Pink Delight

Early Summer Floral Design

Here is a Constance Spry inspired arrangement featuring early Summer plants grown in Scotland for you to try.

 

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Foxglove – Digitalis purpurea (mixed hybrids)

 Foxgloves are incredible statuesque flowers at their best grown in a woodland setting. They put on a dazzling display in early summer each year and come in a range of colours from soft pinks, white and apricot shades.  They are a biennial plant meaning they put on a rosette of leaves in the first year, followed by flowers in the second. It is best to harvest the seed once ripe and sow in March each year and keep a succession of plants growing. Note the seed requires light to germinate so never cover the seed when sowing into a seed tray. Alternatively let them seed themselves around in areas of your garden. The flowers are loved by bumble bees and they they do best in humus- rich, moist well drained soil in shade or semi shade. The name Digitalis means finger or digit as the flowers are thimble like in appearance. It is also important to note that all parts of Foxgloves are actually poisonous both to us and animals. Despite this Foxgloves are used in modern medicine as a heart stimulant drug.

 

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Rose – Rosa ‘Alan Titchmarsh’

What is summer without Roses in your floral creations. This soft pink Rose is just irresistible and desirable in your summer garden flowering in June. They like full sun in fertile humus-rich soil and it is best each Spring to feed them with well rotted manure and your own compost to keep them in peak condition. Dead heading Roses is an important process to encourage more flowers. Each flowering stem can be cut back as far as three sets of leaves. The amount you cut back controls, to some extent, the shape and size of your plant.

 

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Cirsum rivulare “Atropurpureum’

 The plume thistle is a tall crimson, flowering herbaceous perennial of about 2 metres which looks handsome in the middle of a herbaceous or mixed border. It does best in full sun on moist well drained soil, however it can tolerate some dryness and partial shade. If you find the plant starting to self seed and become an issue you can cut back the seed head in the Autumn. It is also easy to collect the seed and grow from seed. I love it in a garden and so do the bees they are always all over it when it is flowering.

 

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Hosta ‘Blue Jay’

There is nothing quite like the blue foliage of certain Hostas. The wonderful thing about blue Hostas is that slugs and snails tend to prefer the green forms to eat rather than the blue. This will mean fewer munched and hole ridden Hostas in your garden. Prized for their foliage they also have flowers that appear in lilac or white during July and some can even be scented. Place in a light- or semi-shaded position and  Hostas are very hardy so they’ll thrive even in a north-facing garden or frost pocket. They are ideal for a rain garden or pond area, and can also be grown successfully in containers.

Red Campion – Silene dioica

 This dainty native wildflower has pink flowers that are known for brightening our roadsides, hedgerows and woodland edges in early summer each year just after the bluebells have gone over. The flowers are also a good source of food for moths, bees and butterflies. They flower in May and June and do best in semi shade and are tolerant of most soils. You can sow the seed from March – October.

Geranium macrorrhizum

One of my favourite hardy Geraniums which has attractive delicate pink flowers. These flowers appear on long stems with protruding anthers and pistil. They grow well in full sun but can also thrive in shade. With a spreading habitat it is best to divide this herbaceous perennial every 3 – 5 years and feed with an organic mulch each Spring. Bees also love this plant and once it has finished flowering it is a good idea to dead head using your shears to encourage a second flush later in the summer.

 

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Growing Pulsatilla

The genus Pulsatilla are a group of attractive perennial wildflowers native to the Northern hemisphere and distributed across a wide range of Europe and SW Asia. In our own gardens we can enjoy growing Pulsatilla for their magical early spring flowers. The flowers are soft and the foliage is covered in delicate grey-green hairy foliage. After flowering the attractive silky seed heads last for many months.

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In the wild Pulsatilla grow in grasslands where the soils are alkaline and of limestone origin. They are herbaceous which means they die down in winter by losing their leaves and they also have deep tap roots.  In early spring the leaves re-emerge before they flower and tend to bloom for many weeks. Often called the Pasque flower as they bloom at Easter and make an ideal companion plant for many early spring flowering bulbs such as miniature daffodils, crocus and muscari. Like many of these, Pulsatilla are an invaluable source of early season nectar for pollinators such as bees.

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Plant Pulsatilla in well-drained, alkaline soils with full to partial sun. In wetter climates, these herbaceous perennials are best situated on sloping beds, a rockery and in raised beds so their roots don’t sit in waterlogged soil over the winter season. They thrive in cold weather and look particularly beautiful with a dusting of morning frost on their silvery foliage. Each year it is a good idea to allow the plants to release their seeds before cutting off the old flowers stalks to allow them to gently re-seed themselves in your garden. Once young seedlings emerge they can be transplanted without too much difficulty to your desired location. Once established they produce those long, deep tap roots and do not like being moved so leave them in their situation.

Pulsatilla vulgaris (lilac form)

 

Dazzling Dahlias

Vibrant Dahlias are one of the most widely grown and much loved cut flowers. Their brilliant blooms come in a wide range of colours, flowering from mid summer until the first frosts. Almost every garden is suited to Dahlias whether that is in the border or an attractive container.

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Dahlias like full sun and free draining soil, where they will thrive and bloom abundantly, but also grow well in large pots. Dahlias are not hardy and should not be planted until the soil has warmed and all danger of frost has past. They are best started in a heated glasshouse or polytunnel during the spring and are hungry plants that require quality compost or well-rotted manure.

When you plant your Dahlia tubers dig the hole 12-15cm deep and place them horizontally with the growing eye facing up. Then refill the hole with soil. It is important to remember Dahlias get quite large, so allow at least 45cm of space between plants.

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These beauties require generous amounts of water throughout the growing season if the summer is warm and dry. When you are just starting to grow them they should only be watered when you see the first green shoots breaking through the ground. Overwatering before shoots are visible can lead to tuber rot. Once the plants reach  30cm tall, give them a pinch by snipping out about 8cm of the growing centre to encourage low basal branching, which increases flower production and overall stem length.

 

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As for pests slugs and snails damage young plants. You may want to put down slug and snail bait at planting time and periodically throughout the season. Nematodes are also an organic option that is safe for both children and pets, and works well. It is important to stake the plants as many will get tall and this will prevent them from falling over.

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While Dahlias are not a very long lasting cut flower, you can get 5-7 days from stems picked at the proper stage. Since Dahlias don’t open much after they’ve been harvested, it’s important to pick them almost fully open, but at the same time not overly ripe where they have begun to brown. Check the back of each flower head, looking for firm and lush petals as these make the best cut flowers.

 

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