Along with zinnias and the brightly coloured dahlias, another flower which seems to be positively thriving in this heat is the sunflower. This year we have grown two varieties: Valentine, a shortish, stocky lemon-yellow variety, and Autumn Beauty, a mix with each plant producing individual softly blended flowers in shades from warm cream to chocolate brown. Both varieities are branching, which means that as we cut the flowers more blooms are forming lower down the stem, and the strong plants will keep on flowering for months. Just three stems of sunflower in a mixed bouquet make it seem dramatic and exciting. We like to mix them with something unusual: striped zebra grass or airy panicum; tendrils of variegated jasmine; the furled up umbrella-looking seedheads of wild carrot. Vase life is good if the flowers are picked when young, although I always feel horribly guilty when I pick them, because these young flowers are always busy with bees. The bees can move onto another plant - we keep the lavender just for them!
Early August is often a bit of a lull time for us. We have no weddings for the next two weeks, and one of our biggest customers is closing for the month while all their customers are away holidaying. The warmth keeps people lying low and living simply. The garden is somehow still heaving with flowers, despite the lack of rain, and knowing that we can't pick them all we are simply enjoying the marvellous sight.