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Things Change in a Garden

Each year I try a few new plants that I think or have heard might make good cut flowers. My criteria? Stems of at least 6" long, flowers or foliage that remain fresh for three days or more, and stems that aren't too fussy about being cut and put in a vase.

On trial in my garden this year are five I started from seed. The first to bloom and give me great bouquet-filling material was Orlaya, a dressed-up version of Queen Anne's lace with pure white petals. Orlaya is as delicate as it looks, and it's on the fussy side when it comes to cutting. Have a vase in close proximity because it's best to cut and plunge in one swift motion. Even then, it might wilt, but when you get it inside, give stems another fresh cut and put it in water already treated with cut flower preservative.

With its ferny foliage and lacy flower, Orlaya goes with anything.

But even after learning how to handle these flowers, they were just too delicate for most bouquets.

Another "filler" flower was Daucus, a carrot relative with a colorful demeanor. Although I thought I'd get flowers in every hue from white to maroon, I ended up mostly with white and maroon. Not that there's anything wrong with that. But the dark color really doesn't go with everything in the cutting closet if you know what I mean.

Daucus looks like Queen Anne's Lace, only more colorful.

A dizzying array of Daucus. Between my limited sun and its rangy attitude, I was surprised it was able to remain upright. Or mostly upright, anyway. It grew the full four feet tall as described, and although not as tricky as the Orlaya, still had its quirks about being picked too soon. Daucus should be picked after the umbel goes flat. What's an umbel? It's like a round landing pad for dragonflies.

The annual asters surround Monarda 'Bergamo'.

Annual asters are more correctly called Callistephus chinensis. The variety I grew is a pale peach double. For the second time, I also started an annual bee balm called 'Bergamo', more delicate than its perennial cousin, and a great cut flower. Both flowers require as much sun as they can get. Both the bee balm and the annual asters grew on spindly stems; the asters foliage barely remaining green into July. I will try the Callistephus next year, but instead of starting it in early spring, I'll wait until late May, perhaps sowing it in place so that it can grow stronger.

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