Late summer flowers
Charlotte Hart of Hart and Wild Cut Flowers takes us through some of the flowers available from British growers in late summer, and their amazing generosity of colour and scent.
Every year I’m astounded by how late in the season we can enjoy British summer flowers. When we sow the seeds in early spring, we hardly think we’ll still be enjoying them in September; yet here we are on the brink of autumn and the dahlias and cosmos are just coming into their own.
When I think about late summer flowers, my mind immediately flips to dahlias. They are without doubt the absolute queens of the season. Whether you love the giant dinner-plate varieties like ‘Cafe au Lait’ and ‘Penhill Watermelon’, or the smaller Pom Pom types, they bloom in abundance from July until the first frosts, and offer an incredible range of colours. They are a dream to grow, too: from a slightly odd-looking tuber, they pop up out of the ground and keep budding tirelessly. The more you cut, the more they come back.
I find the most useful and striking types in arrangements are the water-lily and ball varieties: ‘Jowey Winnie’, ‘Wizard of Oz’, and ‘Caitlin’s Joy’ are among my favourites for their stunning colour tones and perfectly sized heads. Whilst it’s tempting to go overboard with the ever-popular ‘Cafe au Lait’, this huge dahlia is better left for larger arrangements – with flowers as big as your head, you need some grandeur and scale to balance them out.
Much as I love them, a gorgeous bouquet of British flowers can’t be made up of dahlias alone, and with a few other ingredients sourced from your local flower farmer you can have the most wonderful combination of blooms.
Alongside dahlias, another sublime focal flower is cosmos. This is a plant that just keeps on giving – the flowers are so plentiful it can be a struggle to keep up with cutting them! From the simple petals of ‘Purity’ to the showier varieties with double petals and all the pizzazz, this flower has a lot going for it: froth in abundance.
Herbs are also invaluable at this time of year, adding a wonderful heady fragrance to bouquets. Scent is one of the biggest selling points of British grown flowers, and a perfectly balanced aroma can really lift an arrangement. Some great foliage herbs for cutting are apple mint, lemon balm, rosemary and oregano.
Perhaps my favourite filler flower of all is annual phlox, and this is still going strong at this stage of the season. It may not have the longest stems, but its beautiful tiny flowers blend so well with many of the dahlia colour palettes that they’re hard to beat. I wouldn’t be without ‘Cherry Caramel’, ‘Creme Brûlée’ or ‘Blushing Bride’ for all the world.
Put all this together and you have a fantastic British grown bouquet reflective of late summer: vibrant, bright, and full of jewel tones. As we move through to September, the cutting garden remains abundant with life, and we keep our fingers crossed that summer, and those dahlias, will keep on going for a good while yet.