Choose from a range of summer show-offs, whether bright and radiant or soft and subtle.
Annuals are essential in the summer garden, particularly the multihued and jewel-toned: zinnias, nasturtiums, double paeony poppies ( Papaver somniferum), cosmos, petunias and marigolds. Paler flowers, like lavatera and sea lavender, are great too.
Cheap to sow, cheerful in bloom and sensational in big arrangements, sunflowers can be sown from October to December for flowers throughout summer and autumn. Branching varieties have up to 18 flowers per plant compared to just one for single-stemmed varieties.
Agrostemma githago is a cottage garden favourite, producing lilac-pink blooms all summer long. It's a hardy annual, growing up 150cm high and great for picking. Flowers last 5-7 days in the vase. For longest vase life, harvest when 1-2 flowers on the stem are open.
Callistephus chinensis has brilliant colours and prolific blooms from late summer through autumn. Plants have double or single flowers in pink, purple, lavender, red, yellow or white and grow 30-100cm high, depending on the variety. Great for picking.
LOVE- IN- A- MIST
Nigella damascena is a hardy annual with either white or cornflower-blue petals and a ruff of finely divided leaf-like bracts that form a mist around the flowers. If that's not enough to grab your attention, each bloom, after flowering, forms a fat green and burgundy striped seed pod which is equally striking. Both pods and flowers can be cut for the vase. To collect seeds, pick the ripe seed pods and place in a paper bag and let the seeds fall out on their own.
ANNUAL AND PERENNIAL STATICE
The tough perennials Limonium perezii and Limonium latifolium, and their papery annual cousin, Limonium sinuatum, are terrific hot season substitutes for gypsophila. They thrive all summer, even when the going gets tough, and look lovely fresh in the vase as well as dried for everlasting arrangements. Annual statice is available in a rainbow of colours; the perennials in shades of purple. All prefer well-drained, sandy loam.
Some of the longest-lasting cut flowers are annuals. Many, like statice and the seed pods of love-in-a-mist, dry well too.