Cultivating a Cutting Garden

Skip the Florist, Grow Your Own Bouquet

Assess your commitment

When deciding how ambitious you want your garden to be, keep in mind how much time and physical work you're willing to put in. The High Line has a small fleet of full-time, employed gardeners to tend to its needs. Because of its unusual lofted setting, The High Line staff needs to be strategic about how to get their equipment and supplies up onto the park. "We are just five people with pitchforks," says Dippong. "It's different than going to the store and getting some flats." In most cases, keep your operation small, and for first-timers, consider making it even smaller than you anticipate. You can always expand in the next season.

Let your plants do the work for you

If you want results for the rest of the summer, you're probably better off growing annual plants, even though they only survive for a year or less. Meanwhile, take the time to figure out what kind of perennials, or plants that naturally reoccur year after year, you love. A cutting garden is about using plants that are able to rebloom instead of having to replant over and over again. Look for plants like bee balm where if you take off the head of a flower, it makes a new bloom. Ask your local nursery about more options.

Beginner gardeners should get pots from a nursery

Growing anything from seed isn't easy. You can't go away for a weekend and expect your seedlings to survive. So Schaub recommends beginners to invest in potted plants, perennials and annuals, whether they're buying from local nurseries or more inexpensive online retailers, like one of her favorites, DiggingDog.com. "You don't want people to become too discouraged," she says.

Diversify

"Obviously, you want a mix of things: some things that are spiky, maybe some that have delicate foliage, some that are larger, some that are smaller. These things look better when they're juxtaposed with different shapes, sizes and colors," says Schaub. "The High Line is specifically planted with things that look native or meadowy. You can combine those plants with more ornamental garden subjects." For example, taller annuals, like snapdragons and daisies, can add a tremendous source of color.

When it comes to cutting...

"I like to make the garden look like no one's been messing with it," says Dippong. "You don't want it to look like its been chopped up." Cut each stem at a 45-degree angle and place the flower in a bucket with lukewarm water. Warmer water has less oxygen than cold water, allowing for faster uptake through the stems. Use cold water only for bulb plants, like tulips or hyacinths.

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