A cutting garden brings the pollinators to your yard

Lyndall Noyes-Brownell
Guest Columnist

I Have a confession to make, I spend a lot of time in my garden. There, I said it. Of course, my husband has known this fact for years. 

I'm always curious to see what's going on outside. I enjoy watching nature awaking in the morning and seeing the butterflies resting in the flower pads of the zinnias. The bees lying around in the purple coneflowers and mountain mint. Birds grabbing the last seeds from the sunflower plants.

Pollinators, like this bee resting on a purple coneflower, will be more attracted to your space if you install a cutting garden.

We do have more pollinators this year, because of installing a flower cutting garden.

Now I don't feel guilty cutting a bunch of flowers to enjoy indoors as there are more than enough to share with the pollinators. It was actually easy to add a cutting garden into the landscape. It's really a win-win for you and the pollinators. Here are some tips to get started.

Adding a cutting garden to your hard can help you feel less guilty about cutting fresh flowers to bring indoors.

Start with the site planning, look around your yard to see where it can be easily installed. Mine came naturally, as my vegetable garden is in full sun in a well-drained area and there are always some extra rows available. This location also made it convenient for the pollinators, as they are just a short flight away from pollinating the vegetable blossoms.

Since these flowers will be working overtime from all of that cutting, start the beds out right by weeding the area, working in compost and giving it a kick-start with a balanced, granular slow release fertilizer.

While designing the garden, factor in wide paths for easy access for taking care of the plants and harvesting the flowers. When installing the plants, select the flowers that have similar growing requirements for sun, water, drainage, expected bloom time and by intended size.

Get out of your comfort zone and experiment with some new varieties of plants along with your favorite flowers and foliage. Select plants that will provide a continuous supply of flowers throughout the growing season. Consider plants that have flowers with long strong stems. If you like a fragrant bouquet, add some scented plants too.

As for plant suggestions, here are some tried and true plants: Annuals will grow for one season, but may reseed and pop-up in your garden the next year. Think about growing Bachelor's Button, Bells of Ireland, Pincushion Flower, Sweet Pea, Sunflower and Zinnia. For perennials that will come back year after year and give a good foundation for the cutting garden: Black-eyed Susan, Coneflower, Delphinium, Foxglove, Iris, and Snapdragon. Don't forget the foliage, think about adding: Coleus, Ferns, Hosta, Lavender, Rosemary, Sage and Sweet Potato Vine.

Once the plants are a few inches tall, cover the soil with mulch as it will help retain moisture and keep the weeds down. The plants will need an inch of water a week. When they are in full bloom mode, feed them with periodic doses of liquid fertilizer.

To keep the blooms a coming, pick the flowers regularly and deadhead any of the spent flower heads. As you cut the flowers, don't be surprised to see pollinators jump on for some nectar. Just give the flowers a slight shake, so they can fly back to their new cutting garden.

Happy Gardening!

Lyndall Noyes-Brownell proudly serves as co-chair for Black Mountain Beautification Committee, an Extension Master Gardener Volunteer of Buncombe County and chair of Black Mountain Blooms Seed Lending Library. She is the webmaster for blackmountainbeautification.org and cares for plant containers in downtown Black Mountain.