Even though I’ve been gardening for many years, growing flowers to sell has made me learn new tricks, even with familiar plants. During this first year of Tiny Footprint Flowers I’ve started to see plants that have been in my garden for years with a whole new eye—a more pragmatic eye. I’ve been delighted to find that some of my old favorites are wonderful for long-lasting bouquets, but I’ve also decided that some plants may need to be replaced with more useful varieties.
Don and I sell some of our flowers to florists, but we also sell to people in our community. Our aim is to have bouquets that last a week, so I’ve done some testing to see which flowers can hit that mark. I’ve learned about harvesting early, using hydration solution, keeping leaves out of the water and keeping vases clean. Those are the basics. But there are many other nuances to learn about each flower we grow and sometimes I test conventional wisdom. Zinnias don’t like to be in the cooler—that’s the conventional wisdom. Out of necessity I’ve tested an overnight stay in the cooler and found that it doesn’t hurt them, but I haven’t challenged them beyond that. Conventional wisdom says that roses are fine in the cooler, but I found out the hard way that one of my roses, ‘Eyepaint,’ can’t take it—even an overnight stay reduces vase life dramatically. If I don’t put it in the cooler, ‘Eyepaint’ can last a week, which is surprisingly long for a rose.
I’ve also found that some non-standard flowers, such as fuchsias, can work in bouquets. I have an old variety called ‘Nettala’ that has an unusual form and wonderful vase life. I tuck that into some of our bouquets and people love it. Geranium 'Bikovo' is another example of a useful filler that lasts and adds a bit of fragrance.
My back yard has always had flowers and shrubs set in a several beds connected by curving walkways. I’ve kept that form because it will always be our private garden and family retreat. But I can tuck in quite a few things to sell. I’ve always suffered from plant lust (the desire for more and more new plants) so it was my habit to change out the annuals, but now I want new things that I can use for bouquets. I sometimes look at things in my private garden and ask if they’re earning their keep. Or could they be replaced with something more floriferous, something that would crank out stems of high-dollar blooms? That kind of thinking keeps me browsing websites and visiting nurseries. If you suffer from plant lust, you might like the site of the same name, plantlust.com. And if that isn’t enough, try Annie’s Annuals and Floret. You’re sure to learn new things about flowers, just like I did.