I came across this brief, but thorough, article on pruning flowering shrubs to maximize bloom, written by Kathy Zuzek.  When pruning flowering shrubs, it is important to know if they bloom on old wood or new wood, so as not to inadvertently remove next years flower buds that have formed.  It is easy to get chop happy in the Spring, especially if you live in Minnesota and have been waiting, and waiting, to get outside and work after a good old-fashioned winter like we’ve had this year.  With just a brief understanding of when you should prune and when you should wait will make your yard and garden more beautiful in bloom.

Kathy includes a handy table of shrubs grown in Minnesota that can require pruning, and lists them as blooming on old wood or new wood to help us understand when to prune.

You will have to scroll down past the article on ‘Emerald Ash Borer is found in Minneapolis’ to find the article, but all the articles in this Yard and Garden News issue are worth reading if you are a Minnesotan and enjoy your own yard or garden.

All credits to Kathy Zuzek for Pruning Shrubs to Maximize Blooms.

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This new book, Woody Cut Stems for Growers and Florists, by Lane Greer and John M. Dole will be indispensable for growers of woody ornamentals.  Too bad I didn’t have this information 10 years ago when I started my cut flower business, or even 5 years ago, as the gardens have continued to expand.  After reading and learning about the technique of coppicing woody ornamentals, I now feel armed with the knowledge of how to get my woody ornamentals to produce quality stems for cutting.

This book covers growing tips for over 100 kinds of woody stemmed plants for cut flower production.  Information about growing, pruning and coppicing, harvesting, and forcing for each species given.

Find this book at Growing For Market

Also available at Amazon

Photos credit to Proven Winners Color Choice.

The Christmas rush is over, the nursery catalogs are coming in the mail, and my inbox is filling with exciting email offers from seed and nursery companies!  Now is the time to plan and dream about all the fun (hard work) I will have in my gardens this summer.

This new pink Annabelle type hydrangea, Invincibelle Spirit, has really caught my attention, and I must, must, MUST have it for my cutting gardens!  I can already picture a bouquet of these in the pink depression glass vase that came from Grandma Anderson.  Isn’t she a beauty, and doesn’t it get your fingers itching to dig in the dirt?

New in 2010. USDA Zones 3-9 (perennial in zone 3).
Breeder: Dr. Thomas Ranney.
1) Blooms each year without the special care or pampering required by other hydrangeas.
2) Blooms are always pink, and not affected by soil pH.
3) Blooms on new wood, so it develops flowers even if killed to the ground from harsh winters.
4) Funds breast cancer research; for every plant sold, $1.00 will be sent to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.

More info is listed here: http://www.invincibellespirit.net/

Click here for detailed plant description and growing information.

Breast Cancer Cure

Photos credit to Proven Winners Color Choice.

Cut flower harvesting tips

February 28, 2009

bouquet 1

1.  Start with clean buckets – use a sanitizing solution of 1 part bleach to 10 parts water to sanitize and kill bacteria.  Use clean scissors or clippers for cutting to prevent introducing bacteria which can inhibit the stems from taking up water.

2.  Harvesting of flowers is best done in the morning or evening; harvesting during the heat of the day shortens the vase life of flowers.  When flowers are cut in the morning the water content of the stems are the greatest, and the stems are quite firm.  It is best to wait until the dew has dried to prevent browning of petals or disease during storage.  If flowers are cut in the evening, the flowers have been photosynthesizing all day and the stems will contain more carbohydrates, which help prolong the vase life.

3.  The stage of harvest for cutting can be different for each flower species.  Most flowers should be cut in early bloom, before they are showing any pollen, to extend the vase life.  If you are cutting flowers for an arrangement that will grace your table for that very day, flowers in full bloom will work fine and give a wonderful presentation.  If you are cutting a bouquet for someone and you want it to last for a week, cut the flowers in the early blooming stage to ensure a long vase life.

4.  Flowers being used within a day can be held in plain water in buckets, flowers that will be held longer in a cooler need to be placed in a holding solution.  Chrysal Clear # 2 professional processing solution is a low sugar holding solution that will hydrate and hold flowers in the cooler until they are sold.  Use clean, sharp shears to cut flowers, strip off foliage on lower part of stems that will be in water, and place cut stems immediately in a clean bucket half filled with cool water.   Let flowers rest and condition in a cool place for 1-2 hours to become fully hydrated.  After resting for 2 hours, flowers can then be made into arrangements, or if transporting for sale, transfer flowers to a clean bucket half filled with a holding solution mixed according to container directions (like Chrysal Clear # 2 professional processing solution).

5.  When cutting branches or woody ornamentals there are a few things that will help the stems to hydrate.  First, cut the branches at a sharp diagonal, then cut a split into the bottom of the stem a few inches long.  The old practice of smashing the ends of woody stems is no longer advised, due to studies showing it damages the stems rather than helping them hydrate.

6.  Tulips are the only flower that do better without a holding solution, they can be held in plain water in the cooler.  Tulips will continue to grow after being cut; bunches should be wrapped in newspaper to hold stems straight as they will twist and bend after cutting.  A preservative should be used in the vase for a final arrangement, however.

7.  Gloves should be worn when cutting Euphorbias, as their milky sap can cause a rash.  Euphorbia stems must be seared after cutting.  Have a small pot of water simmering and plunge the stems (about 1-2 inches) into the water for about one minute, then put in buckets to finish conditioning.

8.  If flower heads are drooping, recut stems and put in warm water to force hydration.

9.  When arranging flowers into a vase, use a clean vase and a professional preservative such as Chrysal Clear # 3 or Aquaplus, available on line or at craft stores, for full flower development and to extend the vase life of the flowers.  Rose stems should be recut underwater before adding to arrangements to ensure no air pockets will block water flow through the stem.  Any foliage that is underwater in a vase should be removed, this will help keep the water cleaner and extend vase life.

blooming blue muffin

This easy to grow variety of Arrowwood Viburnum is a compact, rounded shrub that is ideal for foundation planting or hedging use.  The dark blue seed pod clusters are a stunning addition as cut flowers for fall bouquets.  The fruit of this woody ornamental also provides food for the birds.

Growing information:

Height – 4′ to 6′ feet tall

Hardy zones 4 – 8

Spring bloom of white flowers, followed by blue clusters of berries in the fall.