Planning your perennial garden with cut flowers

By Melanie Mathieson
The Gardening Guru

Recently, I was contacted by a client to do a garden design for their front flowerbed.
This client was interested in a makeover to the current garden, with low maintenance as the ultimate goal.
As I started the interview, it quickly came to light that the plants I chose for the new design had to serve two purposes: easy, low-maintenance perennials that were great for cutting and using in floral designs.
This can be a tall order in a shade-loving garden but there certainly are some good choices that can be incorporated choices.
Plus my client has additional gardens in full sun, with many other perennials great for cut flowers and floral arrangements.
I’m sure there are many more gardeners out there who need some suggestions for perennials that have ideal flowers for cutting and displaying in either a vase or a as part of a floral arrangement.
Shade-loving
•Astilbe
In many varieties, the spring leaves can be a deep red.
They bloom from late May through June, with feathery plumes of pink, red, or white flowers.
•Alchemilla—Lady’s Mantle
A flower arranger’s favourite, with unusual chartreuse flowers that are lacy and airy looking, and attractive foliage.
The flowers also last a long time in water.
•Aquilegia—Columbine
An excellent cut flower with beautiful June-blooming plants that come in many colours, ranging from black to white with all the reds, pinks, purples, and yellows in between and endless double colour combinations.
Their unique spurred flowers can better be viewed close up. Some varieties have double petals.
•Dicentra—Bleeding heart
Available in white and shades of pink. Some varieties have fern-like leaves.
They make a delicate but interesting addition to any arrangement.
•Ferns
Many species can survive in this zone, and are a great greenery filler in vases and arrangements.
•Hosta
Both the leaves and plumes of purple or white flowers, depending on variety, can be used in floral arrangements.
Partial to full sun
•Achillea—Yarrow
Available in yellow, white, pink, red, and orange. The flowers are long-lasting, and the foliage is fine and feathery.
The cultivar “Moonshine” has lemon yellow flowers and silvery foliage.
Can withstand full sun and drier soils.
•Artemisia
A huge genus of plants, including silver mound, Dusty Miller, sagebrush, the herb tarragon, and wormwood.
The silver mound varieties (“Silver King,” “Silver Queen,” and others) provide silver foliage that combine well with strong colours like purple or deep blue.
All plants of the genus have aromatic and interesting foliage great to complement flowers.
As well, most varieties tend to thrive in the hot enduring sun and drier soils, where not much else survives.
•Chrysanthemum—Daisy family
A large family of plants that provides many good cut flowers, including the Shasta Daisy, which has single or double white blooms.
Painted Daisy (Pyrethrum), as the name suggests, provides shades of pinks and reds. The English daisy is a smaller version of the painted one.
Hardy “Mums” bloom from August to October, and come in many colours.
(Note: the Shasta daisy and painted daisy tend to be quite hardy in this zone, but the hardy “Mums” and English daisy varieties don’t always fare that well after a tough winter).
•Doronicum—Leopard’s Bane
Bright yellow, daisy-like flower that combines well with other perennials, especially bright red flowering varieties.
Early-season bloomer.
•Gaillardia—Blanket Flower
Wonderful border perennials that flower all summer and are good cut flowers.
Daisy-like flowers in yellow, red, mahogany, and two-tone combinations.
Read the tag before you buy as some varieties are dwarf and only grow 10-12 inches high, so plant near the front of your garden.
•Gypsophila—Baby’s Breath
Very useful filler in flower arrangements. Airy clusters of tiny pink or white blooms available in single or double forms.
Can thrive in some areas of this zone and almost become invasive while other gardeners have a hard time getting it to survive a winter.
Sometimes can be found in a pinkish variety and a creeping variety, which is much lower in height.
This is a great perennial to start from seed directly sown into the bed in early spring.
Also loves hot and dry locations like the Artemisia species.
If you have trouble finding Baby’s Breath in the area nurseries, two statice species (German statice or sea lavender) are excellent substitutes.
•Iris
So many varieties, colours, and sizes to chose from.
Dwarf irises bloom in spring, followed by the tall bearded irises in late May and early June. Flowering next are Siberian, Japanese, and flag irises.
All have sword-like foliage and all are good as cut flowers.
The Siberian iris can tolerate moist to dry soils and partial shade, so it is your most versatile of the genus.
•Lilies
So many choices in species varieties and colours that all work well in arrangements.
If you research your selections and chose a multitude of species and varieties, you can have blooms from late spring until the end of August.
Lilies are grown from hardy bulbs that can be planted in the spring or fall.
•Monarda—Bee Balm, Bergamot
Available in white, red, pink, and purple in “Panorama Mix.” Named varieties are “Cambridge Scarlet,” “Croftway Pink,” and “Blue Stocking.”
•Peony
Many varieties are available, both double and single, in red, pink, or white. Bloom time is from late May through June, and the handsome foliage can provide greenery for later floral arrangements.
(Gardening Guru tip: In order to allow your plant to establish itself first, do not take the blooms until your peony is at least three years old).
•Phlox (Phlox paniculata)
Summer phlox or tall phlox have rich, vibrant colours of white, pink, red, and orange.
Some varieties are bi-colour with a contrasting “eye.” Very long bloom time from mid-summer to fall.
You also can consider creeping phlox varieties as filler in your early-spring floral arrangements.
This is meant as a starter list as there are many other flowers that are ideal for flower arranging, or as cut flowers to display in a vase.
If you do not see your favourite on this list, there are plenty of resources available in print or electronically to do your own research.
Just keep in mind there are some species of flowers out there that do not last when cut and placed in water, so those are the ones you want to enjoy outdoors in the garden.

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