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Grow Your Own Flowers – The Beginning Florist's Starter Kit

Cut flowers are a billion-dollar industry with one of the highest carbon footprints of all agricultural products, according to a study that was published in Volume 369 of the Journal of Cleaner Production. 

Does this mean that you should give up the age-old tradition of giving flowers to your loved one? No, not necessarily. But if you care about the environment you should probably rethink this practice of giving store-bought blooms.

Live plants, seeds, seed-starting supplies, and gardening tools—these are great gifts to delight the plant lover in your life that don’t produce a fraction of the carbon emissions that imported flowers do.

And there’s no need to forgo flowers altogether—you can have your blooms and grow them too! 

The problem with imported flowers 

Carbon emissions

How can something so beautiful (and seemingly natural) be so awful for the environment?

Flowers have a very short shelf life. Once a flower is cut, it’s only a matter of days before the stem dries up and the bloom fades. Getting flowers from tropical farms to a vase on your loved one’s table must be done in a matter of days.

February falls in late winter here in the Northern Hemisphere. The world is dormant, and nothing is blooming just yet. Any flowers you buy in the United States are harvested in the tropics and loaded onto refrigerated trucks, then driven to the airport and loaded onto a plane. Once the flowers arrive in the United States, they are refrigerated again in a holding area. Once cleared by customs, the flowers are loaded on a refrigerated truck and driven to a florist or a big box store. Then that gorgeous bouquet must still be mailed or driven to its final destination. In those few days between harvest and sale, most flowers travel further than many people will in their lifetimes.

Worker welfare concerns 

The Netherlands is one of the largest producers of cut flowers, but flowers are also imported to the US and Europe from Kenya, Ethiopia, Sri Lanka, Ecuador, and China. Most flowers you buy from a supermarket or florist are cultivated and harvested in another country—likely by underpaid workers. 

Chemicals

Imported flowers are notorious for being doused in chemicals—even bouquets labeled “organic” (they’ve just been hit with OMRI-certified pesticides). 

Why grow flowers?

Reasons to avoid imported bouquets are many, but the flowers themselves aren’t the issue. What’s the alternative? Grow your own or source your bouquet from a local florist! (Check out this directory to find a local flower farmer-florist in your area.)

Pest control

If you already grow vegetables in your garden, adding flowers into the mix will only make your other plants healthier and more productive. Seriously—more than a few flowers repel pests, plus flowers attract beneficial insects and pollinators that are essential to a thriving garden. As a result, you can use fewer chemicals in your garden and still keep the annoying insects at bay.

Cost savings

Let’s not forget that flowers aren’t cheap. Common cuts are typically priced by wholesalers at a dollar to a buck 50 per stem, putting the final price tag on the smallest bouquets upwards of $15. The more cost-effective option? Grow your own!

Flower seeds are cheaper than starts, and while some varieties take a little more maintenance than others, you can grow your flowers for a fraction of the cost of a store-bought bouquet. If you don’t want to grow flowers, at least consider supporting a local farmer-florist first, before going to the big box stores.

Promotes pollinator health

Planting flowers and native flowering shrubs in your garden is the best way to protect pollinator health, by providing these essential insects and small animals with a safe habitat and a consistent food source.

A wider variety of blooms

Cost-savings and sustainable benefits aside, the world is your oyster when it comes to homegrown flowers. Your only limitation is your climate, and with the right tools (like a greenhouse or hoop house) you can get away with growing plants slightly outside your hardiness zone.

Growing flowers from seed opens up a world of possibility. You can grow varieties you’ve never even heard of, let alone seen in a store. You can pick out varieties according to your preferences and lean into your creativity as you plan and design bouquets.

Not all flowers ship well, so to have delicate flowers in your life you’ll have to grow them yourself.

Flowers grow community and bring joy

This one is obvious: sowing seeds for a cutting garden means that you have… flowers! Even a few plants can provide you with hundreds of stems at your disposal, so you, your family, and your friends will have fresh flowers all season. Plant some seeds and see if your social circle doesn’t grow along with them.

It is rewarding to grow anything, but flowers are certainly among the most satisfying plants to grow. Their vibrant colors and beauty will certainly bring joy to you and anyone you decide to gift your homegrown bouquets to this summer.

Planning your cutting garden

When planning your first cutting garden, there are a few factors you have to consider, just as you would before sowing a vegetable garden. Make sure you understand your hardiness zone, your local climate and weather patterns, and be aware of your limitations on time and resources. Have your soil tested and amended if needed; most flowers prefer rich, well-draining soils.

Do you live somewhere with heavy wind and rain? If so you’d better plant in a greenhouse or under plastic so that the elements don’t destroy your blooms. Some flowers are the set-it-and-forget-it types, but some of the most beautiful flowers require a fair amount of work, so do your research on the varieties you want to grow and set realistic expectations for the season. 

Plant the whole bouquet

Grow what you love, but don’t make the mistake of only planting flowers and forgetting about the rest of the arrangement.

There are six essential components of a complete bouquet. Focal flowers are the centerpiece of an arrangement, supplemented with supporting flowers and filler flowers. Structural elements (woody stems and foliage) balance out the floral materials and provide structure. Textural materials (seedpods and grasses) complement softer floral components, and delicate airy materials add movement and a fairy-like feel to bouquets. Make sure to grow some plants in each category!

