Roadside apples
Cosmos on trial

Grow, Cut, and Arrange

A spring arrangement from Floret Farm’s Cut Flower Garden by Erin Benzakein (with Julie Chai)
Our gardens are full of flowers and we like to have them in the house too but so many of us fail to make the best of our cut blooms. Which are the best flowers to grow for cutting at home? How should we grow them? How should we treat them to ensure they last as long as possible? How should we arrange them for the house? An inspiring new book by the owner of Washington State’s Floret Flower Farm aims to answer all these questions for gardeners on both sides of the Atlantic.

Floret Farm’s Cut Flower Garden by Erin Benzakein (with Julie Chai) is a lovely looking book. Organised by season, the challenge has been to adapt large scale commercial techniques to the needs of home gardeners. Few of us grow on the scale of Erin’s farm and none of us have the experience of growing so many different flowers. She wants us to do more than simply cut what we have plenty of and stick them in a jar.

Floret Farm's Cut Flower Garden: Grow, Harvest, and Arrange Stunning Seasonal Blooms by Erin Benzakein and Julie Chai is published by Chronicle Books at $29.95/£21.99.Which are the best? Erin does not say “grow this” or “grow that”, she simply covers a huge variety of flowers and leaves it up to you, from roses and sweet peas to flowering carrots and hellebores. However, I was very surprised to find that calendulas, annual asters and Shasta daisies are left out entirely. I’ve been enjoying one or the other – and sometimes all three – in a jug on my kitchen table for months.

How to grow them? The climate in Washington State is closer to the climate of the UK than it is to the climate in much of the rest of North America so although her cultural advice is excellent, growers in many parts of the US will have to adapt to their own conditions. I’d never heard the surprising advice to leave dahlia tubers in the ground for the winter but to divide them every year because otherwise they'll become too heavy to lift! Not in Britain!

How to make them last? There’s excellent advice on caring for cut flowers and for every flower covered there’s an invaluable Vase Life Tricks section which is perhaps the most universally valuable part of the book. This is the part I’ve used the most.

How to arrange them? Each seasonal section includes very useful step-by-step illustrated guides on how to create a series of arrangements in a variety of styles. Oddly, the individual pictures are quite small while a great deal of page-space remains empty. Seems a waste...

This is an elegant and very useful book, full of valuable advice presented attractively. But the fact remains that there’s no one book that provides all guidance we need. And no asters?!

Floret Farm's Cut Flower Garden: Grow, Harvest, and Arrange Stunning Seasonal Blooms by Erin Benzakein and Julie Chai is published by Chronicle Books at $29.95/£21.99. 

 

                                     

Comments

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Beth

I read this book when it was published and agree with your assessment of it -- but I didn't expect too much from it simply because the author grows flowers in California and I live in Iowa, where gardening is Very Different.... This has been my experience with most cutting garden books, which seem to be almost universally written by Californians and Brits, so I refer to them mostly for inspiration. I think this book had some good tips in it and was certainly inspirational, but I wasn't impressed with the photo quality on the whole, and the book seemed to focus more on the author than on the process of growing flowers at times. (As one Amazon reviewer amusingly put it: "It's a pretty book but there are way too many pictures of the author holding improbably large bales of flowers trying to look like some kind of Victorian romantic. More than twenty of those 'artful' shots in the first half of the book! Enough already.")

Hope your garden still has a few flowers in it -- we had hard frost two nights ago, so the cutting flowers are about done here for the next 5 months, unlike in CA or Britain...
Best, -Beth

Graham Rice

Looking after the cut flowers is a more universal element than the growing side of things, and in a book that will be sold all over the US, and in the UK, perhaps that's an element that should have received more coverage. She must have done trials on precisely the correct stage at which to cut different varieties and how the long different varieties last in water, with and without flower food.

The problem of growing methods in different areas/countries is not confined to cut flower books. Publishers of many garden books like to make the most of spending money on setting up all the full colour pages by selling the book everywhere - but not publishing separate editions with different texts. It's a sad part of the current economics of book publishing.

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