Last summer, I must have helped at least half a dozen customers who were looking for some help in planting a garden specifically for home-grown wedding flowers. I often warn people that growing for a specific date is fairly technical and requires weekly plantings, regular harvesting all summer long to keep the plants blooming until the event, and most of all, a very flexible attitude. People who have a specific color scheme or variety in mind are not always good candidates for home grown wedding flowers since those types of flowers may be very hard to grow and getting the right color on the right day means planting about 10 times more than you think you will need in hopes that one of the plantings will be just perfect on the correct day. For those who are planning an event and are willing to look at the flowers as a fun and flexible component, then growing your own is a great option. I have listed below some varieties that are particularly well suite to a DIY flower program. Full disclosure: I have talked about as many people out of growing their own wedding flowers as I have talked into doing it. It really is not a good fit for everyone, but for those who are willing and able, here is a little help to get you started....
Verbena bonariensis - reliable and a lovely purple bloom with long wiry stems that hold up well to handling and mixing into all kinds of arrangements. Zinnias - come in all shapes and colors, are best suited for August or later. Require deadheading all summer long, but will branch out and be very productive once well established. Sunflowers - there are lots of sunflower varieties that are designed specifically for cut flowers. Some of our favorites are Giant Sungold Teddy Bear, Sunbright Supreme and Soraya. The only tricky thing is getting the timing just right. They only are perfect to harvest for about 10 days, after that their single blossoms start to drop their petals. Ageratum - blue, can be tall if planted correctly - a little closer together. Needs deadheading all summer long if you are planning for a late summer or fall event. Very productive if well established and well taken care of. Agrostemma has a lovely, floating quality that gives a lot of life to mixed bouquets. It's airy and delicate, comes in purple or white and produces lots of good, long stems all summer long. Again, needs constant picking and deadheading to produce all summer long.
Ammi - this is a beautiful filler in mixed bouquets or in all-white arrangements. Easy to grow from transplants and produces, nice, tall stems.
Cosmos - come in a variety of textures and lengths, best suited for mid-August or later. While they are beautiful, they do take up a lot of room for not always a lot of stems.
Snapdragons - another multi-colored option or can also be grown as strains of single colors. We offer many options of snapdragons. The stems can sometimes be a little short, but with good fertility and 6" spacing, they will grow straight and tall.
Celosias - come in many shapes, sizes or colors. These are a hardy, easy to grow and more forgiving than others. And they can be dried for long-term keep sakes.
All of these annuals will give you a good place from which to start. Do-it-yourself flowers can always be supplemented with florist purchases the week of the event if the budget allows it. We will cover more on home grown flowers in subsequent posts, so if this peaks your interest, please stay tuned. Part two will be about which perennials are easy to grow and use for cut flowers. Part Three will be about different tactics to make your cutting garden as prolific as possible.