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.
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.
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.
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.
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.