Cut flower gardens are attractive options for those who don't like removing the best blooms from their borders and beds for indoor display.
The bouquets also open new avenues for creativity along with becoming something personal to share. And perhaps best: The cuttings can grow into a profitable sideline.
"Ours is a hobby gone berserk," said Gail Burr, who with her husband, Steve, operates Everlastings and Time Country Gardens in the Finger Lakes region of central New York.
"We always had an interest in gardening so when we retired, we started selling our bouquets and arrangements," she said. "The Canandaigua (N.Y.) Farmers Market is our primary venue, although we also sell for weddings."
The price of a Burr garden bouquet runs $8 and climbs to around $25 for something larger, like a hospital spray.
"In my mind, flowers that bring beauty into the home should be affordable." Burr said. "Typical florist prices are precipitous for many."
The roots of cutting gardens go back to the Victorian era or to wealthy landowners who grew flowers for the manor house, said Debra Prinzing, author of "The 50 Mile Bouquet" (St. Lynn's Press, 2012).
"That's what we think of as cutting gardens," she said. "One row of sunflowers, one of snapdragons, one row of zinnias. Now, though, we're looking at adding cutting ingredients to natural gardens. There's enough variety there that you wouldn't have a bare spot."
Which blooms are best for bouquets? The choices are vast, and include annuals, perennials, bulbs, fruits, vegetables and flowering woody stems. Think lilacs, zinnias, peonies, mums, hydrangeas and sunflowers. Don't forget roses, dahlias, cattails, succulents, kale, grasses and lilies.
Many people have begun planting perennials in their cutting gardens with new genetics that produce tougher plants, more blooms and longer flowering times, said Anthony Tesselaar, president and co-founder of Tesselaar Plants, in Silvan, Australia.
"Once cut, these newer plants come back with even more flowers that grace the garden," Tesselaar said.
Some suggestions for prolonging the beauty of cut botanicals:
• Cut the flowers when they're dew fresh in the morning rather than wilted from the afternoon sun.
• Use sharp shears to prevent crushing the stems, which reduces the flow of water to the blooms.
• Use a commercial floral preservative to acidify the container water. Homemade formulas include table sugar and bleach. "Adding some lemonade also extends the life of the water," Tesselaar said.
Growing a cutting garden is one thing. Knowing how to create a stunning display with the cut flowers is quite another. Here are some tips:
• Use a dominant flower or flowers. Many designers prefer working with uneven numbers, Prinzing said.
• Insert a vertical feature, such as a flowering branch or some ornamental grass.
• Drape the arrangement with "spillers" (vines, foliage, fruit) that soften its look.
Cut flower gardens boost the longstanding tradition of garden-to-garden sharing, Prinzing said.
"I have a friend who saves inexpensive glass vases," she said. "When someone leaves her house, they always leave with a bouquet of roses from her house."