Flowers I will never grow


When I first started gardening seriously, about 12 years ago, I made lists of the flowers I’d always loved and wanted to have in my garden. It was kind of a silly list, keeping in mind that, back then, I barely knew the difference between annuals, perennials, and tropicals. So, upon this basis, I bought lilies, roses, and irises. I bought jasmine and gardenia plants, learning that I’d have to keep them alive inside somehow for most of the year, and figuring out how to do that. I bought carnation and dianthus, planting them in semi-shady, clay soil. I bought interesting plants I’d never heard of from the pages of the Bluestone and Wayside catalogs, paying no attention to their requirements. (In my defense, both of these companies toss around the phrase “part-shade” with promiscuous—and semi-truthful—abandon.) I bought tuberose and freesia bulbs, and failed utterly. I am not sure either set of ten bulbs put up as much as one green shoot between them.

I am so much older and wiser now. I quickly replace the experiments with others that have already shown they will survive, so that I now have lots of hostas, hakonechloa, hellebores, eupatorium, hydrangeas, buddleia, and other, somewhat aggressive specimens that I dare not name here. I also have lots of lilies, the one plant on my early wish list that turned out to be a good bet.

So this is why I still buy cut flowers in the summer. I’ll never have a 4-month cut flower garden. Anyway I don’t like to take flowers away from the garden—who does? Hence, exhibit A, above. I will never grow this, and I don’t know anyone who does. It is stock (matthiola). I could grow it from seed, but the phrase “start indoors in February and set out into a cool spring” kind of put me off. I don’t see it happening. However, once in a while, the flower department at Wegman’s has it in several irresistible colors, including this dull apricot/pink.

It is still fun to buy cut flowers I will never, ever grow.  Agree?

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Elizabeth Licata

Elizabeth Licata has been a regular writer for  Garden Rant since 2007, after contributing a guest rant about the overuse of American flags in front gardens. She lives and gardens in Buffalo, N.Y., which, far from the frozen wasteland many assume it to be, is a lush paradise of gardens, historic architecture, galleries, museums, theaters, and fun. As editor of Buffalo Spree magazine,  Licata helps keep Western New Yorkers apprised about what is happening in their region. She is also a freelance writer and art curator, who’s been published in Fine Gardening, Horticulture, ArtNews, Art in America, the Village Voice, and many other publications. She does regularly radio segments for the local NPR affiliate, WBFO.

Licata is involved with Garden Walk Buffalo, the largest free garden tour in the US and possibly the world,and has written the text for a book about Garden Walk. She has also written and edited several art-related books. Contact Elizabeth: ealicata at


  1. I deliver field-grown cut flowers to restaurants. While highly fragrant flowers are not the best choice for restaurants, I have tried to grow stock several times. The seed did not sprout one year and the plants flourished but never bloomed another year. This year I was thrilled to find stock bedding plants, until I noticed they were dwarf. What’s going on with this? I notice more and more excellent cutting plants only being sold in the dwarf form. Someday all you will see will be 9″ tall gardens filled with stock, zinnia, dianthus, cleome, ageratum, etc.

  2. oh my! i didn’t know stocks came in apricot! i would totally grow those from seed…mainly because i’m not fortunate enough to have a wegman’s to carry them for me. god i miss having a wegman’s *sniff*

  3. Hard to resist a colorful display of cut flowers. I imagine we gardeners love them for the same reason we love flowers in general–and, you can’t grow them all, can you?

    The dwarfism of cut flowers is creepy, though; are they doing it to speed the flowers to market? I bought a dwarf dahlia a couple of years ago, and it was a disaster (either that, or my efforts to grow it were!)

  4. Tulips. Here in Florida they’re treated as annuals, if you have the nerve to plant them in the first place. However, they are wonderful in vases.

  5. I kind of disagree. We have a lot of flowers, and there is a pleasure in bringing bits of the garden inside. Many of these flowers invite cutting because it promotes rebloom. Some of our favorites for cutting: Yarrow, Asters, Asiatic Lillies (no rebloom, but we have a lot of them), Anise Hyssop, Goldenrod, Penstemon, Zinnia. Admittedly, some of these make for rangy-looking bouquets, but we like them anyway. Plus, I’m too much of a cheapskate to buy flowers when there are so many around the house.

