How To Create The Best Cutting Garden

Gardeneering’s Tish Rehill is laying it all on the table.


HC&G: Why have a cutting garden and not just cut flowers from the garden?

TISH REHILL, founder/owner, Gardeneering: If you want to fill a vase with flowers every week, you’ll decimate your perennial borders, but if you have a dedicated cutting garden—or at least make a plan for cutting flowers within your garden’s borders—you can enjoy fresh posies and bouquets all season long. An ideal place for a cutting garden is within a vegetable garden, if you happen to have one. But don’t plant just one clump of cosmos or zinnias—you really need to keep planting for continuous blooms. Good fillers to mix in are Orlaya grandiflora, Alchemilla mollis, and Queen Anne’s lace.

How can you make it look pretty and well organized?

A fenced-in cutting garden always looks really charming, as do various structures, like tuteurs, that can support taller, unwieldy plants. Even tall flowers themselves, such as Filipendula, can be used as stakes. And delicate blooms like sweet peas look great on a trellis or lattice obelisk. Plus, they’re perfect in little julep cups after you cut them.

Sony Dsc

Photograph courtesy of Tish Rehill

Which flowers work best in cutting gardens?

Try long-stemmed chocolate cosmos or Browallia americana, which has sprays of small blue or white flowers. I also plant Italian white sunflowers against cutting garden fences: They grow up to six feet, and their pale cream blossoms last till it frosts. You can cut Scabiosas at every stage of flowering, from pincushion to fully open and flouncy. Herbs like lemon verbena have good foliage, a wispy flower, and a nice scent. Zinnia ‘Envy’ is an all-time favorite of mine because its chartreuse green complements all other flowers. And who doesn’t love dahlias? Even their buds will eventually open in a vase, giving you a good long show. Dinner-plate dahlias can be difficult to arrange in a vase, but the Karma Collection, cactus, and anemone dahlias are all terrific. Perennials like astilbes, Digitalis, Agastache, Monarda, and Echinops are great, too.

Which ones are more challenging?

Well, everything in gardening is an experiment. Years ago, I tried hollyhocks and failed, but then realized that they are hollow- stemmed, so I burned the cut ends to seal them, and it worked!

climbing flowers in a cutting garden

Photograph courtesy of Tish Rehill

What foliage would you add for filler?

Lysimachia clethroides. Not only is it a great cutting flower, but the greens last forever. And scented geraniums and lady’s mantle. You can plant shrubs like Abelia and Andromeda and use them in your arrangements, too. Grasses are a fleeting moment in a vase, although the flowers last a long time, and Hosta foliage looks amazing.

Do you add spring-blooming bulbs to your cutting gardens?

Of course—and best to order now to avoid delays. I always include daffodils and a mix of early-, mid-, and late-flowering tulip varietie —parrot tulips and tall, graceful French tulips are especially good for cutting. And don’t forget early bulbs like Muscari and Chionodoxa, which brighten up small bouquets. Another tip: Plant Martagon lilies in the fall, near your peonies, so that their midsummer reds and oranges will extend the bloom season further.

The print version of this article appears with the headline: Cutting Remarks.
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