To grow a beautiful organic bouquet, start by planting in organically rich, well-drained soil. This means at planting time adding leaf mould, compost and/or manure, plus a handful of slow-release organic fertilizer. After planting, provide your perennials with a 5 cm (2 in.) layer of mulch, bark or fish compost. The mulch will reduce weeds, as well as water evaporation and soil compaction. Each spring, reapply the mulch and the organic granular fertilizer. Big flowers require lots of food. In mid-spring, as your perennials break dormancy, you'll need to feed every 10 days with a liquid organic fertilizer such as 4*2*3, or a liquid seaweed or fish emulsion. This will provide immediate nutrition to your plants. At feeding time, take the opportunity to hand-pull any baby weeds, which can grow fast and become competition for your perennials. Be on the lookout for mildew, a common problem with phlox and roses. To take care of this naturally, mix baking soda with water and spray infected plants weekly. If this doesn't help, and you need something stronger, look for sulphur-based organic solutions at your garden centre. Pests can be a problem in our cut-flower gardens. Aphids can distort buds while slugs can simply eat them all up. The introduction of ladybugs and a regular application of Safer's Slug Bait will help. The best time to harvest cut flowers is in the early morning two hours after you have watered. Use a sharp knife or scissors and make a clean cut. Immediately put flowers into water and bring into a cool area to arrange. When finished your bouquets, re-cut the stems and place into cool water mixed with a natural flower preservative (see the recipe below). Be sure to re-cut bouquets every few days and change the water. Flowers will last longer if kept in a cool area out of direct sunlight. When choosing and planting cut-flower perennials, be sure to plant a few extra. That way you'll enjoy the colour both in the garden and on the table, plus, the more you grow, the more bouquets you'll have to share with friends. Sheena's 10 Favourite Fragrant Perennial Flowers (Plants are hardy to the zone number indicated.) • Lilium (Oriental lilies) - zone 4 • Phlox paniculata 'David' (phlox) - zone 3 • Phlox paniculata 'Norah Leigh' (phlox) - zone 3 • Helenium 'Moerheim Beauty' (sneezeweed) - zone 3 • Rosa 'New Dawn' (rose) - zone 6 • Lathyrus latifolius 'Everlasting' (sweet pea) - zone 3 • Lavandula x intermedia 'Provence' (lavender) - zone 6 • Hemerocallis 'Happy Returns' (daylily) - zone 3 • Cimicifuga simplex var. simplex Atropurpurea Group (bugbane) - zone 3 • Dianthus 'Bath's Pink' (carnation) - zone 2 Natural Flower Preservative • 1 Tbsp. (15 mL) lemon juice • 1 Tbsp. (15 mL) granulated sugar • 1/2 tsp. (2.5 mL) bleach • 4 cups (1 L) cool water Mix together all ingredients and pour into a vase. Flowers should be freshly cut and placed into the vase immediately. Be sure to place all stem ends into water to a maximum depth of 7.5 cm (3 in.) - any deeper and the stems may rot or go mouldy. Mildew Recipe • 2 tsp. (10 mL) baking soda • 4 cups (1 L) water Mix together and spray plant thoroughly every 10 days as a preventative method for black spot and powdery mildew.
Credit: Terry Guscott