Some of the prettiest flowers for cutting are annuals that grow and bloom fast and thrive in cool weather. Sweet peas, bachelor’s buttons, sulfur coreopsis, love-in-a-mist and annual baby’s breath are some of the best cool-season cut flowers that flower quickly from seed. Growing them is a snap. Start them in early August, and you should have lots of pretty flowers for cutting by late September to early October.
If you are someone who already plants cut flowers, you will likely still have annual blooms from summer on hand—like summer zinnias, tall marigolds and purple cosmos—but these tend to lose steam towards the end of the season. Removing old plants and filling in the holes with fresh, cool-season flowers will pay off. Just be sure to turn and smooth the clean ground for planting, and topdress with a good, moisture-holding mix that will allow your new cut flower seeds to germinate easily. Fafard Ultra Outdoor Planting Mix is a great choice.
Once your area is prepared, sprinkle your seeds of choice over the soil, sprinkle some additional mix on top and gently pat the area down. Keep newly sown spots evenly moist by with daily misting or watering. Most annuals germinate quickly, in a week or a bit more. Once the new seedlings have emerged, continue providing them with needed moisture and be sure to remove any weed seedlings. Water seedlings/plantlets every two weeks with a little water-soluble flower food. This will help them grow and flower at top speed.
Sweet peas (Lathyrus odoratus, 74-85 days from seed) are some of the sweetest smelling cool cut flowers, but they require light trellising. This is easily done by securing strong, firm stakes into the ground and lining the spaces between them with trellis netting that the peas can climb up with their tendrils. Renee’s Garden Seeds carries loads of exceptional sweet peas for cutting. The antique ‘Perfume Delight’ is especially fragrant and a little more heat-tolerant, which allows them to forge through unexpected fall heat. (Read Renee’s article “All About Sweet Peas” for more information about these pleasing flowers.)
Colorful bachelor’s buttons (Centaurea cyanus, 65-75 days from seed) come in shades of richest violet-blue, pink white and deepest burgundy. Most agree that the blue flowers are the most remarkable and prettiest in a vase. There are lots of tidy dwarf varieties but these have short stems. Long-stemmed selections are the best for cutting, but the weak-stemmed plants require staking for reliable upright growth. ‘Blue Boy’ is an old-fashioned, large-flowered heirloom with tall stems perfect for cutting.
Sulfur coreopsis (Coreopsis sulphureus, 50-60 days from seed) is one of the fastest cut flowers to bloom from seed. The long-stemmed ‘Towering Orange’ is a Park’s Seed exclusive that produces billows of tangerine orange flowers that will last a long time. (These look beautiful in a vase mixed with ‘Blue Boy’ flowers!)
Uniquely lacy flowers make love-in-a-mist (Nigella damascena, 63-80 days from seed) especially charming in the garden or a vase. The dried seed pots are also visually interesting, allowing them to double as dried flowers. The flowers come in shades of violet-blue, purple, white and pink. One of the better Nigella mixes is provided by Johnny’s Selected Seeds.
No flower arrangement is complete without a frothy filler flower to add loft and interest. Annual baby’s breath is the standard choice and ‘Covent Garden Market’ is a tall, airy choice that will bloom until frost. It is very easy to grow and its small, white, cup-shaped flowers make more colorful blooms stand out in a vase.
Cut flowers make gardens and homes more colorful, so consider planting some of these traditional beauties now for fall. You’ll save money at the farmer’s market and impress your guests.