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Well, it almost feels like summer has arrived in Norfolk - if you ignore the threat of frost earlier in the week, and the cold wind today!  I've cut my first annual bloom - a gorgeous little Lupin called 'Snow Pixie'. The buds on my annuals are just waiting to open. Once they do, I will be cutting flowers from now until the first frosts. However, it will be a week or so until the annuals are fully up to speed and appearing en-masse in my vases. In the meantime, there are plenty of flowering perennials to pick.

June flowers
June Flowers - Red Campion, Heuchera, Astrantia, Scabious, Ox-eye Daisies, Borage, Rosemary and Roses.

I've revamped my mixed borders this year to expand the number of perennials that produce cut flowers, while maximising year-round interest. When picking perennial flowers, unless you have the space for a dedicated perennial cutting bed where you can treat the plants as a flower crop (which I don't), then you will need to be picking flowers here and there from plants to ensure that you still have a good display outside.

Most perennials, like Knautia macedonica, benefit from dead-heading so the action of cutting flowers will stimulate more to appear. I have three Knautias that produce so many flowers that I can pick plenty of flowers from them without stripping them of flowers. I find that some perennials, like Astrantia, are slow to replace cut flowers. I will only snip a few flower stems on such plants so that there are still flowers for the garden. Just 3-5 stems of a few perennials, supplemented with foliage from shrubs and perhaps some herbs will create a lovely vase-full. The key is to grow more than one of each type of perennial. Planting in loose groups of 3 or 5 also looks very natural in a border and creates a sense of repetition and balance.

Astrantia 'Hadspen Blood'
Astrantia 'Ruby Wedding'

Here are a selection of my favourite perennials for June:

Astrantia, Masterwort or Hattie's Pincushion. The flowers of Astrantia are unusual in that they are formed by a group of tightly packed florets, backed by petal-like bracts. They flower from June to August and have serrated, dark green leaves. I have a pinky-red variety called 'Ruby Wedding' and 'Alba', a white form. They grow well in either full sun or partial shade. This is  a long-lasting flower once cut and also lasts well out of water so would make a good addition to the buttonholes if you are thinking of growing your own wedding flowers.

Cottage garden favourite Alchemilla mollis
Alchemilla mollis with water droplets

Alchemilla mollis, Lady's Mantle. This wonderful plant has scalloped, bright green leaves which catch droplets of rain water. From June to September, it produces a frothy haze of tiny, chartreuse yellow flowers. It is ideal edging paths. Superb for foliage and as a filler in arrangements. I have a few patches throughout the garden, in both sun and shade. The shady ones will flower later in the season which is handy to prolong the cutting period.

Leucanthemum vulgare, Ox-eye Daisy. I really should have included this in a previous article about flowers to cut in May as I have been cutting them for about a month now. They are lovely large daisy flowers and add a meadow-like, informal feel to a jug of flowers. They are our largest native species of daisy and are commonly seen on road-side verges. A campaign run by Plantlife is trying to protect rural road verges which are a vital refuge for wild flowers driven out of our farmland.

Knautia macedonica. Dark crimson, pincushion-like flowers are borne on long, wiry stems. This tall perennial is great for the back of a border and just keeps flowering all through the summer. The more you cut the flowers, the more flowers will form, making it the perfect perennial for a cutting garden.

Knautia macedonia
Knautia macedonica

Dianthus carthusianorum, Carthusian pink. Good for growing in pots. This is a tall pink with small, single, magenta flowers above narrow, grassy green foliage. Deadheading / picking flowers regularly will help encourage more flowers.

Silene dioica, Red Campion. This perennial has carmine-pink flowers and is often seen growing along roads and hedges. It's an important plant for wildlife, its nectar attracts hoverflies, butterflies and long-tongued bumble-bees. It responds well to picking and flowers abundantly and its bright flowers really liven up a flower display.

Scabiosa caucasica, Pincushion Flower. I grow annual Scabious too, but flowering before then is my lovely pale purple, perennial Scabious. The more flowers you pick, the more will come. I grow this in a pot but it would be equally good in a border.

Huechera, Alum root or Coral bells.  I love Heucheras as they come in a range of foliage colours, tolerate sun and shade and I find that they are pretty much evergreen in my garden. The leaves start to look a bit tired by February so I cut them down and they spring back up with fresh growth. They produce tall, slender flower spikes with bell-shaped flowers, hence the common name, Coral bells.

