Growing Pineapple Lilies (Eucomis) in the Garden and for Floral Design
How to Root Cuttings
Pineapple lilies sound like some sort of bizarre made-up flower until you see them in person.
But once you see them, you’ll never forget them. Big, strappy, tropical foliage in a large rosette with large flower stalks erupting from the center that beg for you to look at them. They look unreal - as if they were some sort of alien species that had invaded earth.
Best of all? They are actually pretty hardy plants. With good drainage and either mild winters or excellent insulation (through either mulch or snow cover) they will come back year after year, bigger and better and with more stems and flowers.
Flower Farming: 8 Easy Perennials to Take Cuttings From (And Grow On for Next Year)
One of the fastest and frankly, easiest ways to expand your garden is to start plants from cuttings.
Most of us are familiar with starting plants from seeds as well as dividing plants. Plants such as swiss chard and sunflowers grow easily and quickly from seed, while plants such as irises and daylilies can be divided in the fall and spring to create new divisions of plants.
But there are some plants, such as mint or oregano or ivy that don’t really grow from seed and can’t really be divided into new plants. How exactly can you propagate them?
The answer is with rooting cuttings from your plants.
Not all plants root easily from cuttings, but there are a few common plants that are incredibly easy to root, including:
Reducing Plastic Use On Your Flower Farm
As the season winds down, we’re getting ready for next year.
The funny thing about flower farming is that good flowers can be planted the same season - but great flowers need to be planned out 6-12 months ahead of time.
One of the things we are doing this year is expanding our perennial offerings for florists and wedding design, so we are in the midst of propagating a lot of hardy perennials for production next year.
It might be easier to just buy in plugs, but of course as you know flower farmers aren’t necessarily the most logical people. I actually prefer to propagate our perennials myself because I get a thrill out of seeds starting and cuttings rooting, and it’s cool to be able to say that I propagated hundreds of plants from one original “mother” plant.
How to Grow Cafe au Lait Dahlias
As we try to be more conscious stewards of the earth and of our land, we are trying to reduce our carbon footprint by limiting our use of plastic whenever possible.
As flower farmers don’t think we’re quite at the place where we can eliminate plastic entirely - there are some items that just don’t have a good alternative or replacement yet (such as drip line). And so much of what we do involves plastic. Whether it’s irrigation, season extension with tunnels and greenhouses, packaging, seed starting, and so much more, there’s a lot of plastic in our livelihood.
We cannot escape plastic. However, there is a lot that we can do to eliminate the majority of our plastic waste on our flower farm. Here are a couple things that we have done that may inspire you:
Flower Farming: Jobs Checklist for September
Inevitably every gardener is going to try growing dahlias at some point in their career. Whether it’s for showing in the local Dahlia society exhibition, cutting for arrangements or enjoying in the garden, dahlias are invaluable for their vigor and of course their amazing flowers.
And if you’re growing dahlias, no doubt you’ll be interested in growing the famous (or infamous depending on your personal opinion!) Cafe au Lait dahlia.
The one dahlia that everyone seems to love - retail customers, floral designers, gardeners, dahlia enthusiasts and casual observers all agree that its a spectacular dahlia. In fact, the only people that seem to dislike Cafe au Lait dahlias are flower farmers for a few very specific reasons - but we’ll get into that later on.
How to Grow Castor Bean (Ricinus) in the Garden and for Floral Design
September is a perfect month - it usually means that the flower farm is putting on one final display and show before the first frost.
We’re usually slammed with business too - the cool weather means that many people schedule their weddings for this time of year, and florists are making orders left and right while we are also booked for some of our biggest events of the year.
The farm is producing as well - with big fluffy perfect dahlias and roses and zinnias along with stems and branches dripping with nuts, seedpods and fruit, and all of the plants are big and luscious and perfect and plentiful. It’s this big display of autumnal abundance that makes for excellent materials and allows the most fabulous designs this time of year.
Even if you’re crazy busy like us this time of year, there are some tasks that you should take care of to help yourself later on in the year and even into next year.
Planting Fall Perennials for Next Year's Blooms
Castor Beans are as beautiful as they are deadly
Ricinus communis is a popular plant for British borders and home gardeners over the world. Although four to eight seeds can kill an adult human, there’s a lot to love about this plant.
First and foremost is the fact that they are one of the most coveted and favorite materials for our local florists. Seriously, we sell out of every single stem that we can offer (minus the ones we keep for ourselves of course!) and we can never grow enough.
Secondly, castor beans offer a look and presence in our personal garden that is unrivaled by any other plant. It’s broad leaves offer an exotic and striking look that you can’t really get with most other plants - and the fact that it also has the potential to be so dangerous just adds to its appeal and mystique.
So You Want to Become a Flower Farmer?
You see, there are a lot of flowering plants that not only can survive the cold weather, but in fact love it. Peonies for example, need a very cold and wet winter in order to grow big and lush blooms (which can be a problem in our growing zone that tends to be warm and dry during the winter)
Yes, right now is the perfect time to plant these lesser-known flowers. Some, such as delphinium only actually will germinate in cool weather, preferring to sprout during periods of freezes and thaws since the swings in temperature helps to trigger sprouting.
How to Grow Broomcorn in the Garden (and for Floral Design)
So, you’ve decided that you want to become a flower farmer?
Congratulations! Being a flower farmer is honestly one of the most impactful and wonderful things I ever decided upon in my life.
