A Beginner's Guide to Cutting Gardens | Midwest Living

A Beginner's Guide to Cutting Gardens

Imagine a garden that yields armfuls of color all summer long, enough for bud vases in the guest room, centerpieces on the table and just-because gifts for friends. Our creative director, Kylee Krizmanic, shares lessons from her own no-fuss cutting bed, plus striking ideas for arranging the bounty you'll snip.
  • Cutting Gardens

    It’s grow time

    Location, location An ideal growing plot for a cutting garden sits in full sun (six-plus hours each day), has well-drained soil (the ground isn’t wet all the time) and is isolated from large trees, whose vast root systems can interfere with flowers. Short on space? A collection of oversize planters can work, too.

    All in a row No need to design this garden. Simply lay it out in rows as in a vegetable plot, leaving just enough space to fertilize (if desired), weed, deadhead and collect the blooms.

    Petal mettle Choose a mix of annuals and perennials that fits your budget and schedule, from easy zinnia seeds and plant-and-forget lilies to worth-the-effort dahlias, which grow from individual tubers and often require support and grooming. 

    Go green In her garden, Kylee grows flowering plants alongside greenery: “Plants such as simple ferns provide an interesting texture in arrangements and can even carry a display if you’re waiting on blooms.”  

  • Garden variety flower arrangement

    Garden variety 

    An unexpected strand of tomato vine adds shape and character to a casual display that will evolve as the fruit ripens.

    What we used in this arrangement:
    Cherry tomato
    Coneflower 'Cheyenne Spirit'
    Queen Anne's lace
    German garlic


  • Lushly layered flower arrangement

    Lushly layered

    For a full, textured display, start with a foundation of subtle greenery (or our brushy pink astilbe). Add soft tendrils that drape over the brim. Place a large, eye-catching flower (or three, if you don’t have any giant ones) in a central spot. Tuck in accent blooms or foliage to fill and balance the arrangement. A crumpled ball of chicken wire secures these cuttings.

    Flowers in this arrangement:
    Astilbe ‘Younique Silvery Pink’
    Nigella, white
    Dahlia ‘Snowbound’
    Sweet pea, pink

  • Artfully ombre flower arrangement

    Artfully ombre

    A horizontal display is an inventive variation on the traditional bouquet and plays beautifully on a dining table. In our display, we grouped blooms by hue and framed them with feathery ferns. To use a wooden vessel, wrap floral foam tightly in several layers of plastic wrap, leaving the top exposed. Then place a sheet of foil beneath the plastic.

    Plants in our arrangement:
    Dahlia, burgundy
    Sweet pea, blue
    Cosmos ‘Sonata’, dark pink
    Zinnia, magenta
    Celosia spicata
    Zinnia, red
    Dahlia, light pink
    Dahlia, white
    Sweet pea, pink
    Dahlia, white
    Cosmos ‘Snow Sonata’  


  • Bare minimalist flower arrangement

    Bare minimalist

    A simple-yet-chic arrangement proves that, yes, less can be more. Oversize foliage and one focal bloom create a stylish (and super-easy) display.

    Plants in this arrangement:
    Caladium, tricolor
    Peony, magenta

  • Prairie palette flower arrangement

    Prairie palette

    We included a few surprises in this display of field flowers. Bursts of complementary orange and salmon break up the golden monochrome, and formal, old-school gladiolas add a disparate structural element. Guests at a dining table would view this arrangement from the sides rather than from above, so be sure to check all the angles as you design a display. 

    Plants in this arrangement:
    Gladiola, yellow
    Dahlia, blush
    Black-eyed Susan
    Coreopsis ‘Pumpkin Pie’
    Dahlia, yellow
    Dwarf marigold, yellow
    Zinnia ‘Profusion Double Fire’
    Hosta, green variegated




  • Straw tote arrangement

    Summer tote

    A summery straw tote provides an unexpected container for a showy bouquet. A small bucket filled with cool water holds the fresh-cut flowers in place and stands discreetly inside the basket.

    Plants in this arrangement:
    Astilbe ‘Younique Silvery Pink’
    Globe amaranth, purple
    Cherry tomato
    Black-eyed Susan
    Zinnia, magenta
    Cosmos, red
    Dahlia, white-and-lavender
    Delphinium, blue
    Nigella (Love-in-a-mist)



  • Easy does it flower arrangement

    Easy does it

    Just four types of flowers make up this simple arrangement. The spiky petals of Helianthus and the tiny flowers of baby's breath offer a texture and size contrast to the showier blooms of zinnia and cosmos.

    Flowers in this arrangement:
    Cosmos ‘Sonata’, white
    Zinnia ‘Profusion Double Fire’
    Baby’s breath, annual type




  • Three in a row flower arrangement

    Three in a row

    It takes no more than a few flowering stems to create a pleasing arrangement in a small vase. But grouping several similar arrangements results in considerably more impact.

    Plants in these arrangements: 
    Catmint (Nepeta)
    Cosmos bipinnatus
    Celosia spicata, magenta
    Globe amaranth, purple (Gomphrena globosa)

  • Red and pink flower arrangement

    In the red (and pink)

    Red, pink and green flowers and foliage in a variety of hues and shapes makes a striking but cohesive arrangement.

    Plants in this arrangement:
    Caladium, green-red-pink
    Dahlia, red
    Celosia plumosa, magenta
    Love-lies-bleeding (Amaranthus caudatus)
    Digiplexis Illumination Raspberry, Illumination Berry Canary         

  • Trailing contrast

    Trailing contrast

    Stems of baby's breath and coreopsis provide a pleasing, trailing contrast to bigger blooms.

    Plants in this arrangement:
    Cosmos ‘Sonata White’
    Dahlia, orange
    Baby’s breath, annual type
    Zinnia ‘Profusion Double Fire’
    Coreopsis ‘Pumpkin Pie’



  • Making the cut

    Making the cut

    Tips for cutting and caring for your flowers:

    Great clips Snip stems late in the day, when blooms will recover best. “Soak the cuttings in lukewarm water to let them rehydrate before arranging,” Kylee says. As you build your display, trim stems at a sharp angle (not straight across) for optimal water intake. 

    Time to leave To reduce decay and keep container water fresh, strip away every leaf that will fall below the waterline in your arrangement.

    Flower power Blooms need food, so add nourishment to increase longevity. Kylee makes a handy home mix, which she stores in an empty milk jug. Her recipe: 1 quart lukewarm water, 2 tablespoons lime juice, 1 tablespoon sugar, and ½ teaspoon bleach (to slow bacteria growth).

    Floral tool kit With these tools, you can arrange flowers in vessels of any size, shape or material.
    1 A sharp, comfortable pair of clippers
    2 Good-quality floral foam, such as Aquafoam
    3 Plastic wrap
    4 Aluminum foil
    5 Chicken wire



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