February was a hard time for me. I was overwhelmed with all the options for planting out my spring beds. And since I knew that 2022 was a planning year, I wanted to trial absolutely everything! Yet, to execute on my goal to have 10 bouquets of flowers consistently from mid-summer to fall, I needed more information than was readily available from the books and resources available to me at that time. Remember that I am in USDA Zone 6a (old 7b).
Recommendations after this first year:
- Buy the Specialty Cut Flowers reference manual by Allan Artmitage. Purchase here and get it signed!
- Use data to fuel your decisions (that is why I started the cut flower data database here).
- Choose seed mixes to get to know what colors and types that you like. This can be a mix in a specific color pallet like Johnny’s Potomac Early Sunrise Mix F1 snapdragon seed mix.
- Variety doesn’t make trialing easier. Choose a few varieties to trial rather than lots of experiments!
- There are two slow parts to the season – the transition from spring to summer and summer to fall. Make sure to get specialty plants to bloom in this time. For spring to summer, look to biennials and group 2 snapdragons. For the transition from summer to fall, be sure to plant a snapdragon that loves this time line Monaco F1 series by PanAmerican Seed®.
First, lets start with the data I didn’t have last year: I need to know how many stems to expect per plant so that I know how many seeds, bulbs, corms, rhizomes, cuttings, etc. to propagate. And this information then fuels how many bulbs, corms, rhizomes and seed I need to buy (or already should have purchased) for the next season. [Sidebar: This is why I started the cut flower data database (see note too above). The beta is available still for testing. I will formally launch this resource and my podcast later this month.]
For an example, I’ll use the diva of the garden, ranunculus! These plants have been meticulously bred and analyzed by the good European folks, and most specifically the Dutch. They’ve had a corner on the flower propagation market since the Tulip Craze of 1637! While I have several varieties of ranunculus, I bought only those that have no restriction on re-use of the corms by plant patents or plant breeder rights (read my blog for more on the restrictions).
“In their spring special for members of the cut flower association was a statement that I knew I would sooner or later run into: “ranunculus must be destroyed after the first growing season and may not be reused, replanted or sold.” The statement didn’t apply to all ranunculus, only certain varieties. But it was clear – the plant breeder rights (PBR) were being zealously protected, and even required a signed acknowledgement from the buyer.
“I found 28 total ranunculus patents for two different breeders – one in the United Kingdom and the other in Italy. The oldest of these patents was 2018, which means that the European breeders would have exclusive rights to clone these varieties [of ranunculus] until sometime after 2038 in the United States.” – Breeding plants in a world of plant patents and PBRs
According to Utah State University’s 2022 study,† ranunculus can produce 2-14 stems per plant with the higher productivity in protected tunnels. For their study, and my own work, I am making the assumption of six sale quality stems per plant and a 10-week harvest period.
For background here are my goals/plans for the mid-spring offering (Community Supported Agriculture or CSA) and my math. Keep in mind that there also will be bloom spill over from my early spring planting such as anemones, muscari, narcissus, and tulips.
MID-SPRING CSA – 6-week subscription
Bouquet 15 stems
Arrangements 20 stems
|hellebore, peony, tulip, iris||canturbury bells, columbine, delphinium, foxglove, gillyflower (scented stock), larkspur||Iceland poppies||ranunculus, early snapdragons (group 1-2)||allium, corn cockle, grains, lunaria, nigella||lilac, mint, viburnum|
|1 stem||4 stems||2 stems||6-8 stems||1-2 stems||1-3 stems|
Mid-Spring Goal: 10 bouquets for 10 weeks; 4 ranunculus flowers each bouquet (spill over into late spring goals)
|Stem Need||Production Assumption||Total Need||Overplant Assumption||Total Requirements|
|40 weekly||1 stem every other week||80 corms||1/3 lost to rot/pests/failure (multiply by 1.3)||104 corms|
|400 season||6 stems per plant||67 corms||1/3 lost to rot/pests/failure (multiply by 1.3)||87 corms|
|131 + the 20ish corms I harvested from the plants that didn’t bloom this year|
My 8’x4’ covered bed can fit 82 plants with a 6×6 inch spacing. I’ll do a low tunnel in a small raised bed for the rest. Yay! I will have extras for sale in January!
Quick note about snapdragons, which I will cover next week in depth. Each type of snap is now bred for different conditions. My early spring snap will be Cool F1 series (group 1) by PanAmerican Seed. Mid- and late-spring snap will be the Maryland F1 series (group 2) also by PanAmerican. Summer snaps will be Madam Butterfly and Potomac.
I hope that this plan outline and math helps you too! I may post my spring succession and final plans once it is completely done. Almost there!
† Rauter, S; Stock, M; and Ward, R. “Ranunculus Cut Flower Production Budget, One High Tunnel, Northern Utah, 2022.” Utah State University Extension Publication, September 2022. Read study here.