/photography by Will CrooksWhat garden flowers make the best summer bouquets?

Summer is for those heat-loving, sun-soaking flowers: think Zinnias, Cosmos, elosia and Sunflowers. I love growing what some may call “McDonalds” flowers… bright red/orange/yellow/harsh pinks/purple because they make people happy! You can’t walk by our booth without turning on a heel for a bouquet of pure sunshine.

What is the most common question you’re asked about growing flowers?

I get asked all sorts of growing questions and have wonderful chats, often about how we get our flowers tall and upright and lots of tales of flower failure. The answer is nearly always soil. We are famous here for our red clay, so you must replenish with compost! Most flowers want breathable, loose soil and red clay suffocates the roots. I find myself plugging local companies like Atlas Organics who provide amazing compost.

How do I get cut flowers to last?

Don’t cut flowers in the heat of day, they will wilt in an instant. When you do cut them, place them in water immediately. Before arranging, let them cool in an air-conditioned room to let them recuperate before handling them for an arrangement.

What watering mistakes do we make?

When plants are babies they need a lot of water, but as they mature ease up on the watering. I’m surprised at how resilient flowers are. Flowers do not like overhead water; they wilt, weakening the flowering buds. As baby plants, overhead water is okay and even preferred, but once blooms begin to show plants want to soak up water through
their roots.

What’s one tip for the home gardener to grow flowers for bouquets?

Many folks don’t realize that many beautiful flowers need netting to remain standing straight up, like Zinnias and Snapdragons. They can get top heavy and topple sideways. The wind can even cause crooked stems.

Should we plant flowers we plan to cut for arrangements in our landscape or in their own space?

A flower cutting garden is different than a landscaped bed. I suggest placing all perennials, like Echinacea and Black-Eyed Susan right into your landscape, as well as spring bulbs, which must be planted in the fall and overwintered. A flower cutting garden is for hardy and tender annuals where you can control the soil composition often and easily and adjust watering levels as flowering plants mature.

What flowers can I put around my vegetables in raised boxes?

Start with edible flowers: Calendula, Yarrow, Borage, Nasturtium and herbs like Basil can be amazing flower filler for a bouquet. Don’t forget
the sweet ole’ Marigold with its bright, happy flowers and a pest resister. A perennial bed could include rosemary and lavender too.

What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned farming flowers?

Timing! Always be five months ahead. I had to learn the hard way to think about spring blooms in the fall; you need to order seeds for next spring in the late summer and plant them in late fall for blooms next spring. Always think ahead. I recommend creating a calendar with reminders. And, don’t forget about the flowers that are “one and done” like Stock, Tulips, Bupleurum. Plan for something beside them that will fill in and fluff when they’re gone.

What flowers should we be thinking about for next season?

Dahlias and Chrysanthemums for sure. I planted 100 Dahlias my first year and when I dug them up in December, I had doubled my crop. They are amazing dividers and create more tubers. Simply pull them up, wash and divide them. Plant them again the next year in late spring or very early summer and voila, perfection for fall.

Our Expert:

Sarah Dubose is proprietor of Sassafras Fresh Cut Blooms. Find her on Instagram @sassafrass_flowers.