  6. I LOVE being able to cut my own flowers! Here in So Cal, I grow peach & purple stock & sweet peas as a winter annuals; zinnias as a summer annual. I’ve also got kangaroo paws in 2 colors & self-sowing bachelor buttons, sunflowers & nigella & much more. My flower growing is at a community garden so perhaps that’s why I don’t mind cutting. Still, there always seems to be plenty in the garden to just enjoy.

  7. I prefer my flowers in the garden. This attitude has been reinforced by the large orange fuzzball who will climb any heights to upturn a flower vase, I may be able to try vases again, since his scaling ability is diminishing with age and weight.

  8. Most of my flowers stay outside. Why ? I spend so little time actually in my home, I feel it’s a waste. If I’m not at work, I’m either outside or at least half asleep. But … when the callas or glads are in bloom, they come indoors.

  9. I didn’t know kangaroo paws come in colors! I have grown the red though it usually bites the dust late summer. I rarely cut flowers from my garden though I have about 12-15 lavender plants which do quite well in my sandy soiled wisconsin garden! I should cut and dry them! Roses are mainly shrub type hard to cut those and bring indoors. I do plan on renovating a portion of my veg garden for a cut flower garden-will have them for next year (fingers crossed).

  10. Someone once gave me a bouquet of giant white hydrangeas (Anna-belle?) and it was so lovely I decided to grow a hydrangea like that. Now I have one exploding with enormous white globes but… I can’t make myself cut them! Same with the lilacs.

    Cutting flowers in a garden of annuals though, may be easier for me, since they will all perish anyways. And it would allow me to point my eager daughters to a place where they are allowed to cut.

    I like the idea of a combined veggie/annual cut flower garden. Maybe that will be next year’s project…

  11. Like many posters here, I don’t cut from my garden to bring inside. The exception is lilacs, which I cut with wild abandon in the spring and fill with every vase I have.

  12. What gorgeous stocks! And the scent!

    That exclaimed, I just read the 50 Mile Bouquet and that has altered my view of buying cut flowers dramatically. If they’re from out of the country or not organically grown it’s very likely they’re filled with pesticides. Ugh. That’s not what I want on the dinner table. At the community garden this year I’m experimenting with over a dozen dahlias, fancy sunflowers, zinnias–and I hope to try to raise the awareness in some local businesses.

    As a party pooper side-note I want to share that I also read those blocks of floral foam we use to make arrangements are filled with formadehyde (sp) and other very nasty stuff to “preserve” the flowers. I did not know that and I’ve used those for flower arrangments at Christmas, etc. My friend who is a floral designer did not know this. Horrible.

  13. I grow dahlias exclusively for cutting. I think the plants are in general unattractive, but the flowers! Oh, the flowers are gorgeous. I cut them by the bucket load and bring them in the house and also take them to the university children’s hospital. They make the staff and visitors happy.

  14. I’ve struggled to get a peoney to bloom here in central California. Its never cold enough.(I know all about the old ice cube trick) They prefer a good Minnesota winter and are not fooled. Fortunatly, my Trader Joes’ has lovely bunches of them and I can pretend its Memorial Day in Minnesota.

  15. To anyone who has cut flowers in mind, I highly recommend British writer Sarah Raven’s books on how to grow and arrange them at home.

  16. I totally disagree. I have some tried and true annuals and perennials- zinnias, cosmos, cone flowers, rudbeckia, e.g. I love going out in the garden and picking flowers for the house, neighbors, church. I’d rather spend my $$ buying plants than cut flowers!

  17. I never think I have enough flowers to cut them for the house. But the cats knock over vases anyway. Once in a while I make a tiny bouquet for our bedroom and I do enjoy that. A very few blossoms.

  18. I really like this article. I too don’t like to cut my flowers and buy from a local farm market. I love hostas and greens that I too have added recently. There are just some flowers that will my ground and areas I will never grow.

  19. Stocks, are wonderful and full of perfume. They are also soo… easy to grow. Forget about starting them indoors in February. I live in zone 5 and start the seeds outside right in the garden every spring. They never fail me and as a bonus the deer do not like them!

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