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Seasonal Flowers: Summer in NC!

Updated: Jul 29, 2021

Sourcing your wedding flowers seasonally will give you incredibly beautiful blooms and reduce the carbon footprint of growing and distributing these flowers. But what flowers are in season during your wedding month? We are excited to present this seasonal flowers blog series, written by Guild member Natalie Huntley. Natalie is the owner and florist behind Rabbit Foot Florals, and we asked her to share which blooms we can expect to see growing during each season in North Carolina.

The information in this post pertains mostly to the Triangle and central regions of North Carolina, but though regions like the mountains and the coast will have slightly different dates, the varieties of flowers that one can find from local growers are mostly the same.

Summer in the south is vibrant with life, light, color, and heat. It is a season of abundance with food, flowers, and plants. One of the best parts of summer are the extended days and all of the lush, green trees. There’s nothing quite like the buzz of a summer night in the south with cricket symphonies, heat leftover from the day, and beautiful sunsets just after 8:30pm. Planning a wedding in the summer means that you can have a later ceremony and celebration and still be able to enjoy plenty of daylight.

Photo credit: Autumn Harrison Photography

The first flush of lisianthus starts in June. Lisianthus stems are longest during the first flush and bear luscious blooms with up to 5 per stem. Lisianthus have a great vase life and do well out of water, making them a perfect choice for bouquets, foam free installations, boutonnieres, and corsages. The thin stems are perfect for creating a flowing design that can either stand upright, or cascade. Lisianthus come in a wide variety of colors including white, cream, pale yellow, blush, apricot, pink, green, brown, lavender, and purple. There are even miniature varieties that are great for corsages, boutonnieres, and flower crowns.

June is also when the ever-popular dahlias begin blooming. Dahlias come in many different colors, but also shapes and sizes. The small bloom varieties are perfect for boutonnieres and corsages. There are also large varieties, referred to as dinner plate dahlias, that are about 5-7 inches in diameter that are wonderful for a focal point in a bouquet or arbor design. Local growers are skilled in keeping dahlias going throughout summer, however, there is a short lull during the hottest parts of the season. Dahlias are prolific towards late summer and into the fall.

Middle Photo: Autumn Harrison Photography

Summer also brings along plenty of flowers that are daylight lovers. Some that come to mind are rudbeckia, zinnias, sunflowers, and echinacea or coneflowers. Rudbeckia and echinacea are native perennials, which make them a fun choice to reflect a North Carolina wedding. While the pink echinacea is most well-known, vibrant hues of orange and yellow are becoming increasingly popular and capture summer brightness.

Middle photo: Autumn Harrison Photography

Rudbeckia, or black-eyed Susan, are most often known as the yellow-petaled, black center flower. They can also be enjoyed in other warm tones like burnt orange, burgundy, and golden yellow. The variety ‘chim chiminee’ has unique quilled petals and comes in a mix of golden yellows and burnt orange. They bloom from June-September.

Rudbeckia varieties, from left to right: ‘Sarhara’, ‘Cherry Brandy’, ‘Cherokee Sunset Mix’, ‘Chim Chiminee’

Drying a bouquet is a wonderful memento from a wedding day. Summer bouquets with gomphrena, yarrow, strawflower, and celosia dry especially well. The 4 flowers listed hold their color and there is little difference in how the flowers feel when it is fresh vs. dried. Gomphrena and strawflower are small blooms and make a whimsical accent to any design. Celosia comes in a variety of warm shades like yellow, orange, red, and pink and has 3 shapes: wheat, crested, and plume. Crested celosia resembles sea coral with a velvety texture. Yarrow is a native perennial and features small florets. Like many summer flowers, it comes in purply pink, pink, red, orange, and yellow.

From left to right: plume celosia, strawflowers, gomphrena, crested celosia, wheat celosia.

Cosmos are the early-summer equivalent of the spring poppy. The narrow stems hold wide, delicate blooms that are best when sourced locally because of their fragile nature. Cosmos are at their best at the beginning of summer and melt out in the heat of the summer July through mid-August. Most growers have them again for late summer and fall. There are a variety of flower shapes for cosmos. The cupcake variety resembles a cupcake liner and tends to have a medium size bloom and come in white, pink, and blush. The double-click varieties bloom with a full, double layer of petals and come in white, cranberry, bi-color violet, and pink. The single petal varieties are stunning as well and come in white, pink, carmine, red, and orange.

Cosmos varieties, from left to right: ‘Versailles Mix’, ‘Rubezna’, 'Cupcake’, ‘Double Click’.

Scabiosa, or Pincushion flower, is another narrow-stemmed summer bloom. Like its name, a closeup of the flower resembles a pincushion. Scabiosa starts up in late spring and can go into fall. In the south, they can be overwintered and enjoyed slightly earlier in the season. Purple is a dominant color of these blooms, but they also come in white, pinks, apricot, red, and burgundy. The ‘Starflower’ variety is a favorite for drying after the flower matures and forms a seedpod.

Pictured above: ‘Black Beauty’, ‘Starflower’

Zinnias are one of the most popular summer flowers. They tend to be easy to grow, especially in the south. Zinnias can be an accent flower in a design as well as the focal point with some of the larger varieties. Depending on how warm the spring is, zinnias can start up as early as late May. Zinnias are one of the daylight-loving flowers, so they are most prolific during June and July. With successive plantings, they can steadily bloom into the fall. Zinnias do not ship well, so it’s best to source them from local growers. Small ‘Oklahoma’ zinnias are great as accent flowers while the large ‘Benary’s Giant’ and ‘cactus’ zinnias display blooms that are up to 4” in diameter, making them fit as a focal flower in a design.

Zinnia varieties above, from left to right: ‘Queen Lime Red’, ‘Oklahoma White’, ‘Queen Lime Orange’

One of the most popular fillers for wedding designs is baby’s breath. Baby’s breath is always shipped, making it a less than ideal choice for a sustainable wedding. Luckily, summer brings along a few alternatives that grow well in the triangle. Orlaya, or lace flower, starts out in late May and blooms through late June. Like its name, the florets form lacy blooms that are ideal as an accent flower. Ammi, or false queen Anne’s Lace, is similar to orlaya, but has smaller florets and comes in white, blush, and burgundy. Ammi typically blooms throughout summer into the fall.

From left to right: Ammi ‘White Dill’, Ammi ‘Dara’, Orlaya

The design possibilities for summer weddings are endless. Growers in and around the Triangle are steadily establishing plants like eucalyptus, mountain mint, smilax, and other fun perennial greenery. Out of all of the seasons, it’s easiest to source flowers 100% locally for a summer wedding. Weather your celebration is outdoors or indoors, your floral designs have the potential to be full of life from vibrant flowers and greenery.

From left to right: gunnii eucalyptus, smilax, and mountain mint

Rabbit Foot Florals has been operated by owner Natalie Huntley since May 2018 near downtown Durham, NC. At Rabbit Foot Florals, the mission is to combine a natural, garden-inspired style with flowers grown in North Carolina. With sustainability in the forefront of her designs, Natalie is passionate about using seasonally available flowers. Predominately a small wedding and event florist, designing for 20-30 weddings and events yearly, Natalie also works with other local florists, creates floral designs for styled photoshoots, and has attended floral workshops both locally and across the US.

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