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Grow an Organic Cutting Flower Garden

People may view flower bouquets as a luxury item in a weak economy, but growing flowers at home is always affordable. Organic gardeners have another reason to tend flowers in a natural cutting garden: many flowers grown for the florist trade come from South America, where workers spray with abandon chemical pesticides that have been banned in other countries.

This season, dedicate a part of the garden to growing flowers intended for the vase. With some advance planning, gardeners may even decide to grow flowers to sell at the market or to use in a bridal bouquet. Some of the easiest bouquet flowers to grow in the home garden respond well to organic gardening methods.

Roses

Novice flower growers may feel intimidated by the range of pests and diseases that attack rose bushes, but gardeners have other choices besides the fussy hybrid tea rose. Damask roses like ‘Leda,’ for example, produce their highly fragrant blossoms even in poor soil, and need no winter protection in zone four or greater.

Aphids are notorious rose pests of all varieties, but their infestation is the worst on tender new growth in the spring. Blast them off with a strong jet of water, release ladybugs into the garden, or spray bushes with insect soap when temperatures are mild.

Lilies

Two or three hybrid lily blossoms can form the basis of a flower arrangement for the home. Gardeners can grow a mix of Asiatic and oriental lilies to provide blooms in early and late summer. Plant the bulbs three inches under the soil in a moist location, sheltered from winds that can snap the four-foot stems.

A relatively new pest to lilies in North America is the lily leaf beetle, which is easy to handpick due to its conspicuous red color. Parasitic wasps are occasional lily leaf beetle predators, but help to keep populations in check.

Hydrangeas

The development of new hydrangea varieties that bloom throughout the growing season make this popular bouquet flower a must in the cutting garden. The ‘Endless Summer’ hydrangea is a mop head variety that blooms on both new and old wood, extending the blooming season through frost in USDA growing zones 4-9. Gardeners who want blue flowers may need to acidify the soil with peat moss, coffee grounds, or sulfur.

Ferns

All florists know that handsome greenery acts as more than just a filler for flower bouquets; it acts as a quiet foil for a flower arrangement that may otherwise appear too busy. Organic gardeners with a shady or semi-shady spot in the yard can grow the elegant fronds of the hardy ostrich fern or maidenhair fern for cutting. Although ferns don’t require any additional fertilizer, they do thrive in moist conditions, so apply a 3-inch layer of organic mulch to modify soil temperatures and retain moisture.

Zinnias

Every cutting garden should include one or more varieties of zinnias. These plants are extremely economical, in that even beginners can grow armloads of flowers for cutting from seed. Old-fashioned varieties like ‘Cut-and-come-again’ respond to cutting by producing additional blossoms, so harvest these flowers as soon as the buds begin to open.

Zinnias are prone to mildew, so gardeners must avoid wetting the foliage to cut back on disease problems. Provide adequate spacing for plants to increase air circulation. Finally, spray affected leaves with a mixture of one teaspoon of baking soda to one quart of water to raise the pH to a level incompatible with mildew growth.