Grow flowers and foliage for summer bouquets
Imagine receiving a bouquet of flowers every week all summer long. Make this dream a reality by planting a cutting garden. Claim some space in the vegetable garden, create a new bed or just plant annuals for cutting among perennials in the border.
Choose varieties that bloom on tall stems and in colors favored for arrangements. Consider the size and form of blooms for the most interesting bouquets. And don't forget about plants with interesting foliage -- either in texture or color -- for artistic elements.
If flowers are grown from seed, a series of plantings -- each two or three weeks apart -- ensure there are always fresh flowers available for cutting. Fill the garden, and the vase, with the gorgeous color of some of my favorites.
The blooms of celosia add drama to arrangements. There are varieties of coleus for sun and shade. Dragon's Breath is a magnificent variety that grows 24 inches tall and offers red-hot plumes to late summer bouquets. The foliage is almost as radiant as the flowers. Celosia loves heat so plant it in full sun. Be careful not to overwater.
Cosmos provides an abundant supply of large, daisylike blossoms in white, pink, burgundy, red, orange and yellow on long, slender stems. I like Sensation Mix because plants grow 3 to 4 feet tall, perfect for large arrangements. Cut plenty of stems to keep them blooming all summer long.
Plant Cosmos in full sun in an area protected from strong winds or staking may be necessary. Overwatering and over-fertilizing will lead to lax growth.
Grow coleus for its bold and bright foliage. There are varieties of coleus for sun and shade.
There are varieties in shades of hot pink, sizzling red, smoldering deep burgundy, vivid chartreuse and a myriad combinations of these. Plant some with small leaves to use as fillers in bouquets; plant others with large leaves to frame flowers or fill a vase all by themselves.
African marigolds contribute charming pompon-like blooms -- creamy white, sunny yellow, gold, orange, or red -- on sturdy stems up to 3 feet tall. Plant marigolds in loose, well-drained soil in full sun.
Grow Ageratum for its fuzzy flower clusters. Tall Blue Planet flaunts soft lavender-blue blossoms on sturdy stems up to 30 inches tall and is a great filler in arrangements. Plant Ageratum in rich, well-drained soil in full sun or light shade.
Summer bouquets wouldn't be the same without sunflowers. Busy Bee grows up to 4 feet tall and displays dark brown centers surrounded by golden petals. Italian White boasts creamy white flowers with small dark centers on 5- to 6-foot stems.
Plant sunflowers in full sun in well-drained soil. Keep the soil moist until plants are established in the garden. Then sit back and watch them grow.
Saving the best for last, zinnias are a cutting garden must.
The long and strong stems of State Fair Mix proudly present supersized, 5-inch flowers in a rainbow of colors. Zinnias also add bold pops of color in the garden while waiting for a snip of the pruners. These sun lovers need their soil kept slightly moist until plants have settled into the garden.
• Diana Stoll is a horticulturist, garden writer and speaker. She blogs at gardenwithdiana.com.