Guest Author - Connie Krochmal
During the late spring and early summer, many perennials are in bloom. Some of these like the ones discussed below make great cut flowers.
This perennial has flower stems that can reach two to three feet or more in height. The small, fluffy looking blossoms open in late spring and summer. These appear in large branched bunches. Their petal-like sepals are brightly colored. Yet, the most striking part of the blossoms is actually the thread-like stamens, which add a beautiful touch of color to floral design. The individual flowers are about ½ inch across. The actual color depends on the species. There are ones with yellow and white. Others are in various shades of purple, pink, and orange.
Meadowrue is hardy to zone three or four, depending on the species. They do well as far south as zone eight. If you’re growing these from seeds, cover them lightly. They benefit from chilling over the winter. The easiest method of doing that is to plant the seeds outdoors where they are to grow in the fall.
This is a poisonous plant. If you have small children in the household, you may not want to grow it.
Allow most of the flowers to open before you cut the stems. These can shatter easily. So, handle with care. The vase life is about five to 11 days. These can be dried as everlastings.
Spurge isn’t the first thing that might come to mind when we’re thinking of perennial cut flowers. However, these have spectacular stems that are good for cutting. As with the poinsettia (which is a relative), the colorful part is the bract. The flowers are so tiny and inconspicuous that you’ll hardly notice them. These flower heads open in very large, rounded bunches. Generally, the taller growing species are recommended for cut flowers. Typically, they reach one to three feet in height.
The actual color of the bracts can vary greatly. While some are typically yellow, newer varieties now have reddish or purplish bracts. These retain their color for long periods. Some start opening in the spring, while others wait until summer.
The hardiness does vary somewhat. In general, they are suited to zones four through nine. The spurges tend to self slow easily. So, if you want more plants you may be able to dig ones that come up around the original mother plant.
When using the spurges, there is one thing to keep in mind. The cut ends of the stems have a milky sap, which can cause a severe allergic reaction in susceptible individuals. For that reason, practice caution by wearing gloves when you cut the stems. This is particularly necessary if you have a cut or open wound on your hands. Once the sap dries, this is no longer an issue.
When first cut, these stems have a tendency to wilt. So, use hot water to condition them. Set them in a cool, dark room until they recover. The vase life is about five to ten days. These are used as a mass, accent, or line flower.