For my mid-life crisis, I didn't buy a Harley. I learned how to grow flowers.
First, I went to Floret and was educated on how to be a flower farmer. Next, we started our own mini flower growing operation. Then, that path was trumped when we happened to fall in love with a heritage property with room for a good-sized cutting garden. Oh but wait. Our moving boxes are filled again and we've just settled back in the city. So here we are at Week 4 of the #OneRoomChallenge doing our best to take pieces of each of these dreams and make them fit into our urban backyard.
We couldn't be happier.
In its seventeenth season, the One Room Challenge™, takes place in April and October. Each round, twenty design influencers take the challenge as Featured Designers. Every Wednesday, the designers document their process over six weekly posts (bumped to eight weeks this season due to the pandemic). Better Homes and Gardens is the official media sponsor.
In addition to following along, everyone with a blog or Instagram account, is welcome to join the fun as a Guest Participant by linking their own room transformations up each Thursday, flooding the internet and social media with interior design inspiration, ideas, and encouragement.
This is our first One Room Challenge and the first project in our new house. Follow along as we transform our forgotten garden into a blooming flower studio and botanical backyard. We are #LovingLeuty.
How To Start A Cutting Garden
There are many things to consider when creating a garden, especially if you have the opportunity to start from scratch like we do. So, while our Week 4 of the ORC is about planting the blooms-to-be, it has been a process to get to this gratifying stage. Let me take you through the things we considered and then I'll share with you my top five picks of flowers you can easily grow from seed.
A mash-up of flowers and foliage fill our newly-built raised beds. Sprouting annual seeds, freshly planted seedlings as well as nursery stock perennials are beginning to fill in.
what is the purpose of the garden?
When planning a garden, just like designing interiors, I first think about its goal or intent. In our case, the overriding imperative is this: all that we plant has to produce something good to cut. I will be using the flowers and foliage to create displays for editorial content, for making arrangements for special events, to share, and to fill our home with a rotating display. Every inch of our garden needs to earn its keep.
what style of garden do you want?
An equally important consideration is how it all looks. In addition to be being a working plot, this garden is a place for our family to enjoy and hopefully soon it will be a place for entertaining. I want it to be functional, but I also want it to be pretty. I'm inspired by billowy and festooned English country gardens, the utilitarian and uncomplicated wineries of California, the sweeping artistic meadows of Dutch creator Piet Oudolf and the productive if jumbled pioneer homesteads where vegetables and herbs and flowers co-mingle.
what will you plant?
Perennials for plants that bulk up over the years and continue to impress as time goes on? Fleeting annuals that grow fast and furious with an amazing array of colourful blooms? Overlooked vegetables and herbs that feed us and our vases? Grasses and evergreens that delight in the fall and winter when all others have faded?
For us, it's a yes to all.
Additional layers in the plant selection process to ponder:
Many of the specimens we're selecting are specialty blooms, meaning they are a bit less common and appealing for floral arranging
A desire to increase our selection of native plants
We need to think about the rhythm of the plants' growing cycle so we have a continuous supply of blooms from spring to fall
We're unifying our bloomscape with a colour palette of russet, plum and silver
As this is a new garden, and we are still sorting out our sunlight depending on the growth of the surrounding trees as well as the soil conditions, we must rememberer that this will be a season of trial and error
I'm an impatient gardener. My motto is more is better when it comes to filling in the garden. And if you don't perform, you are out. My strategy for weed suppression is to choke out the bad stuff with all the good stuff I want.
Mostly, I just want an instant garden. So I have many ways to get the goods to fill my beds.
For annual cutting flowers and some herbs:
In late winter, in various corners of the house, we start to grow a select number of seeds under lights that grow best under these conditions or those that appreciate a head start - in spring we transplant the seedlings into the garden
In early spring, when the weather is right, I direct seed in the soil as much as I can (this is my preferred method as it is less labour intensive than growing under lights)
For perennials, grasses, evergreens, herbs and vegetables:
The garden centre is my best friend, but I also find it hard to pass by the nursery selection at corner stores or grocery stores
This year, because of the pandemic, I also purchased a bunch of perennials online for home delivery and loved it
We also divide existing perennials and grasses to make them go further
George surveys the planting of the garden.
Graham makes a line in the soil with a narrow piece of board to make straight rows for planting.
Read your packages as some seeds don't take well to being transplanted. These zinnias are being direct seeded, but also transplant very happily - so if you want to get a jump on the season, you can start them indoors in early spring.
Rows of dill planted a week or so ago are just beginning to show.
We started these zinnias indoors in April. They have been hardened-off and are now ready to rock it out in the garden.
We bought these vegetable seedlings from a garden nursery. Beans, cabbage and beets were selected because I like how they look and for the colour boost they'll inject.
Herbs, cutting flowers and vegetables are having a party.
My Fave No-Fail Cutting Flowers To Grow From Seed
Zinnias ready to be planted. I learned from Erin Benzakein of Floret that a butter knife is an indispensable tool for planting tiny seeds and transplanting seedlings.
Over the past number of years, through some disasters and some successes, I've come to rely on a handful of consistently performing annual bloomers. I love this selection of cutting flowers because they can be direct seeded, grow vigorously without fuss and look beautiful in arrangements.
Cosmos are prolific bloomers. Their ruffled petals add a delicate element to arrangements.
The draping character of this Coral Fountain Amaranth adds drama but is not a diva to grow.
Although the name is unfortunate, these pin cushion blooms are gorgeous starbursts atop elegant stems.
In an array of colours and so easy to grow, these old-fashioned garden staples are must-haves.
A herb? A cutting flower? Yes to both. We've planted masses of yellow and white dill.
In Week 5 we go back indoors as Graham will be making me a workbench for the studio (I hope).
Need More Inspiration?
If you missed it, you can catch up on our progress:
Week 2 | DIY Zero-Waste Raised Garden Beds