Gardening column: The ins and outs of growing starters
- Article by: Nancy Rose
- Contributing Writer
- March 27, 2009 - 10:20 AM
QMy daughter is getting married in August, and she and I would like to grow flowers for the wedding bouquets and other arrangements. Can you suggest flowers that would be in bloom in August? We'd like to grow a range of colors, but nothing really bright, like red, and we're aiming for a casual, wildflower look.
AAnnuals and some summer flowering bulbs will be the best choices for an August wedding. Many perennials provide nice cut flowers, but because you would have to start with small plants this spring most would not produce enough flowers for cutting by August. I will mention some perennials, though, and you can check with friends and relatives to see if they might be able to provide you with some stems of flowers.
Timing is critical. I suggest that you do successive seedings of the annuals that can be sown outdoors. If you seed a short row each week or so in late spring into early summer, you'll have a better chance that enough flowers will be in peak bloom on the wedding date. Check seed catalogs or packages for information on how long it should take from seeding to bloom. This figure can vary greatly, of course, depending on weather conditions. Because summers are cooler in the Upper Midwest, you may need to add a week or more to the number of days to maturity.
Also make sure that you give the flowers these optimal growing conditions:
- Well-worked garden soil.
- Weed-free conditions.
- Full sun.
- Regular watering.
Don't overfertilize. This encourages leafy growth, not flowers.
Tall growing snapdragons will make elegant spikes of flowers for arrangements. Select single colors (white, pink and pale yellow would be nice). You can use a mixed-color packet of seeds, but some of the colors may be too bright. Start snapdragons indoors in March or early April.
Other annuals that would need to be started indoors: salvias, heliotrope, stocks, statice and globe flower (Gomphrena). Many people are familiar only with salvia varieties that have stiff, fire-engine red spikes of flowers, but there are several others that would be more suited to your wedding selections. Salvia farinacea has wonderful cultivars such as the blue-purple spikes of 'Victoria' and 'Blue Bedder,' white flowered 'White Victoria' and 'Cirrus', and the cultivar 'Strata,' which has a lovely combination of blue and white flowers. Salvia coccinea also has some good choices including 'Coral Nymph,' with coral pink and white flowers, and 'Snow Nymph,' with all white flowers.
Annuals that can be seeded directly in the garden are bachelor's buttons, cosmos, annual baby's breath, candytuft, pincushion flower (Scabiosa), small-flowered zinnias and asters. Two annuals with lacy, rounded flower clusters are blue lace flower (Trachymene coerulea) and ammi (Ammi majus), which has white flowers that resemble Queen Anne's lace. Both can be direct-seeded. Annual larkspur makes a lovely cut flower, but it prefers cool growing conditions and might be looking a bit ragged in August, though it's worth trying.
Some summer blooming bulbs might provide lovely wedding flowers. Again, timing may be tricky on these so plant over a period of time to improve your chances of getting blooms on the right date. Gladioluses would be nice for the tall spike component of the arrangements. Gladioluses grow from corms (similar to bulbs), which can be planted successively from late May through June. I'd recommend the miniature flowered-types, because their smaller flowers are more in scale with smaller arrangements. Asiatic lilies usually bloom earlier in the summer, but a late planting might push back the bloom date. Oriental lilies bloom later and would make spectacular focal points for the arrangements. 'Casa Blanca' is a well-known cultivar with fragrant, pure white flowers. Other Oriental lilies are available in shades of pink. Tuberose is another summer blooming bulb that bears spikes of double, pinkish white, highly fragrant flowers.
Some perennials that could provide August flowers include yarrow (Achillea) varieties such as A. ptarmica 'The Pearl' and hybrid yarrows 'Summer Pastels' and 'Debutante,' which bloom in a range of warm colors. Swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata) has pink flowers and the cultivar 'Ice Ballet' has white flowers. They make nice cut flowers, but sap from the stems can irritate the skin. Hostas can provide interesting foliage to anchor the arrangements, and some hostas have attractive and fragrant flowers as well. Purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) will still be blooming in August, though it's pinkish-purple flowers may be too bright for your tastes. Shasta daisies or oxeye daisies will lend a casual air to arrangements. Liatris, or gayfeather, provides long spikes of tufted pinkish-purple flowers.
-- Nancy Rose is a research horticulturist at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum. She spends her spare time gardening, inside or outside, depending on the weather. Please address gardening questions to her at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum, P.O. Box 39, Chanhassen MN 55317. She will answer questions in this column only.
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