Five flowers for July

Choris at The Blooming Garden is showcasing 10 of her favourite July flowers and encouraging other bloggers to do the same; I’ve chosen 5 because these are the ones that are looking good in my garden right now and are my absolute favourites.

1  I’ve said before that Verbena bonariensis is one of my top-ten favourite plants of all time. It’s the most striking, useful, gorgeous bee-magnet you can plant. It adds height, structure, colour and interest; I love the criss-crossing erect stems holding aloft purple flowerheads. They look airy and delicate but they’re tough as old boots and withstand the winds round these parts.

Verbena bonariensis
V. bonariensis is a great ‘see-through’ plant so you can put it anywhere in the border.
Verbena bonariensis and Crocosmia 'Lucifer'
Here with Crocosmia ‘Lucifer’.
Verbena bonariensis and bee
The flowerheads are made up of loads of tiny flowers full of nectar for pollinators.
Verbena bonariensis and plum tree
I know it’s fanciful but I think they look like tall, cheerful stick people waving big hands.

Verbena is a group of hugely versatile perennials – we also have Verbena rigida, which is another gorgeous purple and grows to about 50cm, and the semi-trailing, bright pink Verbena ‘Sissinghurst’, which is great in pots.

Verbena rigida
Verbena rigida
Verbena 'Sissinghurst'
Verbena ‘Sissinghurst’ growing in a pot with Nemesia.

 

2 Sweet peas. I can’t think of a better-value plant for cutting flowers – the more you cut them, the more flowers you get. It’s like magic. You can cut flowers every day if you have enough plants. They’re delicate, beautiful, easy to grow (in my experience, but beware slugs and snails early on), come in a wide range of colours and the fragrance is heavenly. Everyone has their own methods of growing and planting sweet peas but I grow mine from seed in tall pots (or even old toilet roll holders) in spring, pinch out the tips when they’re about 30–40cm tall to encourage side shoots (which flower), then plant out in May. Our soil is very free-draining so I shovel in compost and keep them well watered. I feed mine when I feed my tomatoes – once a week with a tomato feed – but everyone has their own methods. We have one plant that self-seeded from last year, grew throughout the winter and has borne loads of flowers since late May! They’re tougher than you think.

Sweet peas need support to climb up – a wigwam of twiggy branches is perfect, or beanpoles with twine tied around, or some people use trellis. Their tendrils will grab hold of anything nearby so it’s good to check where they’re heading occasionally and redirect them. Anyway, once they start flowering, you start cutting and, if you’re lucky, you’ll have so many sweetly-scented flowers you’ll have jugs of them wafting their glorious fragrance in every room with enough left over to give handfuls to friends. Get them going early enough and you could have flowers from as early as May through to October or even the first frosts but peak sweet pea month here is July. If you follow Sultanabun on Instagram, you’ll have seen it’s her peak sweet pea time, too.

Sweetpea tendrils
Sweetpea tendrils will grab hold of anything as they grow.
Sweet pea
If you give sweetpeas a little love (water well and often, feed them occasionally, plant in good soil) they’ll reward you with flowers and flowers and flowers.

3 Ammi visnaga. All the Ammi plants growing in our garden this year have grown themselves. They self-seeded from plants I grew from seed last year and have multiplied tenfold which tells you how easy and undemanding they are. If you want to grow Ammi and don’t want it spreading everywhere, make sure you dead-head rigorously… The best thing about them is that the flower heads are great big landing pads for bees, butterflies and hoverflies. Made up of hundreds of tiny white flowers, the heads are compound flowers providing rich nectar for pollinators. The foliage is a lovely green, delicate and feathery, so stems of Ammi make great cutting material for vases.

4 Another fantastic flower for pollinators (are you sensing a theme here?!) is Scabious atropurpurea. We have two colours here – white and pink. The seed packet I grew them from last year showed rich dark colours, so I was a little disappointed when they turned out to be pale pink, lilac and white. But they’ve come back this year strongly (they’re perennials) and the bees love them, so they can stay. I plan to grow some richer colours at some point.

