I feel that I have made several progressions as a gardener over the years. When I first started gardening, I grew only a few ornamental perennials for their ease and reliability. Gaining confidence, I then progressed to edibles, and finally, I started dabbling in growing annuals. I’ve found that along the way I have grown as much as the plants, learning from my successes and failures.
For the past several years, I focused mainly on growing edibles, which I love, but I have found that I miss having beds full of colorful flowers. Buying bouquets at the market provided a temporary fix, but cut flowers can have a short vase life. When the flowers finish blooming, I once again long for their presence. So, when I learned about cut flower gardens, I was intrigued. I love bringing the garden indoors with bouquets, but I also enjoy having flowers in the landscape. A cut flower garden would provide me with both. Having grown edibles, the concept of planting crops, harvesting, and succession sowing were familiar, but applying these principles to flowers was new and exciting. And so, when I saw an opportunity to participate in a cut flower class at the historic Bevier House, I jumped at the chance to attend.
The Bevier House, originating from a 17th-century one-room stone dwelling, has become the home of the Ulster County Historical Society (UCHS). They use the beautiful site as both a museum and educational resource, showcasing furnishings, objects, and decorative elements from the 17th to the 20th century. It was the perfect backdrop for our outdoor cut flower class.
Our instructor, Lily Bruder-Zal of Vanishing Point Farm, was an excellent teacher, offering tips and tricks that she’s learned while growing flowers on their 40-acre cut flower farm in Highland, NY. Her class detailed the process of planting, maintaining, and harvesting a cut flower garden, with specific details on planting for continuous blooms. She also discussed flower conditioning to improve vase life and how to dry flowers for arrangements. I learned so many new things about cut flowers; for example, cosmos will continue to open in water once picked, but you should cut zinnias when the flowers are in full bloom. Poppies open at night because they aren’t fond of the heat, and the best time to cut flowers is early in the morning when the stems are rigid and filled with water. After listening to and jotting down her advice, filling several pages in my notebook, I felt confident that growing a cut flower garden was not only something I could do but something I wanted to do.
Luckily for me, Lily provided a tray of flower seedlings that she had grown to all class participants to plant a cut flower garden at home. The seedlings are a mix of annuals and perennials that include cosmos, poppies, zinnias, delphiniums, snapdragons, dahlias, and more. These were selected based on their high-quality cut flower traits, such as ease of care, good flower production, and season-long blooms.
I can’t wait to start planting my cut flower garden and apply all of the lessons I learned in class. If all goes well, I will be harvesting bouquets from my garden all season long. From now on, when I browse those seed catalogs in the dead of winter, I will keep my eye out for flowers I can grow in the cutting garden. They will fill both the landscape and my home with beautiful blooms and become an open invitation to pollinators. If you ever get the chance to attend a similar class, I highly recommend it. Now, I’m off to plant my cutting garden and dream of the many bouquets I will be picking in the months to come.