Useful Herbs for the Cutting Garden

Are you an avid gardener looking to include cut flowers into your vegetable garden? Do you already have a small cutting garden, but find you’re unsure about what type of plants to grow for added greenery? Are you looking to add herbs to your garden, but want to plant herbs that are useful for more than just their cooking and medicinal uses?

Well, this is the blog post for you! Today we’re going to discuss 5 different herbs that you can grow in your garden that can ALSO be used as greenery or filler in your flower bouquet or arrangement. So let’s get started!

1. Mint

I’ll never not be a fan of mint! I don’t care what all you grumbly gardeners have to say about it being invasive or aggressive–it has been nothing short of a lifesaver for me when I’m running low on greenery. It gives and gives and keeps on giving no matter how much I hack at it.

Of course, there are many types of mint. Some flower farmer favorites are applemint, chocolate mint, and mountain mint. For me personally, I love the mountain mint I planted a few years ago, but sometimes I wish that the leaves were a bit wider to give more of a full look in an arrangement. I planted mountain mint seeds from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, and since then have discovered there is another variety of mountain mint that has fuller leaves. However, I have cut it at basically any stage and it has held up well as long as I let it hydrate in water in a cool place. I grew applemint in a pot a few years ago and I loved it as well, but I’ve struggled to have long stems that I could use with chocolate mint. My patch of chocolate mint is in a pot, so that may be the reason for the short stem length. If you’re worried about mint spreading, please plant it in a pot (and they can even escape a pot). It can take over an area pretty rapidly and will even survive being mowed over, which is why many people hate it because it takes over their grass.

There are even some wild mints that you can forage for! I’ve found that they tend to flower about early to mid June here in southwestern Illinois with a repeat later on in the season. I cut it all stages as well, but it seems to hold up better if I cut it when it is flowering as opposed to just a leafy stalk. If you’re foraging, make sure you bring along your I.D. book. A tip for knowing if something is mint or at least in the mint family is that the stem will be square, and often you can smell a minty aroma coming from the plant if you crush the leaves between your fingers.

2. Lemon Balm

Lemon balm makes a great green filler and it smells so awesome! I always like when I can include greenery or filler that smells wonderful for my customers. The leaves have a lemony scent and this plant can be used in many recipes as a replacement for actual lemons because of this!

Like mint, lemon balm can be rather aggressive once it establishes, so keep it in a pot if you’re worried. I’ve found that it has been pretty easy to start from seed, so if you can’t find this one in your local greenhouse then pick up some seeds online or at your local hardware store. It seems to be a pretty common herb that is used in teas, tinctures, and the list goes on.

Hydrating lemon balm can be difficult. Make sure to cut it in the coolest part of the day and put it straight into water. Let it sit for awhile in a cool place so that it can be fully hydrated when you’re ready to use it in an arrangement!

This picture of lemon balm is from Baker Creek Heirloom Seed, as mine are still at the seedling stage. I had some in a pot last year, but did not snap a picture of it. I did not water it very well last year, so it died, naturally (even flower farmers make mistakes!). We love Baker Creek, so if you want some lemon balm seeds, visit their website by clicking here.

3. Basil

OMG. This is probably my favorite herb to use in a flower bouquet or arrangement. I love the smell SO MUCH and I love that there are so many varieties of basil that can smell and look extremely different. MY FAVORITE by far is cinnamon basil. The smell is fantastic and the leaves are dark green with a purply tinge with the flower head being purple with lavender flowers. It holds up pretty great in an arrangement! Most of the time the basil is the last to fade if it has been hydrated properly.

I cut my basil in the morning mostly so that it is fully hydrated. If I cut in the evenings after a hot day, it is definitely more prone to wilting. I usually cut it when the first few flowers have started to open on the flower stalk, and the plant needs to be a little “woody” feeling or at least turgid feeling. If the flower head at all seems sort of limp or wobbly I know it won’t hold up well, even if I make sure to hydrate it for a day or so.

A few other varieties of basil that I’ve liked are lemon basil and ‘Purple Ruffles’ basil. The lemon basil seems to wilt easily, but I love the scent. Purple Ruffles has purple leaves that are “ruffly” and sometimes the leaves have a purple and green mixture to them that makes them look really neat. Purple Ruffles seems to be an overall shorter plant, so I didn’t get to use it much last year. I did plant some in pots this year because I love how it looks. I’ve also cut just the regular green basil that is commonly used for cooking and it has held up well. The leaves aren’t as pretty, but I think it gives a nice touch to the bouquet because of its spicy scent. I’m trying out Cardinal basil this year, which is supposed to have a much bigger flower head. I’ll let you know how it goes!

4. Yarrow

This herb teeters between my first and second favorite. Yarrow grows wild in some areas across the United States, and the wild yarrow usually has a white flower head. I am going to be incorporating this wild type yarrow into my cutting garden here in the future, but for now I mostly have colored yarrows. I planted a batch that I started from seed a few years ago that are part of the “Colorado” series, so I have many different colors ranging from red to peach to pink. If it isn’t planted in a group, it seems like the stems like to flop over, so I like my mass planting because of this. I have one plant I bought for my landscaping the year before I started flower farming, and the stems always flop over with the weight of the flower head. Yarrow will spread readily, but it likes to be divided after a few years. You can start with one plant and have many in just a short time, and they are also easily started from seed.

Yarrow makes a bouquet look much fuller, and that is why I love it! Plus the butterflies love this plant as well!

5. Calendula

Also called “pot marigold”, this herb can be super helpful to have growing for those spring bouquets. It is easily direct sown before the last frost and will last through most of the summer into the fall if you let it. The main downfall to this herb is that the stems are usually short, so it can be difficult to use at times. However, it comes in many colors ranging from yellow to orange and everything in between.

Ironically, the varieties I have planted for cutting have been shorter-stemmed than the one I planted to harvest for herbal uses (of course). Most of the cutting varieties have prettier flowers, but I think they’re all pretty in their own way!

Grow some herbs in your cutting garden today!

So there you have it! Five herbs that can be used in your cut flower arrangements. Of course, there are others that I haven’t highlighted here. I’ll be using sage leaves in boutonni√®res this Fall, for example, and I’ve even used cilantro flowers in arrangements when I’ve been shorthanded, but the five I listed are my favorites and the most popular! We are trying out shiso for the first time in the garden this year, so maybe one day I’ll be able to add that one to the list of my favorites.

FYI – Many perennial herbs hardy to your zone can be started RIGHT NOW (yes, in August). Plant them out in the garden before the first frost so that they can establish and let them overwinter in your garden! Some examples are yarrow, oregano, mint, sage, and the list could go on.

What herbs are you planning to plant in your garden for next year? Drop a comment below!

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