Grow your own flower patch

    Recently I went to a lecture at Wyck given by Jennie Love, the owner of Love’n Fresh Flowers on how to create your own cutting garden.

    Love’n Fresh is a boutique floral design company that uses only local, mainly organic flowers, and Jennie grows almost everything she uses right here in Philly. In fact, she is one of the only urban commercial flower growers in the entire country.

    According to Jennie, it’s really not difficult to grow your own bouquets from seed. It surprised me to learn that you don’t actually need much space to harvest flowers all season long, just about a 6’x8′ or equivalent patch of ground. Most of the flowers that she discussed are very easy to grow, and some will reseed every year.

    When picking flowers, it’s all about selecting for vase life. Before this lecture, I had never understood how sometimes a nice, fresh picked garden arrangement can deconstruct within hours, leaving some bare stems surrounded by discarded petals. It turns out that once a pollinator visits a bloom the flower begins its transformation into a seed capsule, and wastes no time shedding the flower parts of its anatomy. Jennie explained that for longer lasting cut flowers, they should be harvested just as they are beginning to open. This is before the stamens (usually the tiny, often yellow, bits in the middle that attract insects) begin to show. Your virgin blossom will live much longer than the promiscuous ones outside, which makes me glad to not be a flower.

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    A few of Jennie’s top picks for cut flowers that can be easily grown by you and me:

    Zinnias- Benary’s Giant and Queen Red Lime. Direct sow in the garden in May

    Cosmos- Rose Bon Bon. Direct seed in garden in June

    Poppies- French Flounce. Direct seed as soon as ground is workable (March?)

    Dianthus- Amazon series. Sow seeds indoors now and set out in early spring.

    These plants will end up being the backbone of your little garden, and can be supplemented by plants such as larkspur, heuchera, celosia, flowering dill, yarrow, and calendula, or whatever else you are fond of. When perennials or shrubs like hydrangea, crape myrtle, and roses come into bloom, there will be lots of annual flowers to combine with them for the vase.

    The last bit of sage advice? The phrase “cutting garden” sounds lovely and romantic, as if by having one you’ll be transported to a scene from a period film. In reality cutting gardens aren’t that attractive, since you’ll be taking all the flowers. It’s best to place your cutting garden somewhere you don’t need to look at it all the time.

    Love n’ Fresh Flowers specializes in floral design for events, and will also be at several farmers markets this summer. The company is offering a flower CSA, in which subscribers will receive buckets of fresh flowers from anywhere between 4-16 weeks in the summer. More details on Love n’Fresh Flowers can be found on their website.

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