CREATE A FALL CUTTING GARDEN is special to the Mirror By Jane McKinley, ESVMG Master Gardener
Being a closet floral designer, my eye always goes to the plants with the hardiest blooms that stand up to arranging. I am attracted to different textures and colors which add interest and dimension to an arrangement. And am always asking myself, “how would this plant perform in a vase?” Then, there is the question of what to plant to produce those flowers, berries and seed pods to keep my kitchen windowsill, dining room table and porch alive with the outdoors.
Not thinking of fall blooming annuals and perennials in the spring, it’s easy to pass over these ones that look so uninteresting early in the year. But time and experience has proven that it is important to include fall blooming plants in the spring so that the cutting garden will stay alive with color well into the cooler months of the fall. The soft colors of spring and happy colors of summer will eventually give way to the deep oranges, butterscotch, burgundy and reddish browns of fall which make beautiful seasonal arrangements for the home.
|This article is an excerpt from the Eastern Shore of Virginia Master Gardener Fall newsletter, “Gardening on the Shore.” It is an example of the types of knowledge that one will acquire and share with the community as a Master Gardener. If interested, fall intern classes begin on October 3, 2018 and continue through February, 2019 with a break in November & December. For more information, go to the ESVMG website or call 757-678-7946 EXT. 29. Applications will also be available at the Cape Charles Farmers Market on Sept. 11.|
The fall offers a plethora of flowers that make wonderful additions to the cutting garden. In September, asters and dahlias (the “peonies of fall”) come into their own. New York aster (Symphyotrichum \nov-belgii) is a native perennial that offers showy ornamental flowers that attract butterflies. Perhaps a little more cutting-friendly is the golden aster (Heterotheca villosa ‘Golden Sunshine’), although it’s not really an aster. Butterfly-weed (Asclepias tuberosa) and Mexican sunflower (Tithonia diversifolia) continue blooming into the fall and are a magnet for migrating Monarch butterflies. Offering purple to create a contrasting color combination for the fall, coneflowers (Echinacea) also bloom past the summer and, once the flowers are spent, produce seed heads, as do Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta), that add interest to a dried arrangement. Annual sunflowers (Helianthus annuus cvs.), many of which come in wonderful harvest colors, will bloom into the late fall if seeds are sown in June. In October, if kept pruned in the summer (remove buds up until early July), chrysanthemums come into season. Many varieties of chrysanthemums will continue to bloom into November, especially if temperatures remain mild. Swamp sunflower (Helianthus angustifolius), a robust American native, is also blooming in November.
If your sunny garden space is limited, consider harvesting wildflowers from the roadside or beach. One can easily find fields of Seaside Goldenrod (Solidago sempervirens), High-tide Bush (Baccharis halimifolia) and Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta) on the Eastern Shore. When envisioning your fall arrangement, don’t forget to include the interesting spikes of American Beach Grass (Ammophila breviligulata). You, however, want to avoid harvesting them from areas where they have been planted as a dune stabilizer. If you want to brave the thorns, Devil’s Walking Stick (Aralia spinosa) makes a beautiful addition to an outdoor porch arrangement along with other native bloomers such as Smooth Sumac (Rhus glabra). Unlike some, Smooth Sumac is not poisonous and makes a lovely dried flower for a fall and winter arrangement.
The fall is an ideal time to include dried flower pods and berries in your arrangement. Northern Sea Oats (Chasmanthium latifolium), Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca), American Beautyberry (Callicarpa americana), rose hips (produced by Rugosa roses) and viburnum (various botanical names) all add a nice contrast to fall bloomers. Try growing okra in your vegetable garden and letting the pods dry on the stalk. They add interesting contrast to an arrangement and can be sprayed for holiday ornaments. Dried hydrangea flowers make a nice arrangement either as a collar around the base of other dried flowers or as a big, fluffy arrangement by itself. Experience has taught me that it is best to cut the blooms while still fresh on the shrub and dry them in water to retain their color. Although the thorns can be a challenge, Pyracantha (Pyracantha coccinea) offers rich orange berries which can be dramatic either by itself or as a focal point in an arrangement. Once established, Pyracantha provides lots of berries to use as cuttings with plenty left over to feed the birds in the winter. The variety noted has a sprawly, rangy growth habit, so allow plenty of room in a sunny spot for it to spread out. While Pyracantha has an upright growth habit, Heavenly Bamboo (Nandina domestica) produces clusters of reddish-orange berries that hang down, softening the edges of an arrangement as they cascade around its base.
To the Master Gardener, cut flowers from one’s own garden or natural area are the best reflection of the area in which they live – much more so than retail flowers either flown in from abroad or grown in a greenhouse under controlled conditions. However, don’t rule out adding the occasional retail flower to the leafy and dried branches from your garden. It’s all about balance.