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Cut flower trials

As a professional floral designer, Master Gardener Wendy was searching for some cutting flowers that grow easily from seed in San Mateo County's zone 17.  She was specifically interested in flowers that could be used throughout the growing season for indoor floral arrangements.


This trial was designed to identify such flowers.  All seeds in the trial were purchased in March 2008 based on the suggestions of Renee Shepard from Renee's Garden Seeds in Felton, CA, with the exception of the Harlequin marigolds, which were donated by one of Wendy's students at the College of San Mateo.

All the seeds were started in Wendy's Half Moon Bay greenhouse, in the following potting medium, as suggested by Renee's Garden:
Two parts vermiculite, two parts perlite, and four parts peat moss.

The following varieties were then transplanted in early May 2008 into the Master Gardener's test garden at Elkus Ranch, south of Half Moon Bay.  The garden is blessed with an excellent draining soil which the Master Gardeners amended with sheep and goat manure.  No chemical or non-organic fertilizers were utilized.  The garden has full sun exposure.  The garden is in a semi-wild setting with many deer and bunnies.

Successful varieties

Knee-high sunflowers
Helianthus annus
Did very well - great cut flower with a single blossom.

Dancing petticoats
Cosmos bipinnatus
Thrived, in spite of bunny munching at base.

Smokey Bronze Fennel
Foeniculum vulgare
The star of the show! Fragrant and beautifully bronze-colored. Great bee, bire, and butterfly attractor. Edible foliage and seeds. Unbothered by pests or grazing. Even hosted some Monarch butterfly caterpillars (which were unfortunately consumed prior to metamorphosis).
Watercolor pastels statice
Limonium sinuate
Slow grower, but survived in spite of heavy bunny and deer grazing.
Heirloom amaranth
Amaranthus candatus
Very successful. Thrived in spite of heavy infestation of black aphids, which were controlled with water sprays.

"Harlequin" marigold
Tagetes patula "Harlequin"
This is an heirloom marigold from the 1870s. It formed large flowering bushes with beautiful foliage and florals. Very attractive to beeds, birds, and butterflies. It did not appear to suffer bunny or deer damage.

Dahlia bulbs (existing; various unknown species)
These bulbs had been over-wintering in buckets of sand; they were replanted in April with success. The dinner plate dahlias were quite impressive.
Alstromeria (existing; unknown species) These flowers, already present in the test garden, were in full bloom in March. The bed bloomed the entire year. Highly recommended as a cutting flower source for the year-round garden in San Mateo and San Francisco counties.

Unsuccessful varieties

Bells of Ireland
Moluccella laeus
Never thrived; very small.
Black watchman hollyhocks
Alcea rosea
Did not thrive, but may bloom next year.
Chantilly snapdragons
Antirrhunum majus
Devoured by deer and bunnies.
Love in a mist
Nigella damascena
Immediately demolished by deer and bunnies.