Top-rated garden flowers for cutting – Part 1

Flowers like peony, zinnia and marigold are easy to grow and care for, have excellent vase life and there are many varieties from which to choose.

Zinnias are available in a variety of colors, forms and sizes.
Zinnias are available in a variety of colors, forms and sizes.

This is the first article of a two-part series on my top-rated garden flowers for cutting. These first seven flowers made my short list of tried-and-true flowers to have a permanent home in any cut flower garden. These are all easy to grow and care for, have excellent vase life and there are many varieties to choose.

Along with a simple description, I have included a few facts about each flower and how the flowers got their name.

Peony (Paeonia lactiflora, suffucticosa)

Large fragrant, single and double flowers from 3-8 inches across. Available in many forms. These giant blossoms are grand all by themselves or in mixed arrangements. Peonies were named from the Greek name paionia, referring to Parion, who was a physician to the gods.

Vase life: 3-7 days

Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia fulgida, hirta)

Daisy-like gold and orange flowers with prominent black cone-shaped centers. These flowers add mass and accent. They are striking to mixed summer bouquets. Carolus Linnaeus named the flowers Rudbeckia in honor of two professors at Uppsala University: Olof Rudbeck the Younger (1660-1740) and his father Olof Rudbeck the Elder (1630-1702), both of whom were botanists.

Vase life: 7-10 days.

Pincushion flower (Scabiosa altropurpurea)

Round, single, 2-3 inch flowers with a papery texture. Available in a wide variety of colors. Useful as a mass in mixed bouquets. The unusual texture and intricate circular form also can create focal point in contemporary designs. Pincushion flowers were named from the Latin word scabies (itch) because the rough leaves were said to cure itches.

Vase life: 5-7 days

African marigold (Tagetes erecta) and French marigold (Tagetes patula)

Bright orange and yellow, daisy-like or carnation-like flowers. Useful for adding mass to mixed summer bouquets. Named for Tages, an Etruscan deity, the grandson of Jupiter, who sprang from the newly plowed earth.

Vase life: 1-2 weeks

Zinnia (Ainnnia elegan cultivars)

These flowers were not the garden beauty we now enjoy, but through plant breeding have become a garden favorite. Zinnias are daisy-shaped flowers available in a variety of colors, forms and sizes. These mass flowers are vibrant additions to mixed summer arrangements. Named after the German botanist Johann Gottfried Zinn (1727-59).

Vase life: 5-7 days.

Bells of Ireland (Molucella laevis)

Whorls of tiny, white, fragrant flowers are surrounded by curious green, shell-like calyces resembling bells, which are often mistaken for petals. Often reserved for St. Patrick’s Day, but useful throughout the year to add line and accent. Moluccella gets its name from the Indonesian Molucca Islands. The flowers were at one time mistakenly thought to be native of the islands.

Vase life: 7-10 days

Cosmos (Cosmos bipinnatus)

Solidary flowers with a single row of petals in white, yellow, red and pinks surrounding a yellow center. Useful for adding mass and work well as filler in summer bouquets. “Cosmos” is the Greek word for harmony or ordered universe. Spanish priests grew cosmos in their mission gardens in Mexico.

Vase life: 4-6 days.

Other articles in Michigan State University Extension series:

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