2004: We’re on a seasonal column roll now, and
as luck would have it -- it’s a good time, right now,
to be thinking about summer harvest! First of all, for those
of us in cold country, it’s nice to think warm thoughts,
and secondly, it’s time. Time to get a move on, dust off
the seeding benches, clean up the greenhouse or basement, get
some more of those seeds started and plan for starting other
seeds into spring; time to prepare to receive your plugs if
you order them; you know the drill.
Having a good variety of flowers for summer harvest depends
upon it. There’s plenty of time to think about sunflowers
and zinnias, the summer garden workhorses, but they only go
so far. Some other summer staples, like statice, need to be
started indoors 8-10 weeks before planting out. We start various
trays of statice, stock, salvia, celosia, achillea, gomphrena
and strawflower (and a whole lot more) beginning in February
into March in our Zone 6 area of Pennsylvania.
Four favorites, too -- some new for us in the last two years
-- that we’d highly recommend:
(Pycnanthemum virginianum), a perennial that is a workhouse
filler. It can be cut anytime. We start this in the greenhouse
and it’s easy. Or you can buy plugs.
(Talinum paniculatum), another fantastic filler. We both
seed this in the greenhouse and direct seed. This alone
with a few focal flowers makes a nice, light and airy bouquet.
We harvest when flower heads have developed or wait for
the berries to form.
(Pennisetum glaucum), a grass/ millet, works beautifully
for a large arrangement with two or three sunflowers. It’s
a great focal and should be cut before pollen shows, or
wait until later in the season and use in fall bouquets.
The plant will keep sending up new spikes that are smaller.
(Rudbeckia hirta), often classified as a perennial but best
treated as an annual, has giant blooms that make a good
focal flower in an arrangement. Harvest when blooms are
100 percent open. You can buy plugs, but we haven’t
found it difficult from seed.
Two others that, from all appearances, will be hot this year
are Crazy Daisy
(Leucanthemum x superbum) and Neon
Duo (Dianthus barbatus).
Martha Stewart Living has a feature on daisies in the latest
issue, with number one on the pictured list Crazy Daisy, so
trust me, customers will want them). This Shasta daisy with
its double blooms and many quilled petals, is truly unique
and fun with its fluffy look. Stems are nice and long, too,
and it blooms mid-summer. Germania says it’s best treated
as a biennial and that plants require well-drained areas to
avoid winter-kill. Since my husband piled snow atop my Shastas
two years ago and I lost them all, I’d have to agree.
Neon Duo dianthus (Amazon series) is another destined to
continue to be big (an Association of Specialty Cut Flower
Growers flower of the year last year) with its neon-colored
blooms in a mix of purple and cherry and that beautiful
dark green foliage. It’s easy AND it requires no vernalization.
Hoop, Hoop Hooray
If you have a hoophouse that isn’t filled with winter
flowers, March is the time to begin planting (in our Zone
6 climate) for early summer harvest of stock,
and sweet peas.
We do Campanula
also. An unheated house is fine for cold-tolerant plants.
We do some day-neutral sunflowers
in our greenhouse with minimal heat, just in case the temperature
dips really low.
If you purchase plugs, you can plant some right in the hoop
and transplant others to larger cell trays for outdoor planting
a little later. Depending upon where you live, planting outdoors
under little wire hoops with Reemay works, too. We have Reemay
ready in the big hoophouse in case we have a real cold night
and need a little extra cover for a couple crops.
But guess what? We’ve had snaps (Rocket, Spring Giant)
withstand 15 degrees under Reemay. In their Growing for Market
column years ago, Frank and Pamela Arnosky reported snaps
taking down to 9 degrees under row cover, and lisianthus staying
alive underground in that same freeze! Plants came up from
the crown under ground.
Speaking of plugs, if you missed out on fall ordering, most
of the big greenhouse distributors have surplus lists. We
just got e-mails from Gro’ n Sell (www.gro-n-sell.com)
and calls from Germania (www.germaniaseed.com).
Remember to ask about the minimum order, which is just three
flats for some, but can be six or more for others. (Check
with your certifier if you’re certified organic, as
conventional annual plugs are a problem). Plugs can be a blessing
for some hard-to-start flowers like lisianthus, which like
to test your ability to wait them out.
Bulbs Can Help Summer Sales
Don’t forget about bulbs, too! Some of the big nurseries
have huge minimums, so be sure to read the fine print in catalogs.
Consider going in with other small growers for a big order,
which can save lots of money.
One of our favorites is Crocosmia,
which happens to be the favorite of a number of our customers,
too. One catalogs explains they are “graceful spires
with multiple blazing blooms...so vivid they can be spotted
a block away.” And they seem to pop up out of no where.
Suddenly, there are beautiful, bright red splotches in the
flower beds (and it’s not cardinals).
They bloom mid to late summer, and also have seedpods that
are great in arrangements. We like the red ‘Lucifer.’
We’re going to try the orange ‘Masonorum’
and yellow ‘George Davidson’ this year, so will
let you know. A perennial, Crocosmia are supposed to be hardy
as far north as Zone 5. We lost ours last winter here in Zone
6 -- an unusually bad winter.
We’re going to try some
Leucocoryne ‘Andes’ this year.
They’re fragrant lavender rose flowers blooming in early
summer. Also Peacock Orchids,
fragrant and unique flowers blooming mid to late summer. We’ve
in the past, a perennial hardy in Zones 7-10, which are extremely
fragrant and popular with customers -- but we never seem to
have time to dig them, which cuts into the bottom line.