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The tulips and other spring bulbs in the garden are just coming to an end as we approach mid-May. The warm weather has finally arrived and there are so many flower buds forming in the garden. Biennials such as Honesty, Sweet Williams and Sweet Rocket all come into their own this month. They are invaluable flowers to have in the garden in order to plug the gap between the end of the spring bulbs and the beginning of flowering of hardy annuals. Hardy annuals sown in the spring will start to flower towards the end of this month or early in June, depending upon when you sowed them (and your geographical location).

Sweet Williams
Sweet Williams are highly fragrant and last well in the vase when cut

Many garden perennials also start to flower this month. I have Red Campion which is a great wild flower. It will happily flower in the shade and produces flowers throughout the summer.  Aquilegias provide welcome flowers now and will self-seed throughout the garden. My mixed hedge is a good source of flowers. The tiny white flowers of Hawthorn are known as the May flower and look lovely in the vase. Viburnum oplus has white flowers that look a bit like lace-cap hydrangeas and Viburnum lantana has flat clusters of tiny white flowers. Cut them all just as the buds are opening to last as long as possible and split the stems of these woody plants to help with water uptake.

Hawthorn flowers
Hawthorn flowers with Clematis montana and Red Campion

The first Alliums are just breaking out of their buds and will flower throughout May and June. I love the large fire-work flowers of Allium christophii planted along with the smaller intense purple A. purpureum and  white A. nigrum. The seed heads can be dried for fantastic displays later in the year.

Oxeye daisies can be a bit rampant but seedlings are easily pulled out from the soil if they stray too far. These beautiful daisies make lovely meadow-style arrangements at this time of year and if you cut them down after flowering, they will produce a second flush of flowers in the autumn.

The perennial wallflower Erysimum 'Bowles' Mauve' is a must for any cutting garden as it flowers practically year-round and is the best food source for bees. In the shady part of the border, I have some Tellima grandiflora which has thin spires of tiny green, fringed flowers, hence its common name of 'Fringe cups'. The flowers add some height to a flower arrangement while the fresh green leaves can be cut and used to soften the neck of a vase.

Nigella
Nigella flower

Nigella (Love-in-a-mist) is another flower that I wouldn't be without and, like many biennials, it self-sows really well. Leave lots to go up to seed and you won't ever have to buy any more seed! It has fabulous looking seed pods that can be collected and used both fresh and dried in displays.

The final buds ripening in my garden are those of my climbing Rose 'Open Arms' which I cut throughout the summer and autumn. I find that it doesn't suffer from the dreaded black spot common in some roses. This year we have planted more climbing roses to scramble through the hedges on either side of the garden. Climbing roses are wonderful for repeat flowering all through the summer.

Workshop flowers
Cut flowers arranged during my first 'Grow your own flowers' workshop

May has also seen the very first pupil through the door for my 'Grow your own flowers' workshop. It was a lovely day and we had fun arranging tulips with foraged Cow Parsley and cuttings from the garden - Forget-me-nots, Euphorbia, Tellima foliage, Erysimum, Hawthorn and Primroses. It's not too late to take a workshop and get started on growing your own this summer!

Jam jar arrangement made by my student Caroline in my first 'Grow your own flowers' workshop
Jam jar arrangement made by my student Caroline during the workshop
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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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