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Annuals that can be seeded directly in the garden are bachelor's buttons, cosmos, annual baby's breath, candytuft, pincushion flower (Scabiosa), small-flowered zinnias and asters. Two annuals with lacy, rounded flower clusters are blue lace flower (Trachymene coerulea) and ammi (Ammi majus), which has white flowers that resemble Queen Anne's lace. Both can be direct-seeded. Annual larkspur makes a lovely cut flower, but it prefers cool growing conditions and might be looking a bit ragged in August, though it's worth trying.
Some summer blooming bulbs might provide lovely wedding flowers. Again, timing may be tricky on these so plant over a period of time to improve your chances of getting blooms on the right date. Gladioluses would be nice for the tall spike component of the arrangements. Gladioluses grow from corms (similar to bulbs), which can be planted successively from late May through June. I'd recommend the miniature flowered-types, because their smaller flowers are more in scale with smaller arrangements. Asiatic lilies usually bloom earlier in the summer, but a late planting might push back the bloom date. Oriental lilies bloom later and would make spectacular focal points for the arrangements. 'Casa Blanca' is a well-known cultivar with fragrant, pure white flowers. Other Oriental lilies are available in shades of pink. Tuberose is another summer blooming bulb that bears spikes of double, pinkish white, highly fragrant flowers.
Some perennials that could provide August flowers include yarrow (Achillea) varieties such as A. ptarmica 'The Pearl' and hybrid yarrows 'Summer Pastels' and 'Debutante,' which bloom in a range of warm colors. Swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata) has pink flowers and the cultivar 'Ice Ballet' has white flowers. They make nice cut flowers, but sap from the stems can irritate the skin. Hostas can provide interesting foliage to anchor the arrangements, and some hostas have attractive and fragrant flowers as well. Purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) will still be blooming in August, though it's pinkish-purple flowers may be too bright for your tastes. Shasta daisies or oxeye daisies will lend a casual air to arrangements. Liatris, or gayfeather, provides long spikes of tufted pinkish-purple flowers.
-- Nancy Rose is a research horticulturist at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum. She spends her spare time gardening, inside or outside, depending on the weather. Please address gardening questions to her at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum, P.O. Box 39, Chanhassen MN 55317. She will answer questions in this column only.