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Display your summer garden bounty inside

Posted Tuesday, August 2, 2005 - 10:20 am


By Durant Ashmore
GUEST COLUMNIST



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Your Piedmont landscape garden should be in its full glory at this time of year.

Your gardens should abound with flowers, giving you reason to enjoy the delightful sights and aromas, as well as the daily activities of visiting birds and butterflies.

The frequent rains we have had this year have produced plentiful flowers. Other than a few fungus problems and the ever present problem with weeds, life in the Piedmont garden should be quite enjoyable.

Many gardeners choose to bring these sights and aromas into their home to extend the enjoyment of the bounty of the garden. Cutting your blooming flowers and bringing them into the home is an excellent way to bring the joy of the garden inside.

The list of plants available for cut flowers is long. Keep these plants in mind when you are planning your garden so that you will have cut flowers available when they are in their glory.

The coneflowers and all of the daisies perform quite well as cut flowers. Purple coneflower, gloriosa daisy and black-eye susan are particularly recommended. A wildflower from the mountains (Joe Pye weed) and a weed from local cow pastures (Queen Anne's lace) can easily be collected growing alongside country roads. The tall upright verbena (verbena bonarensis) and globe amaranth (gomphrena) are recommended. Aromatic ginger lilies and carnations are good flowers to bring inside.

There are some herbs that are useful as cut flowers. The tall growing basils and fennel can be attractive additions to any cut flower arrangement. It is recommended that half of herb plantings be harvested for cooking and half of them be allowed to grow so that their flowers can be used in cut flower arrangements.

Two annuals that grow quite readily from seed and are a mainstay of the cut flower garden are cosmos and zinnia. You will get a profusion of flowers from these plants. Also, roses have been used as cut flowers for centuries and are a wonderful flower to bring into the house.

Don't limit your arrangements to flowers alone. The foliage from your garden can create very interesting effects. Ferns, canna lily leaves, pennisetum or other grasses, and dried seed pods can all be welcome additions to any flower arrangement.

Almost any flower or foliage can be used with only a few exceptions. Daylily flowers last only for one day. Geraniums bleed when cut so they aren't recommended to use. Some flowers, such as the trailing hybrid verbena, don't have an appropriate stem to use in a cut flower arrangement. Do keep in mind, however, that floral wire can be used to add support if necessary to a short stemmed flower.

It is important to know how to keep your cut flower arrangements fresh and healthy. Flowers can last from 2-21 days depending on the variety. Knowing some tricks of the trade can keep them looking good for the longest time possible.

Flowers should be cut in the cool part of the day (morning or evening). Cutting flowers in the middle of the day may bring on an immediate wilt. Immediately place the flowers in water and keep them in a cool, dark place for a few hours after cutting. It is important to use a sharp tool. Dull tools mash the stem and impede water uptake.

Cut flowers do best when they are placed in a secret witch's brew. I am about to violate this secret. (OK, I confess, all cut flower pros know this recipe.) Two cups of water, two cups of 7-Up and a teaspoon of bleach are the secret ingredients to keeping cut flowers lasting longer. The sugar in the 7-Up is taken up and used by the flower. Sprite works equally as well.

Bleach keeps bacteria from growing in your water. If you recut the stems and change this concoction daily you will prolong the beauty of your flowers. As the flowers die out and look ugly, remove them from the arrangement. The remaining healthy flowers will be better off for it, and the arrangement will continue to look good.

You have done a lot of hard work to make your garden grow. We do this for the pleasure it brings us. Enjoy the results of your efforts. Bringing fresh flowers inside increases the joy our gardens can give.

Editor's note: Columnist Durant Ashmore, MLA, of Fountain Inn, is certified by the South Carolina Nursery Association. He can be reached at 243-3446 or durantashmore@aol.com.

Wednesday, September 20  


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