I’m sure you’ve been reading and hearing about one of the latest trends for florists, CUTTING GARDENS. It only makes sense with all the movements for local grown, Certified American Grown, sustainable, unusual varieties, environmental issues and newer ideas. It also makes sense from the economic perspective. I know some of you reading this will say I’ve been supplementing with flowers from my own cutting gardens for years. And some will say I started off growing and now I am a florist. All transitional and logical steps.
Although it isn’t ‘free’ to grow your own, it can be a bit more economic and totally more fun plus a great marketing tool. If you’ve never had any experience growing for the cut flower market, you have a pretty steep learning curve but it can be done. The comments I get from new growers usually relate to the ideas they had before starting and after starting, all the little steps they were completely unaware.
Site selection and soil preparation are the first huge considerations. You need good drainage, hopefully an area a little isolated from the wild weeds and other possible threats to your flowers, and at least 6 hours of sun daily. When you have your site selected, you need to take soil samples and send them in for interpretation. Don’t despair. There are folks to help with this very important step. Your local Extension offices, Soil and Water, and Natural Resources offices offer those services. I’ve written a detailed blog just on ‘Soil Preparation in Fields’ posted on our web site www.alaskaperfectpeony.com This is probably the only chance you have to get this right. You can add amendments in the future, and you will, but now you have the opportunity to turn the soils and get the nutrients deep into the soils.
You’ll need to have a watering or irrigation system. Watering by hand can be very time consuming, doable but not the best practice. We have gravity fed drip systems under Typar, a woven black fabric. The Typar is to keep the weeds down but also warms the soil and protects the T tape. Many growers mostly growing annuals do not use Typar and use the drip irrigation above ground and only use it one year. The tape is cheap. These growers mulch with a variety of mixtures from straw to composting leaves. You can check out several other blogs on our web site for all these getting started options.
Most new growers start with seeds and annuals. These are easy decisions. If it doesn’t work you have very little investments except your labor and the year you will have lost which I believe is extremely important. But if you are keen on this new concept of growing some of your own, I think peonies are a good choice as they are easy to grow, the flowers are high value, and they are extremely satisfying to grow. Of course, I may be a bit prejudice as I’m totally, totally passionate about peonies.
Once your field is ready for planting, selecting the right peony varieties for your specific garden conditions, varieties that will be the best for your floral business and varieties that are easy to grow is the next big decision. Peonies live for 50 to 75 years. They will not be productive for 75 years if you don’t follow some maintenance steps along the way, but the point is, they last a long time. And it takes several years, 2 to 5 years, before you can start harvesting flowers so you want to make the right decisions at the beginning. BUT, if you decide after a few years, that it’s not a good variety for your use, dig it up, pot it up and take it to the Farmer’s Market to sell to home gardeners. Never a total loss.
Selecting the right variety is personal. Your bridal bouquet doesn’t look like the florist next door—right? So, your choices for peony varieties should be personalized for your use. Only you can do this and it will take some research and time to make those decisions. Our web site (under ROOTS} has photos and detailed descriptions for about 80 varieties. Don’t grow 80 varieties!!! Six varieties are probably a good number, 10 maximum. An early and a late blooming white, pink, red and maybe a coral should be sufficient. And usually roots/tubers are sold in quantities of at least 15 or 60 of the same variety so if your cutting garden is small, you want to keep your number of varieties limited. Yes, you can buy one of a variety but you will pay 5-10 times more. There is so much information online now about varieties. Grab a cup of coffee or your drink of choice and enter the wonderful world of peonies. Start off with these web sites and you’ll be on your way. Of course our web site www.alaskaperfectpeony.com, www.peonyparadise.com , www.peonysenvy.com.
Our blogs keep us number one on Google so take advantage of all that information. I’m always available via e-mail to answer your questions and maybe sell you a few roots.
How do two flowers greet each other? Hey bud, how’s it growing?
Whatever you do, enjoy every day.