It is too hot - too hot for me and too hot for many of my cut flowers.

After a late, and then unseasonably warm spring, when all the spring flowers seemed to bloom all at once in the space of 3-4 weeks, we are now, like most of Europe, experiencing the hottest and driest summer temperatures on record.

Zinnias
Zinnias enjoying the heat

I have found that everything is going up to flower quickly before it has grown very tall and, even with a good soaking with the hose-pipe once a week, my cornflowers, larkspur, calendula and sweet peas are flowering half-heartedly and looking a bit like they are ready to give up.

I can't blame them. Being naturally milk-bottle white, I find that I struggle in the heat and am far happier when temperatures are in the very low 20s.

On the plus side, annuals originating from sunnier climes are thriving - the Zinnias and Cosmos are all looking good. I had thought that my dahlias, being natives of Mexico would be enjoying a good baking but they aren't at their best and I fear that even with regular watering and feeding, they're not going to do much this year. The foliage looks suspiciously like it might have a virus so they may have to be dug up and disposed of but I am not quite ready to face that possibility just yet so they have had a stay of execution to see if they buck their ideas up.

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Ho-hum, gardening is never the same from one year to the next and you just have to live with your successes and failures. All we can do is keep watering (it's best to water well, leaving the hosepipe on the beds for about 5-10 minutes in one position before moving it on, rather than watering more often but with a small amount of water). I have got some annuals growing in the potting shed which should be able to take over when the first lot give up the ghost and there are always the Zinnias, Cosmos (including some rather lovely Chocolate Cosmos called 'Chocamocha' that I have put in as edging plants) and lots of Chrysanthemums that are just forming flower heads now. I'm trying a new one called 'Avignon Pink' which is apparantly the Chrysanthemum equivalent of Dahlia 'Cafe Au Lait'. Just as well as my D. 'Cafe Au Lait' didn't flower at all last year is sulking this year, despite having been moved to a  sunnier position.

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June flowers
June flowers

June finds the cutting garden positively bursting with flowers. The first hardy annuals have just started blooming in the form of Cornflowers, Snapdragons and Calendula. Even though they are just getting going, we certainly haven't been short of flowers due to growing biennials like Foxgloves and Sweet Williams. Add to these, the self-sown Love-in-a-mist (Nigella) which crop up all over the place and it is easy to fill a vase with early summer flowers. I re-locate any errant Nigella seedlings to more suitable gaps in the cutting beds when they start to appear in early spring.

Lady's Mantle (Alchemilla mollis) has been planted as an edging plant, along with Lavender and Thrift, and, if anything, it is doing a little too well as the plants have bulked up considerably. It is so valuable for its frothy yellow flowers which create such a  good backdrop for other, showier flowers.

Daisies with love in a mist
Daisies with love in a mist

Other favourite flowers include Oxeye daisies which are out in abundance on roadside verges at this time of year. We have a clump of them and, although they do self-seed quite prolifically, they are easy to weed out if you get too many. Feverfew is another daisy flower that will self-sow if you introduce it into the garden. Again, it's easy to remove or relocate if it pops up in the wrong place. The flowers of both plants bring a natural wildflower look to vases and it you cut them back after flowering, you'll be rewarded with a 2nd flush of flowers later in the year.

Our shrub roses have really come into their own, producing gorgeously full and fragrant flowers in just their 2nd summer since planting. We grow the dark red 'Munstead Wood', pink 'Gertrude Jekyll' and the deliciously fragrant pink 'Comte de Chambord'. All are repeat-flowering so we'll be able to pick the flowers all through the summer.

Cutting garden in June
The cutting garden in June
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So, the tulips are over for this year. Due to the very cold winter, a late spring and then some sudden unexpected heat, they were all over very quickly this year. Early middle or late varieties, they all seemed to come at once.

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Once the tulips have disappeared, it can be a while before your annual flowers are in bloom so you can be left feeling like there's a bit of a gap in your cutting schedule. It will help if you have some early flowering perennials to cut from - Aquilegia and Astrantia both flower in May and make lovely cut flowers. I have Aquilegias popping up all over the place so I can cut quite a few stems without leaving the garden borders bare.

Aquilegia
Beautiful Aquilegias. Up close, you can admire the different colour combinations and flower types.

Another way to fill the gap between the spring flowering bulbs and the start of your annuals is to grow biennials. These can be in flower as early as April if you grow Honesty (Lunaria) or Icelandic poppies and many flower in May including Wallflowers, Sweet rocket (Hesperis matronalis), Sweet Williams and Foxgloves.

This year, I've grown some dark, wine-red wallflowers which have a lovely scent and look great grown around my shrub roses. One cutting bed has been set aside for biennials and it is about to come into flower with sweet williams, foxgloves in a gorgeous salmon colour and the Icelandic poppies have been flowering since April in shades of yellow, orange and peach.

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This will provide plenty of flowers until my autumn sown larkspur, snapdragons and ahem my single cornflower (all the rest were eaten by slugs even though they were on a shelf in the potting shed all winter).

The spring-sown  annuals - more cornflowers, calendula, Ammi majus and Ammi visnaga have been hardened off over the last few week and have now been planted out.

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Once the biennials have done their thing, I will use that bed for a batch of annuals that were sown in May (I sow hardy annuals in March, half-hardy ones in April and a second batch of quick-growing hardy annuals in May so that flowering times are spaced out and the cutting season is prolonged for as long as possible.

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