Grow Easy and Unusual Flowers for Cutting

Orlaya flowers are as delicate as they look.
Each year I try a few new plants that I think or have heard make good cut flowers. My criteria? Stems of at least 6" long, flowers or foliage that remain fresh for three days or more, and stems that aren't too fussy about being cut and put in a vase.

On trial in my garden this year are four I started from seed. The first to bloom and give me great bouquet-filling material was Orlaya, a dressed-up version of Queen Anne's lace with pure white petals. Orlaya is as delicate as it looks, and it's on the fussy side when it comes to cutting. Have a vase in close proximity because it's best to cut and plunge in one swift motion. Even then, it might wilt, but when you get it inside, give stems another fresh cut and put it in water already treated with cut flower preservative.
But even after learning how to handle these flowers, they were just too delicate for most bouquets.

Another "filler" flower was chocolate lace flower, or Daucus, a carrot relative with a colorful demeanor. 
A dizzying array of Daucus.
Bee balm 'Bergamo' with carnations and Daucus.
Between my limited sun and its rangy attitude, I was surprised it was able to remain upright. Or mostly upright, anyway. It grew the full four feet tall as described, and although not as tricky as the Orlaya, still had its quirks about being picked too soon. Daucus should be picked after the umbel goes flat. What's an umbel? It's like a round landing pad for dragonflies. Which makes it even more interesting to grow even if you don't use it for cutting.

I'd tried this beebalm before, somewhat by accident. I started it on purpose in early spring, and wish I'd been more successful. Bee balm 'Bergamo' is a great cut flower if you're looking for a purply-magenta color. But it was quite spindly in my garden, probably from lack of sun. If you try this variety, give it lots of sun, don't let it dry out, and pick it regularly to keep it in bloom.

Another great flower for late summer bouquets is annual aster, or Callistephus. I'd fallen in love with it the previous year after buying it as a couple of good-sized plants. The thing with annual aster (also known as Chinese aster) is that it is a slow starter--the epitome of the late bloomer--that doesn't do a whole lot until July. 

Annual aster makes a great cut flower, shown here with bee balm 'Bergamo'.

This year I grew a pale peach double. The plants that made it produced gorgeous double-petalled flowers on stems that only grew about 18", but worked well with Veronica, Angelonia, and shorter Daucus stems.

In a crowded garden like mine, it can be tricky to work in late-bloomers like the annual asters. 

I'd underestimated their pokey pace, planting them when they were nearly a foot tall in what would become a spot shaded by neighbors that grew faster and taller than they did. 

I staked them, which was no sweat because, by the time they produced buds, there were only three plants left.

My garden is not a perfectly-landscaped showplace, but a testing ground where I have space for one or three of each plant I'm trying each year. Because that's what I love to do. These four plants from seed are just the tip of the 2018 iceberg that is my plant collection gathered from nearly a dozen brick and mortar nurseries and just as many mail order online sources.

I will always try new flowers for the vase, because I love to have them up close where I can really get a good look at their individual perfection.

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