Another important aspect of DIY bouquet-making is seasonal availability. Your bouquets will look different from season to season based on what is blooming at that time. Plant a mix of spring-blooming bulbs, flowering annual seeds, and fall-blooming perennials to ensure you’ll have fodder for your creative inspiration for the whole year.

Sweet-smelling basil and aromatic oregano are two of our favorite fillers for summer bouquets, and perennial mint is a good year-round option. Experiment with different herbs to find what grows best in your garden!

The beginner florist’s seed kit:

Want to get started growing flowers but aren’t sure where to start? These flowers are popular among farmer-florists for their ease of growing and versatility in design. 

1. Poppy

Hardier than they seem, poppies are frost-hardy but can be delicate once cut. To maximize the vase life of these papery blooms, take care to cut the stems at the right time—cut the stems as soon as the buds “crack,” or start to show color. (This is also called the gooseneck stage, when the buds are bent over in a delicate arch.)

Poppy stems secrete sap, so either sear the ends of the stems with a flame or dip the stems in boiling water to cauterize the stems, then transfer them to a bucket of cool water.

Due to their delicate taproot, poppies resist transplanting, so direct seed a few weeks before your last frost date.

Champagne Bubbles Hybrid Mix Poppy Seeds is one of our favorite varieties for its strong stems and cheerful blooms! For dramatic contrast in the garden and vase, try the garnet-hued Great Red Oriental Poppy.

2. Cosmos

One of the easiest annuals to grow, cosmos’ blooms add an airy element to summer bouquets. Extremely cold-sensitive, wait to plant cosmos until all danger of frost has passed. Cosmos grow best when direct seeded into fertile, well-draining soil. Pinch seedlings when the plants are a foot tall by cutting the central stalk back to six inches. Pinching delays flowering by a few weeks but results in bushier growth and an abundance of blooms.

Once cosmos’ blooms have “blown,” or pollinated, they aren’t suitable for the vase. Cut cosmos’ blooms when the buds have just barely opened—they will continue to open up in water.

Lemonade is the hottest color of the season, but we also love the burgundy-colored Rubinato.

3. Sunflowers

What’s a summer bouquet without sunflowers? Loved by hobby gardeners and serious flower farmers alike for their low maintenance and stunning beauty, growing sunflowers is as easy as putting seeds in the ground. Wait to sow seeds until all danger of frost has passed, and sow several seeds together three feet apart.

Branching varieties like Soraya are the go-to choice for farmer-florists due to their perfect golden blooms that multiply when cut. Pro Cut Hybrid Mix  provides the most options in terms of but Teddy Bear Dwarf is a fluffy, fun variant to have on hand.

4. Zinnias

If there were one annual to include in your flower garden, zinnias would be it. Some varieties bloom in as little as 60 days, and the more you cut the more they bloom. Stay on top of watering and harvesting and you’ll have zinnias from early summer until frost.

Large blooms like Benary’s Giant Mix make perfect focal flowers in an arrangement, supplemented with the more petite Aztec Sunset Mix.

5. Snapdragons

Nostalgic and enchanting, half-hardy snapdragons are a mainstay in the cutting garden. The delicate butterfly blooms are the perfect supporting flowers for spring and fall bouquets, and who doesn’t love pinching the blooms to see the “mouth” move?

AAS Winner Rocket Tall Hybrid Mix is our go-to for cutting for its strong stems and gorgeous pastel-colored blooms.

6. Lupine

Add a touch of fairy magic to your bouquets with Sunrise, a perennial lupine variety. The tall flower spikes with their blue blooms make extraordinary focal flowers in any arrangement. Cold-tolerant and hardy, lupine seeds can be sown in the spring or fall, depending on your hardiness zone. A legume, like beans and peas, lupines have the added benefit of fixing nitrogen in the soil, improving the health of your flower garden over time.

7. Celosia

Instantly add an exotic flair to any bouquet with a few stems of celosia. This tropical species does best when the seeds are started indoors and transplanted out after the last frost, Celosia is hands-down the best flower for drying since it holds its color and form indefinitely.

Jewel Box Mix Crested provides a palette of fan-shaped and eye-catching blooms in every regal hue.

8. Dahlia

Did you know dahlias can be grown from seeds? While it’s more common to plant dahlia tubers, there’s another way to grow these jaw-dropping blooms. Dahlias grown from seed won’t produce blooms that are as large as blooms from tuber-grown plants simply because the plants are younger. Seeds also tend to provide a greater variety of colors than tubers, which are clones of a mother plant.

Dahlias begin blooming in midsummer and will continue until frost, making them a great option for fall bouquets. The jewel-toned Fiago Mix and bi-colored Harlequin Mix are two branching mixes that should be on standby in your cutting garden.

In the Northern Hemisphere, it’s not natural to see anything blooming in February. As lovely as a pretty bouquet is in winter, as a society we need to exercise some control and exchange our red roses for something a little lighter on carbon emissions and worker welfare. Swap imported bouquets for homegrown blooms and we can almost guarantee you won’t go back to the former. 

Browse a wide collection of award-winning, non-GMO flower seeds in the Seeds ‘n Such online store and feel empowered to grow your own flowers this season. 

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