by Keith Baldwin, CFSA’s Farm Services Coordinator

Growers who include cut flowers in their pantheon of products for direct market sales are often looking for something outstanding to cultivate. The following table summarizes the Association of Specialty Cut Flower Growers (ASCFG) ‘Cut Flowers of the Year’ for the last seven years–at time of publication. For the most part these are easy-to-grow, excellent choices for field-grown cut flower production. They generally hold well after cutting and are visually outstanding.

 

Year

Fresh

Woody

Bulb (other)

2014

Snapdragon Chantilly Series

Hydrangea Everlasting Series

Anemone ‘Galilee Blue’

2013

Stock ‘Katz Cherry Blossom’

Symphoricarpos ‘Amethyst’

Ranunculus ‘Super Green’

2012

Zinnia ‘Queen Red Lime’

Viburnum ’Wentworth’

Lily ‘Royal Sunset’

2011

Lisianthus ‘Mariachi Carmine’

Physocarpus ’Coppertina’

Capiscum ‘Nippon Taka’ (dried)

2010

Dahlia ‘Karma Naomi’

Viburnum ‘Snowball’

Pannicum ‘Frosted Explosion’ (dried)

2009

Zinnia ‘Uproar Rosea’

Hydrangea ‘Hamburg’

Achillea ‘Coronation Gold (dried)

2008

Eryngium ‘Blue Glitter’

No pick

Sorghum bicolor upright sorghum (dried)

The ASCFG is a great outfit, run primarily by cut flower growers themselves. They have an information-packed national conference every year that is well-worth attending. They keep an excellent events calendar that you may find helpful workshops or fellow growers to compare notes with.

 

As you can see from the table above, the ASCFG has been active in the promotion of woody species as “cuts.” Woody “cuts” or “woodies” come from perennial shrubs, trees, or woody vines. They generally have few pest problems and can be grown on land unsuited for other crops. Once established, they can serve as attractive landscape plants, as habitat for beneficial insects and birds, and as windbreaks.

 

The following information on the production of “woodies’ as cut flowers comes from the ATTRA publication ‘Woody Ornamentals for Cut Flower Growers“ (Janet Bachmann, NCAT, 2002).

 

Management of woodies for cut flower production is generally much easier than the cultivation of annuals. Some management guidelines include:

  • Add any nutrients called for in soil test reports before planting.  Phosphorus is particularly important as it tends to be immobile in soil and will not move into the rooting zone if you apply it to the surface afterwards. Nutrient recommendations for cut flower production are published by the University of Maryland Extension “Nutrient Management Recommendations for Commercial Cut Flower Production.”
  • Weed management will be vastly simplified by covering the planting bed with landscape fabric and then covering the fabric with organic mulch such as wood chips or composted pine bark.
  • Organic fertilizers and soil amendments should be worked into the soil before planting. Again, this is especially true for phosphorus, which is not very mobile in the soil. Additional phosphorus helps to produce longer shoots.
  • Irrigation is especially important at planting time and when the plants are small. Installing drip line along planting beds will conserve water and ensure good shoot growth in periods of dry weather.
  • For production of cuttings, tight spacing is better. This causes stems to grow long and straight. For most woody cuts, plants are set 2–6 feet apart within rows. But be sure to leave enough space between rows for field operations, cover-cropping or harvesting.
  • Pruning to encourage growth of many long stems differs from pruning for a landscape specimen. In a typical plant, the dominant apical or tip bud prevents the development of the dormant buds or side shoots. If you remove the tip bud by pruning or pinching, other buds on the stem will develop. If you prune the apical bud from the plant when it is small, it will branch low to the ground and produce long, usable stems. If you prune a larger plant, you must cut it back hard to get a flush of long stems.
  • A general rule when harvesting woody ornamentals is to leave at least a third of the foliage on the plant when you cut. Once the plants have gone dormant, however, some species, such as Buddleia and Caryopteris, can be cut to the ground.

For more information on woodies that can be used for both “cuts” or for forcing, see the ATTRA website here.  

Have more questions? Get in touch with our farm services team!