Making the most of nature’s beauty
Photos by Shannon Cornman
"A garden to walk in and immensity to dream in — what more could he ask? A few flowers at his feet and above him the stars." — Victor Hugo, Les Miserables
Photo by Carli Economy
Few decorative elements have the effect of fresh flowers. Silk arrangements can provide color and interest with minimal effort, but nothing bestows a touch of effervescence like a bouquet of blooms with the kiss of sunshine still on them.
Whether you’ve never gardened in your life, or have a healthy bloom bounty already going in your outdoor landscaping, an enjoyment of fresh flowers and desire to have them at hand is reason enough to consider starting a cutting garden.
Casey Hentges, former director of horticulture at the Myriad Botanical Gardens and current host of OETA’s “Oklahoma Gardening,” gives us insight about starting a cutting garden in the 405.
“In Oklahoma, we can grow flowers all year round that would provide excellent materials for floral arrangements,” Hentges says. “You can use a combination of perennials, annuals and even shrubs for some nice foliage, or evergreen to add to your arrangements.”
She pointed out that a cutting garden isn’t relegated to a single season. “In the spring, a low-maintenance and easy flower to grow is iris. They come in every color under the sun and have nice stems for arranging. You can also cut some of the strappy foliage to include in the display. Daffodils are also a nice cut flower, but should not be placed in the same vase as other cut flowers, as they secrete a sap that can prevent other flowers from being able to take up water. Often, these two plants are blooming when winter is still looming, and if there is threat of a severe storm or freeze, gardeners shouldn’t feel guilty about bringing these flowers indoors to enjoy. Also, early in the season, you can cut some branches from forsythia and quince — which are early flowering shrubs — and when you bring them indoors to warmer temperatures, this will force those flower buds to open sooner.”
As days lengthen, more plants begin to bloom and your cutting garden becomes even more bountiful. “In the summertime, there is a plethora of plants to choose from: Echinacea, daisy, yarrow and black-eyed Susan are just a few of the easy-to-grow perennials that will continue to provide flowers throughout the summer months,” Hentges says.
“As fall approaches, we often start to think more about the autumn foliage. However, there are still plants blooming, including goldenrod and salvia. Autumn is also a good time to take advantage of ornamental grasses you might have in your garden that have by this point produced beautiful seed heads or plumes. And don’t just assume ornamental grasses are green, as they come in a range of colors from blueish gray to pinks and purples,” she says.
“As winter sets in and people are beginning to think about the holidays, this is a great time turn toward the hollies and junipers. Ilex decidua is a native holly that will drop its leaves in the winter to reveal branches covered in red berries. Also, you can add interest into your arrangements by just adding branches from a curly willow.”
If you’re thinking that it would take extensive planning to plot out a cutting garden that spans the seasons, Hentges’ response is that it does require some forethought, but it doesn’t need to be complicated.
“In order to continue cutting from your garden throughout the seasons, you want to make sure to stagger the types of plants that you have regarding their bloom time. Of course, the bigger your garden, the more you can cut. Also, you might want to mix your garden with annuals and perennials; annuals tend to bloom more steadily while perennials may only have a certain window of bloom time during their season. The benefit to planting perennials is that you won’t have to replant them each year, like annuals, and perennials will continue to get larger, providing more flowers each year they return.”
Once you have your homegrown blooms in hand, what do you do with them? Oklahoma City-based floral artist Jodi Ferrell of Grave Robber Floral Co. gives some direction for amateur arrangers and thoughts about composition.
“Less can be more,” Ferrell says. “You don’t have to have a flower in every space — negative space is your aesthetic friend.”
If this sounds a little like a cousin of Marie Kondo’s famous decluttering process, you may be picking up on the Japanese influence on Ferrell’s design mindset.
“The art of ikebana, Japanese flower arranging, has been a favorite of mine to study,” Ferrell says. “It teaches you how to draw lines with flowers that respect nature. It’s a way of viewing plants and appreciating flowers in the four seasons.”
Developing a garden for the purpose of filling your home with fresh blooms can be a rewarding way to integrate a lively decor practice with a relaxing, joy-inducing hobby. It can also offer a way to generate a synthesis between indoor and outdoor design, which makes for a beautiful environment both indoors and out.
Cutting Garden Choices and Resource Guide
Casey Hentges has compiled some suggestions for flowers that look spectacular and grow well in Oklahoma soil and climate – try these beauties:
Achillea, Astilbe, Blackberry Lilies, Campanula, Canna, Celosia, Chrysanthemum, Cleome, Cosmos, Echinacea, Gerbera Daisy, Globe Amaranth, Iris, Liatris, Rudbeckia, Shasta Daisy, Snapdragons, Sunflowers, Yarrow, Zinnias
To learn more about planting, start with these excellent resources:
Perennial Flowers for Specific Uses in Oklahoma
Annual Flowers for Specific Uses in Oklahoma
The Care and Handling of Cut Flowers
Editor’s note: Photos taken in Norman’s historic Southridge Neighborhood.