Do You Know What a Cut-Flower Garden Is?
Victoria’s Clare Monica Day does—and she’s sharing her best tips for how to grow one at home.
Ten years ago, in an effort to support the local bee population, Clare Monica Day started growing flowers on a section of the 12-acre farm she shares with her husband just outside of Victoria. Gradually, the flowers formed the basis of her floral design business, which led to her teaching arrangement classes in the studio on their property. “I kept getting more and more questions about the growing side of things,” says Day, who sees the renewed interest in organic flower farms—and growing flowers for the purpose of using them in arrangements (known as cut-flower gardening)—as an extension of the farm-to-table movement. “When I first started, no one was talking about local flowers, and I knew it would follow the conversations that were happening around local food, coffee and wine.”
Last year, Day began focusing less on floral design and more on teaching and gardening. Her latest venture, Garden to Vase, is an online course that thoughtfully breaks down the process of cultivating a cut-flower garden. Her own garden, a north-facing site with clay soil and marauding black-tailed deer, offers plenty of inspiration so we caught up with Day to get some of her best advice for growing a cut-flower garden at home.
6 Cut-Flower Gardening Tips from Clare Monica Day:
1. Keep it really simple in the beginning. “Unless you have lots of time and a big budget, start small with a few easy-to-grow flowers like summer annuals and a few easy perennials like salvia or coneflower.”
2. Select cut-and-come again flowers. “Cut-and-come again flowers are ones that will continue to produce blooms so long as you cut the ones already on the plant. Zinnias, cosmos, and dahlias are among the best cut-and-come again flowers. These are also among the easiest flowers to grow.”
3. Pinch your flowers. “This sounds weird but it is essential to get lots of blooms. With most flowers, if you pinch [a form of pruning] the growing tip, the plant will branch, and you’ll get a bushier shape and way more flowers. I do this two or three times for some of my plants and have three to four times as many blooms as I would otherwise. Sweet peas, zinnias, cosmos and dahlias can all be pinched.”
4. Plan for multiple bloom times. “One of the biggest challenges is having plenty of cutting material at any given time. A great way to extend your bloom season is to select a variety of flowers that have different bloom times. For example, narcissus, tulips and bearded irises (and others!) have some varieties that bloom early spring, some that bloom mid-spring and some that bloom late spring.”
5. Don’t worry about floral food. “In most cases you don’t need it. If you want to keep your flowers lasting for a long time, use clean, cool, filtered water, keep everything as clean as possible while you prepare and compose your arrangement, and then change the water every other day.”
6. Lastly, the secret to a really great organic garden is treating it as an interconnected system. “This is at the core of an organic gardening philosophy. It influences everything you do in the garden; from how you choose to deal with pests and disease, to how you build and tend your soil, and everything in between.”