Wednesday, March 14, 2007

grow your own!

by Kathleen Connally

Ever thought about growing some of the flowers for your bridal bouquet or for your table decorations? Many of the easiest flowers to grow also make the most beautiful and long-lasting wedding and party arrangements. With some good planning and a garden trowel, you can easily grow exceptional wedding flowers that your local florist couldn't dream of getting.. The price is right, too! Take the money you've saved and sink it into the best champagne!

April/May wedding:

Plant tulip bulbs in October and you'll have fantastic flowers in April. Tulips are available in so many colors, shapes and textures that you can match them to your bridesmaids' shoes, your cake topper and your undergarments. Tulips are very simple to grow and make excellent, long-lasting cut flowers. The stems actually continue to grow after they've been cut.

French Lace Tulip

Superba Butterfly Tulip

White Fire Tulip

Angelique Tulip

All of these tulip bulbs are available at, a Dutch bulb business that's been around for over 100 years, with excellent products and reliable service.

June/July wedding:

Sweet peas make absolutely superb wedding flowers: delicate-looking, seductively fragrant blossoms in a glorious range of colors on strong stems. Yet many florists won’t accept orders for them because the supply of commercially-grown sweet peas is difficult to predict. The good news is that they’re easy and reliable to grow at home!

Sweet pea plants grow as a vine 5-6’ tall. Give them almost any vertical structure to climb - a pole, fence or trellis and full sun with average, well-drained soil. Sow them around Saint Patrick’s Day (March 17th) and you’ll have your flowers in June. Sweet peas flower generously, so a row of 15 feet should give you enough to fill quite a few vases.

Bonus: the more you cut the more you get! Cutting the flowers encourages the plant to produce more blooms - so your new husband can tickle the soles of your bare feet with sweet pea blossoms for a few weeks after the wedding.

Bristol Sweet Pea

Frolic Sweet Pea

Salmon Cream Pink Sweet Pea

Solway Sunset Sweet Pea

For an amazing variety of sweet pea seeds check out

August/September wedding:

No kidding, a baby can grow a sunflower – just let her drop the seed in some halfway decent soil, add water and sunshine and you’re in business. If you’ve only seen the type that VanGogh painted, you’ll be thrilled to know there are many spectacular colors, shapes and sizes -- many with multi-flowering branches. Consider using sunflowers in your table arrangements: they’re among the sturdiest and longest-lasting cut flowers and their impact can be pure drama!

They’re not all 15 feet tall, either. Most are easily manageable, 4-5 feet tall, and look amazing lined up along a fence or wall. Plant several varieties in plenty of sun and normal to dry soil and you’ll have some astounding arrangements in late summer.

Moulin Rouge Sunflower

Tohokuyae Sunflower

Ruby Eclipse Sunflower

Vanilla Ice Sunflower

There are nice sunflower seed selections at: and

December/January wedding:

Amaryllis bulbs are prized for producing large, colorful blooms indoors in the dead of winter. Imagine your reception tables with gorgeous Amaryllis bulbs flowering in antique (or antiqued) pots. It takes 7-10 weeks for an amaryllis bulb to bloom, so start them in October/November for a December/January wedding.

Amaryllis is also an excellent cut flower! Cut them when the first bud has colored and is just ready to open, then place them in a sturdy vase. If they’re kept around 60–70°F, they’ll last more than a week.

There are a lot more colors and varieties of Amaryllis than what you typically see around the holidays, so you’re not limited to a Christmasy-look. Check out these beauties:

Naked Lady Amaryllis

Solomon Amaryllis

Pink Floyd Amaryllis

Double Record Amaryllis

All of these are available at

February/March wedding:

Giant vases full of gorgeous flowering branches would be a sight for sore eyes at this time of year, and happily, you can have them! You can “trick” spring-flowering trees and shrubs into thinking it's spring by cutting branches and bringing them indoors. The process is called "forcing." You’ll need to plan your cuttings accordingly.

Cut these after January 1st for a February wedding:

Forsythia (yellow flowers) - 1-3 weeks to force.

Witch Hazel (yellow flowers) - 1 week to force.

Poplar (graceful, drooping flowers called "catkins") - 3 weeks to force
Willow (catkins) - 2 weeks to force

Cut after February 1st for a March wedding:

Cherry or ornamental plum trees (pink/white flowers) - 2 weeks to force.
Red Maple (pink/red flowers, then leaves) - 2 weeks to force
Birch (catkins) - 2-4 weeks to force
Quince (pink/red/orange flowers – great for an Asian motif) - 4 weeks to force
Pussy Willow (sweet little fuzzballs) - 1-2 weeks to force

Raid your parents’ or grandparents’ gardens for things like this:

Flowering Quince

October/November wedding:

Dahlias are the elegant flowers still blooming after the other summer blossoms flowers have packed it in. They continue growing right up until frost. If you keep them very well-protected at night they’ll grow into October, possibly November with the right kind of weather conditions.

According to the American Dahlia Society ( there are officially 9 sizes, 15 colors and 18 forms (or shapes) of dahlia, adding up to 42 different groups you can grow at home…and ensuring that at least one bride will be disappointed in the choices.

Dahlias are easy to grow if you follow your instructions carefully. They’re grown from large, tuberous roots (rather than seeds) planted in spring after the danger of frost has passed, in a sunny location. They vary from 1-6 feet high with flowers 2-12 inches wide. Colors include orange, pink, purple, red, scarlet, yellow, and white. Some are striped or tipped with a different color. Some are double-flowering with multiple rows of petals. The large varieties probably need to be staked for support.

Dahlias make fantastic cut flowers with excellent vase life. Need we say more?

Beach Bum Dahlia

Gerrie Hoek Dahlia

Whodunit Dahlia

Tiny Treasure Dahlia

The most magnificent dahlias can be found at Swan Island Dahlias:

These are planting/growing guidelines for the northeastern U.S. Be sure to thoroughly consider the planting/growing schedule in your area before undertaking one of these projects. If you’re unsure, contact your nearest cooperative extension office to find a Master Gardener in your area. Most states across the country have a Master Gardener program, staffed with trained (and delightful) volunteers – all gardeners themselves -- who provide useful, practical and research-based information to home gardeners.