With the amazing spring weather we have been having, we find our green thumbs are coming out in full force. It’s hard not to start planting every seed packet, bulb, and flower seedling in site. If you are like us and not only love garden-fresh blooms but also love caring for a garden (or know someone who does) , you may want to consider growing your own flowers for bouquets and/or table arrangements.
The average bride spends hundreds of dollars (or more) on wedding flowers, but the cash investment to grow your own can be very minimal. The trade off will be the time investment it takes to plan, plant and tend to your blooms; however, you may also find you enjoy this time and like that you had a hand in growing something yourself for your special day.
Step 1: Plan out what kind of flowers you will need.
Deciding on the types of florals you want at your wedding will help you determine how early you need to start planting. For example, some will take 1-3 years to be established to the point to provide enough blooms where others will be ready within one growing season. It is important to understand the different types of plants (annuals, perennials, & shrubs) and their grow time.
Annuals: These flowers need to be replanted each year and will produce their full bloom power within the course of one growing season. Annuals would include zinnias, sunflowers, snapdragons, larkspur, wildflowers, and others. If starting by seed, you will want to be sure to check the seed packet to understand how long it takes them to mature. Some annuals you may be able to find already started at your local green house. Timing is important though, you can’t expect most annual flowers to be ready for a May or June wedding unless they have been grown in a greenhouse.
*There are some flowering bulbs that need to be dug up and replanted each year because of our Iowa winters. They will reach full bloom in one growing season, but you will continue to re-use the bulbs each year.. Examples would be dahlias, windflower, cannas, and gladiolus. Just like with seeds, make sure you know the best time of year to plant these and their bloom time.
Perennials: These flowers come back each year, but they can take a while to get established and will have specific bloom times. Just a few examples of perennials would be peonies, daisies, coneflowers, asters, lilies, and tulips.
Flowering Shrubs: As with perennials, shrubs will take some time to get established and should be planted a few years before the wedding. Hydrangeas, roses, lilacs, dogwoods and forsythias are just a few and will all have specific bloom times.
Step 2: Get your growing area ready
Once you have determined what you want to plant, how many you will be planting, where they will be planted, and that you can get them to bloom in time, its time to get to work. Make sure you follow the directions on any seed packet, bulb package, or information provided with an established plant as to plant depth and how far apart to plant them. Whether you are starting a new flower bed or using an existing one, be sure to work in lots of compost to give your plants a boost.
Step 3: Don’t forget to water, water, water
It is important to make sure your plants are receiving enough water, if not it can delay bloom time. Shrubs will need at least 1 inch of water per week as they establish. Be careful you don’t over-water though as that can lead to other problems like fungus, rotted buds or disease.
Things to Consider
Test things out. If you have the time, you may want to play around with planting different flowers and bulbs the year before you need your blooms so you can see how they do in your area and the amount of blooms you get per plant.
Ask for help. If you are feeling overwhelmed, don’t be afraid to ask for help. You may have friends or family members that love to garden and would happy to take on this task for you or help you get started on your own.
Watch for frost: Iowa weather can be a roller coaster, so be sure to keep an eye on the forecast for late spring or early fall frost which can damage or even kill your plants. If frost is in the forecast, cover your plants the night before with plastic sheeting, a garden frost blanket or a bed-sheet to protect them from the frost.
Plan for disaster. Iowa weather can bring about unexpected strong storms that can destroy all your hard work in the course of one storm or strong winds. There are also wild animals, such as deer and rabbits, that would love to devour your blooms. So don’t be afraid to overplant and have a back-up plan in the event you would not be able to use any of your blooms.