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Cut Flower Gardens

By Alex Tisthammer

When I used to imagine a cut flower garden, I would think of English cottage gardens full of species that we couldn’t grow successfully here in Colorado. How wrong I was! At one point in time Denver was considered the “carnation capital” of the world, which is a timeless cut flower. President Warren G. Harding even wore a Colorado Carnation in his lapel on Inauguration Day. There are a plethora of plants that we can grow here that can make up a wonderful cut flower garden, so many that you’ll have a hard time choosing. There are tons of great options, including varieties that can be planted in low water or shady landscapes.  

Before we dive into what all we can grow, lets review the elements that make up an arrangement. You will need focal point flowers, line elements, fillers, and greenery. Focal flowers draw the eye in, line elements add height and vertical structure, fillers fill in the gaps, and greenery beefs up the arrangement and gives a nice backdrop that compliments everything. It’s tempting to only grow plants that are stunning focal points because they are the most eye-catching, but filler and greenery are just as important! Baby’s Breath, sedum and feverfew are all common fillers. For greenery I religiously use Powis Castle Artemisia. The gray, lacey foliage contrasts well with almost everything and is an easy to care for, low water perennial. For those who will have shady cut flower gardens, you could use fern fronds or Lady’s Mantle leaves. Peonies, hellebores, lilies or dahlias all make exciting focal points. to add a sense of height, use line elements such as gladiolas, ornamental grasses, or delphinium. 

If you really want to get into it, expand your thinking of a cut flower garden not to just a few flower beds, but to a whole landscape of usable materials. Smoke bush, hydrangeas, lilacs, roses, dogwoods and Snowball Viburnum are some shrubs that you can take materials from. Tree branches from Curly Willows, birches and red buds make unique line elements. One of my favorite things about making floral arrangements is using things around my yard that aren’t “traditional” materials. Corn tassels add height and texture, while rabbitbrush flowers are a beautiful addition to fall arrangements with sunflowers. Play with what you have around you and discover what beautiful and interesting arrangements you can create, all from your own backyard! 

Cut Flowers for Shade:

  • Coral Bells
  • Hostas 
  • Anemones 
  • Ferns 
  • Foxglove
  • Violas
  • Globeflower
  • Brunnera
  • Hellebores
  • Ligularia
  • Jacob’s Ladder
  • Astilbe
  • Hydrangeas
  • Lady’s Mantle

Cut Flowers for Low Water:

  • Powis Castle Artemisia
  • Ornamental Grasses
  • Blue Glitter Sea Holly
  • Rattlesnake Master
  • Lavender
  • Goldenrod
  • Yarrow
  • Iris
  • Hollyhock
  • Purple Coneflower
  • Annual Bachelor Button*
  • Sedum
  • Rabbitbrush 
  • Pearly Everlasting
  • Mooncarrot

Cut Flowers for Moderate Water:

  • Coneflowers
  • Ornamental Grasses
  • Annual Poppies*
  • Asters
  • Delphiniums
  • Veronica
  • Tall Phlox
  • Pincushion Flower
  • Starflower*
  • Daylilies
  • Asiatic Lilies
  • Cupid’s Dart
  • Peonies
  • Baby’s Breath
  • Feverfew*
  • Queen Anne’s Lace*
  • Strawflower*
  • Sweet Pea* 
  • Sunflowers*

Bulbs for Cut Flowers:

  • Foxtail Lilies
  • Tulips
  • Hyacinths 
  • Amaryllis 
  • Dahlias
  • Gladiolus
  • Asiatic Lilies

*Things that you start from seed

Originally published on September 1st, 2022.