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Grow your own cut flowers in Southern California

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Courtesy of Gerald Burke

(Read caption) Tall zinnias make great, long lasting cut flowers, and they're very easy to grow from seed in all parts of the country.

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With all the special days that occur in May and June, many gardeners in Southern California bemoan the fact that they don’t have cut flowers growing that they can use for indoor bouquets.

It’s a matter of planning ahead. That means if you want cut flowers in May and June, you have to start in the preceding fall.

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Start planting in August

To have cut flowers this time of year, I start seed of snapdragons, calendulas, Iceland poppies, foxglove, statice, and a few others beginning in August and making repeated plantings on through December.

This gives me plenty of good flowers for cutting by February and on through May and June.

In the meantime, I’ve started my summer flowers, either from seed or started plants from February on through April. I start tall zinnias, tall marigolds, rudbeckia, aster, plumed celosia, Echinacea (coneflowers), cosmos, dwarf sunflower, and a few dwarf zinnias and marigolds for borders.

Add to those, roses coming along in the spring, bulbs blooming in season, some perennials blooming in the winter, spring, and summer, I’ll have tall flowers for cutting just about any time of the year.

No last-minute solutions

I regularly get frantic e-mails from readers who say they have a wedding coming up in a couple of weeks and what can they plant now that will be in full bloom in two weeks.

Sad to say, really nothing. Even if you go to the nursery and get started plants, you’re not likely to find any with blooms big enough for cutting in time, unless you want to spend big bucks on already-blooming flowers in large containers.

So if you’re a dedicated gardener, and want cut flowers for any season, write down a timed planting guide for yourself, get the seed on hand ahead of time, and go for it.

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Gerald Burke is a travel and horticultural writer. He spent more than 30 years in the seed business and is a member of the Garden Writers Association. To read more of what he has written here at Diggin' It about gardening in Southern California, click here.