“I have been asked by my future daughter-in-law to help with bouquets and table arrangements for the upcoming wedding in September. She would like it if her uncle (who owns a Christmas tree farm) and me (an avid gardener) would plant flowers that she could use in her arrangements this year. I would like to use native perennials and/or annuals that would hold up in vases for a few days. Could you give me any suggestions?”
September Wedding Flowers
The answer may not be exactly what you hoped for, but the result will be lovely none-the-less. While the idea of celebrating a wedding with freshly cut native perennial wildflowers from your own garden is enchanting, it is something that can only realistically be achieved with a mature planting.
Perennial plants take time, in many cases two to three years, to become well established and reach their full blooming potential. The old timer’s saying goes: “First year they sleep. Second year they creep. Third year they leap.” Perennial plants first put their energy into developing a healthy root system, then healthy top growth and – finally – devote their full energy to blooming. For this reason, a perennial planted in the spring of the year will clearly not be producing armloads of cut flowers for a wedding celebration that summer or fall. One must also consider that most perennials bloom for three to four weeks of the season, and that their bloom time is affected by variable weather. Therefore, unless you plan carefully (and get very lucky) it is unlikely that your plant will be in full bloom on the day of the wedding.
That said, you could still count on some native wildflowers in September if you have access to naturalized areas (such as might be found in parts of the Christmas tree farm?). You may find, blooming wild in September, such prairie natives as Aster, Black Eyed Susan, Goldenrod, and Grasses.
As far as your planned plantings, though, I would recommend concentrating on annuals for the best yield of cut flowers in September. Most annuals, because their entire life cycle takes place in a single season and they don’t need to reserve energy for future years, bloom heavily throughout the season. If you plant a selection of annual flowers that lend themselves to cutting you should have a good harvest for bouquets on the day of the wedding. You asked which flowers would hold up in vases for several days, but I highly recommend cutting the flowers no earlier than the day before the event.
The ideal way to grow cutting flowers is in the very utilitarian style of a cutting garden. Planting in rows allows you to maximize your growing space and, as a result, your floral yield. Prepare the soil before planting by adding generous amounts of organic matter. Plant rows of your young plants, which you can start from seed, purchase by the flat, or as individual small plants and top-dress with organic fertilizer. To encourage rapid, healthy growth and heavy bud set I would also recommend applying a soluble fertilizer, formulated for blooming plants, every two to three weeks. We recommend Fox Farm Big Bloom, Fox Farm Tiger Bloom, or Jack’s Blossom Booster.
Although the annuals best suited for the cutting garden are not necessarily our natives, an airy, natural look can still be achieved with these flowers, and I am confident that your guests will be charmed by your beautiful hand grown wedding flowers.
Annuals for Cutting
When selecting annuals for your cutting garden make note of the height and description of the plants. Many newer varieties have been bred for short, compact stature which makes them better suited to container culture and use in smaller gardens. You will want the opposite – tall plants with long, sturdy stems that make them well suited for cutting.
Recommended Annuals for Cutting:
- Cutting selection: Long stemmed varieties such as ‘State Fair’, ‘California Mix’ , ‘Cut & Come Again’
- Floss Flower (Ageratum)
- Cutting selection: ‘Blue Planet’
- Verbena bonariensis
- A favorite! Make sure to plant the tall species, not the newer dwarf selections
- Spider Flower (Cleome)
- Cutting selection: ‘Fountain Blend’
- Cutting selection: Tall stemmed varieties such as ‘Crackerjack Blend’
- Love-in-a-Mist (Nigella)
- Grown not only for its lovely blue flowers but for its delicate papery seedpods that make excellent accents in bouquets
- Mexican Sunflower (Tithonia)
- Cutting selection: ‘Torch’
- Cutting selections: ‘Sensation Mix’, ‘Seashell Mix’
- Love-Lies-Bleeding (Amaranthus)
- Unique rope-like cascading wine-red tassels
- Cutting selection: ‘Chief Red Flame’
- Cutting selection: ‘Tall Maximum Blend’
- Pot Marigold (Calendula)
- Cutting selection: ‘Pacific Beauty Blend’
- Cutting selection: Tuberous types or ‘Decorative Double Blend’ seed selection
Accents for your bouquets:
- Foliage Plants
- Foliage can be a superb addition to bouquets. Consider including the eye-catching leaves of such plants as Coleus, Hosta and Ornamental Kale.
- Seed Pods
- Consider incorporating seedpods. The dried pods of Poppy, Iris, Peony, Allium, Ornamental Grasses and others can add unexpected interest to floral bouquets.
by Zannah Crowe