The cutting beds are awash with a sea of self-sown Nigella or 'Love-in-a-mist'. The flowers are literally buzzing with bees - their open faces and their blue colour makes them an ideal bee-attractor.

Nigella
Love-in-a-mist

Nigella are really easy to grow and once you have bought the first packet of seed, you'll never need to buy another one (unless you want to try a different variety that is).

The only thing I had to do last year was to wait for the flowers to produce seed pods (when the seed is ripe, they will rattle) and then crush the pods and broadcast the seed over the cutting beds. As these self-sowers start growing over the winter, they flower nice and early and I can then pull them out to make room for spring-sown annuals later in June.

Roses cut flowers
Rosa 'Munstead Wood' with Nigella seedlings growing under and inbetween.

I haven't thinned out my seedlings and they are mingling in amongst the rose bushes, pushing their way up between the blooms - a lovely combination in the garden and in the vase.

The annual herb borage is another wonderful prolific self-sower which pops up everywhere in the cutting beds. If it's in the wrong place, I simply pluck it out or carefully transplant it to a more convenient location.

I am such a fan of these easy to grow plants as they are one less flower to sow in pots in my tiny potting shed. Other self-sowers that are good cutting garden plants  include forget-me-nots, feverfew, Eschscholzia, Panicum, Nasturtiums and cornflowers. You simply need to remember to let some plants go up to seed at the end of the season.

June flowers
June in a jug

I grow forget-me-nots in the garden borders as they are fabulous for hiding messy tulip foliage as it dies down.

Feverfew is a very useful filler flower with its tiny daisy flowers. A short-lived perrenial, it will flower for a second time if you cut it to the base after the first flowering.

The decorative grass Panicum 'Frosted Explosion' is a welome self-sower coming a bit later in the season in mid-late summer. It sees me through into the autum and  combines wonderfully with Cosmos and Chrysanthemums.

This year I am going to add Eschscholzia (Californian poppy) to the party. I've chosen an elegant creamy variety called 'Thai Silk' series 'Milkmaid'. It's quick to grow from seed so if I scatter some around in the beds now, I should see some flowers in about 8-10 weeks time.

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Here are my favourite garden perennials which also make great cut flowers. It was hard to narrow the choice down to just 10 but these are the ones that I really value in my garden. They have to perform in the garden (look good and have a long season of interest) and make excellent cut flowers. If they are also good plants for bees and other pollinators, then all the better!

Top 10 perennials for cutting

  1. Christmas / Lenten Rose (Helleborus niger / H. orientalis) - Beautiful flowers that are in bloom when there are a scarcity of flowers in the garden. Depending on the varieties grown, hellebores can provide you with flowers from December all the way through to the end of spring. An important early food source for emerging bees.
  2. Lady's Mantle  (Alchemilla mollis) - Great as a foliage plant and as a filler element (fillers are small flowers that bulk out an arrangement). Grows happily in both the sun or shade. I grow it in both situations for a prolonged flowering period (those in the shade will flower a couple of weeks later than those in sun).

3. Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) - The yellow umbels of flowers are great as fillers in a vase and I love the height that fennel adds to a garden border. The hoverflies adore it. We leave the expired flower stalks on the plant over winter for sculptural interest.

4. Perennial wallflower (Erysimum 'Bowles' Mauve') - Ours flowers on and off practically all year round (I used the flowers in my Christmas wreath last year!) A very important food source for pollinators as it is so long flowering.

5. Red campion  (Silene dioica) - A pretty wildflower that will grow well in shade so it is possible to have flowers for cutting in shady spots. With deadheading, it flowers all summer long and adds a natural look to a vase of flowers

6. Masterwort (Astrantia) - Another perennial that is happy in shade. It has beautiful architectural flowers that last well in the vase and can be dried.

7. Oregano (Oreganum vulgare) - Great for cooking but it is the lilac clusters of flowers that I value. They are great filler flowers for arrangements and the foliage is a lovely fresh green colour.

8. Oxeye daisies (Luecanthemum vulgare) - Can be a bit rampant as will self-seed everywhere but seedlings are easily pulled out. We have established clumps that flower in early summer for months. Will produce a 2nd flush of flowers later in the year if you cut them back after flowering. Long-lasting in the vase.

9. Giant scabious (Cephalaria gigantea) - You need space in the border for this large perennial but it produces gorgeous, large lemon yellow flowers. They are a mecca for bees and each flower can accommodate up to 4 bees at a time, as I  have been witnessing this summer!

10. Burnet (Sanguisorba) - I love the red bobble headed-flowers of this plant which wave about on top of wiry stems. Long flowering all through the summer and adds interest to a vase of flowers giving it an individual feel.

For more information on creating your own cutting garden from choosing which perennials, annuals, shrubs and bulbs to grow, to planning the layout, sowing seeds, harvesting and arranging cut flowers, please contact Jane about attending a 'Grow your own cut flowers' workshop.

Cut flowers
Garden perennials Oxeye daisies, Alchemilla mollis and Sanguisorba mixed with annual cut flowers
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It's been a very wet June which, on the plus side, has meant that I haven't had to do much watering of my raised beds but at the same time it has provided optimum conditions for the hordes of voracious slugs and snails that are munching their way through the growing tips of my sweet peas and dahlias. However, as you can see from these photos, all is not lost!

There are a bumper number of flowers to cut at this time of year in my cutting garden. Over the last couple of weeks I've been cutting Cornflowers, Ammi, Candytuft, Sweet williams, Alchemilla mollis, Roses, Oxeye daisies, Nigella, Foxgloves, Linaria, Ranunculus, Sanguisorba, Cirsium rivulare, Salvia, Cephalaria gigantea and Triteleia.

My favourite flower this month has to be that of Cephalaria gigantea (giant scabious). The large pale yellow flowers (featured in this arrangement below) are stunning and I've never seen so many bees on a plant before. I counted 14 bees on just one plant! As it's growing in the border, I only cut sparingly from it so there are plenty of flowers left for the bees.

Growing flowers is good for the soul and good for the bees!

I held another 'Grow Your Own Cut Flowers' workshop this month, this time for 2 students - Mark, a garden designer who would like to incorporate cutting gardens into some of his client's gardens, and Jules, a keen gardener, starting to maintain and create gardens for others. I think we just about managed to get over Jules' fear of cutting flowers from the garden borders by  the end of the session and in Jules' own words:

"I started the working week with renewed enthusiasm and an urge to cut flowers! ... Thank you again for the delicious food, excellent course notes, jam jar posy and bonus cosmos seeds (already planted!)."

Growing Flowers workshop
Jules' jam jar posy

 

 

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