Updated: Jan 11
A diverse cut flower farm includes a variety of flowers with different shapes, colors, and bloom times. But it also includes a variety of plant types, perennials, annuals, and woody shrubs and trees. Having diversity in your plant type helps ensure continuous blooms through-out the growing season, ward off pest infestation with differing plant tissue, and disperses labor load.
Using small woody shrubs for cut flowers or foliage has an added benefit: they provide shelter for small birds that can significantly help reduce pest pressure. Their deep root systems keep biology alive in the soil and reduce erosion, their spreading canopy can provide shade and moisture retention when it's dry and their abundant leaves can quickly soak up moisture after a heavy rain.
While shrubs can often be an upfront investment for a small flower farmer, their benefits can quickly outweigh their costs, that is, if the plants live. There's no better way to ensure an eventual return on your investment than by planting native shrubs. Native plants have ecological resilience. They are used to growing in the extremes of your climate and have manage to survive and thrive there for hundreds of years.
Mealy Sage is a perennial native that shoots up little blue spires resembling lavender. It's drought-hardy and blooms continuous. It even holds up out of water in event bouquets.
A woodland shrub thriving in shady spots with moist soils (perhaps under a useful magnolia tree), baptisia is wonderful for its useful foliage as well as pure white lobbed flowers on long pea-like strands.
Although technically a perennial rather than a shrub, Triloba gets so large, it provides shelter for birds evading larger prey birds and nice place to find shade. It's vase life is outstanding and the airy form lends subtle movement to any arrangement.
Mountain Mint (Pycnanthemum)
A vigorous grower, it's drought-tolerant even in full sun and provides a beautiful flush of gray-green foliage and dainty white flowers in the height of mid-summer, just when your bouquets could use an uplifting boast. An upright plant, I often find little friendly birds and critters racing in and out of it's lofty stems.
There's many more native prairie flowers, perennials, and trees that work well as cut flowers and foliage. But even the addition of these four hard working species will diversify your farm labor, poductivity, soil, plant and bird life, and sustainable flower offerings.