NGA Articles: Quick Cut Flowers

Quick Cut Flowers (cont)

By: Joan Huyser-Honig

Scabiosa (S. atropurpurea, S. stellata)

Vase life: 5 to 7 days. Also called mourning bride and pincushion flower (S. atropurpurea), these densely petaled, mounded blossoms span the spectrum from blue and lavender through pink and white. The fragrant, double, 3-inch flowers attract butterflies, too. The small, lavender-blue pincushions of S. stellata, known as starflower, ripen into coral-like bronze seedheads, perfect for drying. Scabiosas grow 24 to 48 inches tall.

Given moist, well-drained, fertile soil, Scabiosa will bloom summer to frost in all zones. Cut after most florets have opened, strip lower leaves, split stem ends, and condition in cold water before using as a filler or round accent in vase.

Snapdragons (Antirrhinum majus)

Vase life: 7 to 14 days. These brilliant spires evoke strong responses. Though they come in every shade but blue, many gardeners adore pure white and pale yellow because they work with any other color you grow. Others prefer single or open-faced snaps such as 'Bright Butterflies'. "Doubles look too gawky," he says. Stems of 18 to 36 inches provide much-needed spikiness in annual arrangements.

Snaps like partial shade in hot areas and fertile soil in all zones. Frowine suggests stretching layers of 4-by 4-inch mesh between corner posts over growing plants so stems will grow straight. The floral candelabras dazzle from late spring to frost. Bring a pail of cool water to the garden. Cut when lower flowers are open and dunk up to lowest flowers on stem. Recut stems under water.

Statice (Limonium sinuatum, Psylliostachys suworowii)

Vase life: 14 days. Given rich, well-drained soil, statice delivers crisp sprays with rainbow colors. This everlasting provides filler for fresh and dried displays. "Statice isn't the plant to buy at Wal-Mart," floriculture professor John Dale says. "It stunts in the flat very easily and should be transplanted before flower buds appear." Out West, annual 'Turbo' can be direct-seeded and will overwinter; all its intense colors bloom at once. Most L. sinuatum ('Soiree', 'Pacific', 'Turbo') grows 24- to 30-inches tall.

Russian statice (Psylliostachys suworowii) forms 18-inch-tall pink pokers perfect for nosegays. Statice blooms all summer until hard frost in every zone. Harvest during dry weather when most florets show color. Or, store statice in water and refrigerate for several weeks.

Sunflowers (Helianthus annuus, H. debilis hybrids)

Vase life: up to 7 days. "Sunflowers are tough as nails. Anyone can grow them," says Steve Jones, flower seed manager at Bodger Seeds in southern California. Daylength-neutral 'Sunbeam' blooms in 60 days, no matter where sown. John Dole says commercial growers like 'Sonja,' an early, 3 1/2-foot plant with tangerine-orange blooms. Most sunflowers will top 5 feet unless you curtail height and flower size by closely spacing them in beds or whiskey barrels. New pollenless types ('Sunbeam', 'Sunbright', 'Sunrich Lemon' and 'Orange') are single-stemmed, cleaner to display in a vase and last longer than pollinated types. But you get more flowers per plant from branching 'Valentine' or 'Autumn Beauty', a mix that includes bronze, purple, and bicolors.

Given well-drained soil, sunflowers bloom all summer in every zone. Cut newly opened flowers; scald stem ends in boiling water.


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