We had always been avid gardeners and Steven had a background in floral design, but it wasn’t until back in 2013 we realized that there was actually a way to grow enough flowers to supply enough to sell at farmer’s markets and design for weddings.
I’ve learned so much and experienced so much since then that it almost seems like I’ve been flower farming for a lifetime.
It’s not all armloads of dahlias and picking flowers with the sunset behind you though. There’s a lot of downsides and a lot of hard work that flower farming entails - all of the stuff that you can’t see on an Instagram post or from a grand wedding or large arrangement.
The Glory of Zinnia Haageana (Aztec, Jazzy and other Small Zinnias)
Broomcorn is one of our favorite floral materials to grow in the garden and in arrangements, especially in the fall and is also one of our annual favorite grasses to grow!
Broomcorn is not actually a corn but is an ornamental sorghum - distantly related to sugarcane and big bluestem grass interestingly enough.
It usually grows as a single corn-like stalk, soaring upwards above our heads and growing quickly into a towering stalk of strappy foliage and bamboo-like stems, creating a jungle-like effect in the garden.
Yasss Queen Red Lime (and Other Queen Series Zinnias)
When it comes to zinnias, most people think of the large three to four inch zinnias like the Benary Giants, or at least the two inch zinnias like the Oklahoma series - all of the species Zinnia elegans.
Yet, most people don’t know about the tiny single-flowered varieties of the species Zinnia haageana variety that are around half an inch across to one inch at best.
They’re seriously tiny. And each flower is so miniscule with little skinny stems that it would take a lot of them to even fill up a small mason jar. I was never convinced that they would be worth growing, so I had ignored them for the past couple years.
Benary Giant Zinnias: Are They Worth It?
If you’ve hung out with me or have read any of the ebooks, you’ll know that I’m a big big fan of the Queen series of zinnias.
A mid-sized zinnia, the Queen series consist of four varieties
Queen Red Lime
Queen Lime with Blush
Queen Lime with Orange
Each of these varieties have a wonderful ombré gradient on their petals, fading from a soft lime green to another color (with the exception of the Queen Lime which is pure soft lime green) which makes them visually incredibly stunning - and when designing with them makes them an excellent flower for bridging between different color spectrums.
Oklahoma Series: The Only Zinnia Variety You Need to Grow
Benary Giant zinnias are the gold standard when it comes to zinnias. Great in form, comes in a variety of colors, and absolutely massive when it comes to their size - a good four feet tall (if not taller) with large 3-4” flowers that are absolutely stunning.
Also known as the Blue Point zinnia (which were specifically bred and marketed as a florist zinnia), the Benary Giants are some of the most commonly grown zinnias for flower farmers.
However, it’s not all great necessarily. My main issue with the Benary Giants is that they’re not consistently double for some of the colors - the Salmon color being the most inconsistent (which of course the salmon colored varieties would be!) and the seed can also be expensive (100 for $6)
Why Your Cupcake Zinnias Aren't Cupcake-Shaped
I’ve noticed a lot of people asking recently about the best or favorite zinnias to grow.
Zinnias are kind of a hot-button topic for most people - even if you hate zinnias and won’t grow them, you’ll have a very definitive reason as to why - but most people, especially flower farmers love zinnias and grow boatloads of them all season long.
However, not all zinnias are created equal (in my opinion at least)
The most popular zinnias for flower farmers seem to be the following:
Benary Giant (or Blue Point) series
Queen (Queen Red Lime, Queen Lime, Queen Lime with Blush, Queen Lime with Orange, Queen Lime Mix) series
Aloe Vera 'Variegata' (Tiger Aloe)
So, you’re probably like us and purchased seeds of the Zinderella series of zinnias.
I mean, how could you not??
They look so amazing, like something out of a dream.
I had this image of fluffy, cupcake/scabiosa shaped zinnias in my mind. They look like little magical fairy landing pads to me - something that truly looks magical!
Aloe vera 'Humilis'
‘Variegata’ (also known as the Tiger Aloe) is a dwarf succulent that is native to South Africa. It’s very drought tolerant, easy to grow, and is similar in care to all other aloe veras. The leaves are triangular in shape and have intermittent spotting of pigmentation along its lengths - thus giving in a striped appearance, which would be the reason for its nickname of ‘Tiger Aloe’.
Aloe vera 'Castilloniae'
‘Humilis’ is a very nice specimen that tends to get very large and filled with overlapping layers of pale blue spiny leaves. The little spines or bumps are technically known as tubercles and help protect the plant from potential predators in the wild.
Aloe Vera 'Bright Ember'
‘Castilloniae’ is a particularly rare specimen. It’s very collectible - probably due to its very distinct and shapely form, with tiny burgundy spikes poking out from its surface. It reminds me of a tiny little dragon curled up into a pot whenever I see it.
Tradescantia (Wandering Jew)
‘Bright Ember’ is a particularly beautiful specimen, with tiny little serrated edges on its leaves as well as a peachy-orange tinge to its peripheral portions. The middle growing section turns a light gold when actively growing, and it throws up flowers regularly in the spring. A great aloe to have!
First of all, I prefer the term Tradescantia to describe this plant, but many people still refer to the plant as ‘Wandering Jew’, which I am not quite comfortable using.
Tradescantias are one of our favorite houseplants for their hanging, long, trailing form as well as the rate in which they grow and quickly become a very full and lush plant. In particular, Tradescantia zebrina - so named for its striped foliage - is a particular favorite of ours.