Shrubs produce some of the most impressive cut flowers for small posies or for dramatic displays - but they need the right care to ensure they last well, says plantsman Graham Rice
Most of us snip a few stems for the house from our borders or grow a row or two of favourite cut flowers amongst the veg, but it’s almost always annuals and perennials that we cut. What about shrubs? Hydrangeas are especially long lasting and many forms of H. paniculata often show an intriguing colour change as they age. ‘Unique’ ages from white to pink and tends to produce very straight stems, ‘Limelight’ (above) is creamy green in bud, maturing to white. Cut when the heads are fully open and they’ll last longest.
Lilacs are always popular cut, and dark doubles such as ‘Charles Joly’ and ‘Katherine Havemeyer’ (left) look wonderful, last well and smell superb. Cut them when a third to a half the flowers in the head have opened. Skimmia japonica ‘Rubella’ is unusual as it can be cut in bud in winter - the clusters of deep red buds last well – or later when the white flowers have opened.
Evergreen foliage plants are also very useful. Apart from holly and ivy at Christmas, myrtle (Myrtus communis, left) has neat glossy foliage, plus white flowers in summer. There are also a number of pittosporums with green, coloured or variegated foliage that can be cut at any time of year. ‘Irene Paterson’ is easy to find and has dark leaves marbled in white.
How to cut
Firstly, strip the leaves from the lower half of the stems immediately after cutting and place them into water straight away. Always use clean secateurs; some growers regularly disinfect their secateurs with bleach to kill bacteria as it’s bacteria which block the stems and prevent water uptake. Do not crush, slit, or prick stems or re-cut them under water as this too is likely to contaminate the water with bacteria or cause air bubbles in the stems. And always use flower food.
The plants listed above are just a few choices, with some basic advice – try anything!
Plant advice: shrubs
10 hydrangeas with the Award of Garden Merit (AGM)
10 AGM shrubs for winter