flowers and my heart goes pitter patter when I visit a flower garden but my lifestyle and garden size dictates that I must corral my flower passion to one or two specialized beds where maintenance can be systematic. I will continue to develop an English cottage garden theme near my front entrance but most of my flower addiction will be fed in a cutting garden around the perimeter of the vegetable garden.
This is an open sunny spot with an integrated drip watering system for the driest summer days. Most gardeners I know enjoy sharing their blooms or bringing them indoors to be enjoyed at their leisure so you might want to consider starting a cutting garden bed in your garden.
The perfect location for a cutting garden of course depends upon the flowers you wish to grow but most traditional perennial cutting garden flowers require a sunny, well drained spot, away from the main garden or view from the house. Although a cutting garden can look lovely in its prime its beauty will deteriorate as various flower’s blooms are cut or spent throughout the season.
A drip watering system is beneficial as it will efficiently water roots while not damaging the flowers and foliage. Planting in rows or clumps of the same plant allows for easy maintenance and cutting. There are no rules in making a cutting garden. You get to plant what you like always remembering the feeding, watering and mulching needs of the plant. Dead-heading or pruning after blooming is particularly important in a cutting garden to encourage the most blooms for the longest time.
There may not be rules but here are a few ideas to consider. A flower arrangement uses a variety of plant characteristics to complete an interesting display. A cutting garden should contain plants with varying characteristics including showy flowers of various shapes, sizes and colors, tall or dramatic accents, filler flowers and striking foliage. Remember to plant late blooming flowers to extend your flowering season.
My cutting garden will be traditional but with new cultivars of tropical plants being introduced, if you are willing to provide winter protection or over-winter plants in a greenhouse you might enjoy growing a more exotic cutting garden.
The Easter lilies (Lilium longiflorum) you find blooming now are forced so their blooms coincide with Easter but after the blooms fade and after fear of frost they can be planted outdoors. Some varieties are not cold hardy but in our zone 8 climate most should survive the winter. Simply amend the bottom of the hole with an organic fertilizer when planting and water well during the summer and next year you should have blooms during the natural blooming time of June to July.