It’s another plant that pumps out flowers all summer long and into the autumn if you dead-head regularly (or cut the flowers for vases). I sowed a £2-packet of seeds last year and have three large patches of plants for the second year running. Excellent value, I’d say.

White scabious
Here you can see a full flowerhead, one that’s turning into a seedhead (fluffy with a few petals still attached) and a tightly budded head at the bottom.
See – bees LOVE scabious.
White scabious
Grown here with linaria (going to seed) and hardy geranium in the background. This one needs staking (the twigs) as it grows to about 80cm tall.

5 Finally, here’s a flower I’ve grown for the first time this year and I’ll definitely grow it again – Salvia viridis (or clary sage). It’s a hardy annual and the striking blue/purple flowers you can see are actually coloured bracts, not flowers. The real flowers are tiny and grow close to the stem further down.

I planted them out in early June and they’ve been looking fabulous for a few weeks now and have been buzzing with pollinators. The stems are upright and quite striking, with real impact when grown together. We have a patch of about 5 plants, then others dotted between other grasses and perennials. They like free-draining soil and full sun.

Salvia viridis
Look down the stems and you can see the little purple and white flowers.
Salvia viridis
A drift of clary sage makes a big impact in the border. It’s upright and quite tidy so would also work well lining a path (which I might try next year).
Salvia viridis flowers
Close-up of the flowers.

Right, I’m off out into the garden to pick some sweet peas 🙂 Have a lovely weekend.

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17 thoughts on “Five flowers for July

  1. Thank you for joining in and giving us your fabulous Top Five Sam. I love them all and of course Verbena bonariensis should be on everyone’s list. I love your description of stick men with waving hands. Sweet peas too are a winner. This time I started mine off in the autumn and got lovely strong plants. And you have sold me on Salvia viridis and I will give it a go next year.

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  2. Your flower selection is lovely. Gardening is one of the activities that don’t come naturally to me and I really struggle getting anything growing that I have planted. I enjoy other people’s gardens all the more for it. There is so much beauty in a thoughtfully planned garden. Have a smashing weekend. x

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  3. Oh, I agree with all of them! They are such great performers and, as a bonus, straightforward to grow. I love the shot of the pink scabious with the angel’s hair grass too! I’ll have to try that combo next year.

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  4. Lovely choices Sam. I was very happy to discover a patch of verbena bonariensis in the garden the other day. And I’ve got small trailing verbenas in pots as well, the white one is particularly lovely and I’ve got it with a white/pink geranium and a pale pink nemesia. Dark Knight is a really nice deep red scabious, I grow that sometimes. And always sweet peas. I’ve left them in the garden this year to enjoy from the kitchen window a bit more. Your garden is looking gorgeous as always. CJ xx

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  5. Excellent choices! I have verbena bonariensis popping up at odd places throughout the garden and always welcome them, no matter where they choose to grow. And they do look as if they have waving hands. I planted my sweet peas directly in the ground this year and they have grown very slowly. I’ll try starting them inside next year.

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  6. Hey Sam, what a lovely post. I won’t be able to look at verbena now without seeing stick people waving big hands! My sweet peas shorten stem-wise about now and aren’t prolific- any thoughts? Leucanthemum (I think that’s spelt right) is fab for cut flowers if you don’t already have it. Masses of big daisy type blooms for weeks and weeks. Insects love them too. I had clary sage last year for the first time and have grown it from seed this year to flower next. It is a stunning plant isnt it? xx

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    1. My only thought would be are you feeding them? They’re quite needy in the fertiliser/water department. Also, are you picking them often? I think they do run out of steam after a while. I’ll check out Leucanthemum – thanks!

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  7. Interesting that I don’t grow a single one of your top five. They all look marvelous, though. I wonder how many of them would grow well in my garden. I’ve seen that butterflies love the V. bonariensis.

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  8. Not surprisingly I would have most of those flowers in my top 5 too although would need to have a rose in amongst the selection. The seeds from my Ammi visnaga didn’t take this year and my didn’t self seed I am really missing its wonderful display. Sarah x

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