Grow a great cutting garden

Tips for making cut flowers last. Plus, a painter's palette of blossoms worthy of a wedding bouquet

Jim McCausland

The profusion of blooms that fills the Cutting Garden flower farm and gardens on Washington's Olympic Peninsula is so thick and colorful that it practically glows in the bright summer sun. Foxtail lilies stand tall over peonies and poppies; callas and columbines spill out into broad gravel paths; roses and clematis ramble over arbors and climb trees.

In the middle of it all stands the owner, cut-flower maven Catherine Mix, pruning knife in one hand and nosegay in the other. Behind her, fresh flowers suck up water in tall buckets on the shaded porch that wraps around her big yellow farmhouse. A garden wedding is coming up ― one of 35 here this summer ― and Catherine is making the bouquets.

All this was unimaginable a dozen years ago, when Catherine and her husband, Tom, still lived in Issaquah, Washington, and worked at Boeing. "I just grew the basics then," Catherine says ― a few dahlias, peonies, and rhododendrons. "I'd always loved flowers, and sold dahlias at my flower stand. But I had no idea what lay in the future."

When the couple built the farmhouse, located on 24 windswept acres of former horse pasture in Sequim, they decided to grow their flower business as well. Catherine knew she wanted low-maintenance plants that would create a succession of blooms from May through October, and that the design would need to accommodate the dahlias, rhododendrons, and peonies she'd rescued from her previous garden. But which new flowers to grow? And how to combine them with her old favorites?

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