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Plant flowers that will be cut for inside enjoyment in well-drained soil amended with compost and keep in mind most like full sun.
Group plants by sun and water needs and plan a garden according to height of the flower stems. Water to moisten the top two inches of soil. Use a slow release balanced fertilizer that is not high in nitrogen, and do not fertilize in the heat.
Cut flowers in the early morning with very sharp loppers, clippers, pruning shears or garden scissors. A dull blade will tear or crush delicate stems.
Immediately place the cut stems in 100-110 degree water to cover much of the stem. Keep cut flowers in the water for two hours and in a cool environment. At the end of the two hours, remove any leaves that will be below the water line in the vase, re-cut the flower stems for the size of the vase and at an angle, and then put the flowers in vase of fresh lukewarm, tepid water.
Prune perennials at the end of the growing season to encourage lots of new stems. Regularly cutting the blooms and deadheading will keep plants flowering longer.
Flowers that reseed include: lisianthus (Eustoma grandiflorum), nasturtium (Tropaeolum), cleome (C. hasslerana), gaillardia (Asteraceae), cosmos (Asteraceae), corncockle (Argostemma githago), larkspur (Consolida ambigua) — those that prefer partial shade are godetia (Clarkia amoena), California poppy (Papaver) and alyssum (Brassicaceae).
Cleome (C. spinosa) or spider flower has large rounded heads of pink or white flowers with long protruding stamens and has a long flowering season. Cosmos (Asteraceae) are daisy-like flowers that bloom three to four inches and have tufted yellow centers — they are proliferate bloomers and have a long season. For an extended vase life of cosmos, snip out the yellow center floret preferably while it is still closed. Love-in-a-mist (Nigella damascena) has 1 inch-wide flowers. Re-sow the nigella seed in the fall for a second crop.
Consider these other annuals for the cutting garden. Zinnia (Asteraceae) has 3 to 5 inch dahlia-like blooms. Be sure to plant zinnia where there is ample air circulation to prevent powdery mildew. Other showy flowers to grow are: Bells of Ireland (Moluccella), snapdragon (Antirrhinum), statice (Limonium), Iceland poppy (Papever nudicaule), stock (Matthiola) and sweet pea (Lathyrus).
Love-lies-bleeding (Amaranthus caudatus) has long 18 inch pendulous ropes of red flower clusters. Strawflower (Helichrysum) has 2 1/2 inch wide papery flowers. Cut strawflowers before they are fully open or the centers will turn brown.
Perennials that can be in the flower garden are black-eyed Susan (Rudebeckia), purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea), Delphinium and lupine (Lupinus). Think also about dahlia (Asteraceae), peony (Paeonia), wallflower (Erysimum) and phlox (Polemoniaceae) for bushy foliage and tall flower stems. Enjoy the beauty of your cut flowers and share them with others for years to come.
Master Gardeners are available to answer home gardening questions Tuesday through Friday, 9 a.m. to noon by calling 530-621-5512. Walk-ins are welcome at the office, 311 Fair Lane in Placerville.
For more information about the public education classes and activities go to the Master Gardener Website at ucanr.edu/sites/EDC_Master_Gardeners/. Sign up to receive the online notices and e-newsletter at ucanr.edu/mgenews/. You can also find Master Gardeners on Facebook.