What could be more appealing than the riot of shapes, colors, and textures to be found in the flower-cutting garden interspersed with outdoor sculpture and concrete water fountains? It is easy to start one with just some basic design and planning tips.
What is a Cutting Garden?
The cut flower garden is designed to be functional by the nature of its very existence. Cutting gardens first began in the 16th Century for the purpose of bringing them inside to decorate the house and this tradition continues to this very day. Nearby concrete fountains were common not only for drinking water, but also for watering the garden plants.
A large cutting garden makes the perfect setting for weddings and other events and gatherings. Many people don’t have large spaces to dedicate to a cutting garden alone, but a perennial border left with blank spaces will suffice quite nicely for cutting flowers to be brought inside.
A Cutting Garden Should be Informal
Combining flowers, fruits, herbs, and vegetables, the cutting garden (also called cut flower garden) style is the perfect solution for today’s busy gardener who wants a gorgeous garden and also wants to be environmentally responsible. Instead of depending on pesticides and fertilizers to achieve a lush garden, the cutting garden style gets nature to work on your side with crop rotation, dense planting patterns, organic soil amendments, and a variety of plant types. The crop rotation principle applied to the cutting garden is a way in which the cutting garden style emphasizes a perfect approach for modern homeowners with small yards. If a water source is nearby, a small concrete fountain is always a nice touch or cascading water features.
The most important thing to remember about cutting gardens is that they are very unpretentious, catholic spaces, easily achievable, and certainly within everyone’s grasp. They don’t require big budgets since additional structures such as trellises or arbors are kept to a minimum and most of the plants can be grown inexpensively from seed. You won’t need to employ a landscape architect, because that will be your job. You won’t need to cut the grass every Saturday morning, because there won’t be much. For at least half the year you won’t have to pay high prices for organically grown cut flowers because you’ll have your own. Best of all, you won’t have to attend night classes on garden design, because there aren’t any. Naturally, you’ll look for pleasing color, height and texture combinations, but symmetry and balance are not paramount considerations.
The most successful cutting gardens are simple ones that work directly with nature. These are the gardens that are the healthiest and therefore the loveliest. Authentic cutting gardens were not contrived affairs, being the result of country artisans who were short on free time and whose aesthetic senses were closely linked to the countryside. It is this lack of sophistication that makes these plots tick, and the surest way to ruin a cutting garden is to try to make it formal or to try to “tidy things up” with boxwood hedging. Neatness has been thrown on the sacrificial altar in favor of unabashed exuberance and bounty. Cast stone fountains also need to be of simple design in the flower-cutting garden. A cast stone fountain that looks like a watering can is an example of informality.
The result of all this freedom and profusion is a great deal of flexibility for the plants themselves, not to mention the gardeners. In formal gardens, spring bulbs must be ripped out in order to make way for bedding plants, which reduces them to the status of pricey annuals. Bulbs can be stored and replanted. Strictly herbaceous borders planted heavily with bulbs and perennials offer no nooks and crannies for cut flowers. Neither of these approaches is characteristic of the cutting garden.
Evaluate What You’ve Got
The first consideration for making a cutting garden will be to review the existing permanent structures and plant material on your property. Rather than trying to hide garden sheds and garages, “tart them up” with climbing roses, trellises and window boxes full of cutting flowers such as nasturtiums, pansies and tiny zinnias. Plant colorful annuals, tender bulbs and sturdy perennials. Add a rustic bench or two and a wall fountain or concrete water fountain for an elegant touch.