Other perennials flowering in June: Lupins, Osteospermum, Peonies and Valerian.

 

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It's hard to narrow it down to just 10 but these are my favourite annuals to grow for cut flowers. It's important to choose a balance of colours, flower shapes and foliage when deciding which annuals to grow in your patch.

Zinnias, Sunflowers and Scabious
Zinnia 'Giant Dahlia mix', Sunflower 'Vanilla Ice', white Scabious 'Tall Double Mix', Cosmos 'Purity' & Cornflower (that's 5 of my top ten in one vase!)
  1. Ammi majus, Bishop's flower - a delicate, creamy-white umbellifer similar to Cow Parsley with attractive fern-like foliage. It's a great filler to add frothy bulk to an arrangement and to set off other flowers. Flowers from mid-Summer to mid-Autumn.
  2. Cornflowers, Centaurea cyanus - Brings a relaxed, naturalistic feel to a vase. This lovely native flower used to grow in abundance on arable land. The deep blue flowers are easy to grow and can be sown in Autumn for early flowering next Spring. As well as classic blue, I recommend 'Black Ball', a dark, red wine colour. Flowers from early Summer if sown in Spring.
  3. Scabious, Scabiosa atropurpurea - Prolific flowerers from early Summer until the Autumn frosts. The flowers are long-lasting and are a great plant to grow as they also look attractive at the bud stage and at the seed head stage. Let some flowers go to seed to take advantage of this. I grow 'Tall Double Mix' which has a mix of pinks, whites and crimsons but I also like the dark red 'Black Cat' variety and 'Ping Pong' has blue flowers and amazing sculptural seed heads.
  4. Larkspur, Consolida ajacis - Useful tall spires of flowers to add height to your vases. It's similar to a Delphinium but smaller with more delicate foliage and flowers more prolifically.  I'm growing 'Stock flowered mix' this year which has a blend of colours ranging from light pink to dark purple. Flowers in late Spring from an Autumn sowing or early Summer from a Spring sowing.
  5. Love in a Mist, Nigella damascena - A classic cottage-garden flower with lovely fennel-like foliage. It has gorgeous seed pods which can be used later in the season. I grow it scattered throughout my perennial borders where it self-seeds into any gaps. 'Miss Jekyll' is a classic blue, 'Persian Rose' is a delicate pink.

    Zinnia bud
    Zinnia bud
  6. Cosmos, Cosmos bipinnatus - Very easy to grow and produce hundreds of flowers. There are a range of pinks and crimsons to pure white forms. Flowers from mid-Summer to the first frosts. I grow 'Purity' for its simple white flower which adds elegance to a vase and, for something a little different this year, I'm trying 'Click Cranberries' which has more layers of petals with raggedy edges and a deep red colour.
  7. Euphorbia oblongata, Eggleaf spurge - like Ammi, this is invaluable to grow as a filler for your arrangements. Bright, greeny-yellow flowers offset darker flowers beautifully. As with all Euphorbias, the sap is a skin irritant so wear gloves when harvesting.
  8. Zinnias, Zinnia elegans - These natives of Mexico come in a range of rich, bright cheerful colours and will flower from late Summer to mid-Autumn. I've grown 'Giant Dahlia' mix in the past which produces a mix of colourful flowers but this year I'm trying 'Yoga' and 'Art Deco'. The lime-green 'Envy' is a little temperamental to grow and I haven't found that it has flourished as well as some of the other varieties.
  9. Sunflower, Helianthus annuus, H. debilis - Bright, cheerful flowers that are easy to grow and loved by children. Big flower heads look great on their own in a jug but they can be hard to combine with other flowers. I grow Helianthus debilis 'Vanilla Ice' (hard not to sing 'Ice, Ice baby' every time I think of this one!) which produces an abundance of smaller pale yellow flowers that combine beautifully with other blooms. Flower from Mid-Summer to Autumn.
  10. Sweet peas, Lathyrus odoratus. The individual flowers may not last long once cut but these climbing annuals produce so many flowers over a long period and have some of the best scent of any flower. They come in so many colours, you are spoilt for choice. I go for ones that smell as good as they look such as 'Matucana'. Flower from late Spring into Autumn.
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