…for late summer colour and vibrancy!
Despite the height of summer being over, I am still looking forward to a number of weeks of full colour in certain parts of the garden. I have chosen to highlight some of my favourite plants for late summer, into autumn, colour and vibrancy.
Many people plant their herbaceous borders with species that lean heavily towards being in full bloom over the golden summer months of July and August. This is fine but come September they are looking at a mainly green palette, with all of their colour having bloomed and gone.
This can be avoided with a carefully selected collection of some species and cultivars from the daisy family. Almost all daisy style plants come from a plant family called Compositae, sometimes known as Asteraceae. This plant family is huge, and there is so much choice it would be bewildering to know where to start, but I have whittled out a few recommendations that I both plant in my own garden, and regularly use in planting schemes for my clients. All of them grow reliably well in the British Isles and don’t present any particular horticultural difficulties.
A couple of simple tips to help them along, and give of their best, are useful to know:
1. Given that these plants originate in open sunny positions themselves, and have been chosen to give late summer colour, choose a planting spot that receives the greatest amount of daily sunshine, avoiding any shade.
2. Plant into a well drained but moisture retentive soil, which is reasonably fertile and that does not waterlog; unimproved clay soil should be avoided.
In larger gardens I would plant a complete ‘late summer border’ which would give the most dramatic display, and draw the eye away from less colourful areas of spring or early summer plantings. In smaller gardens though these star performers for late summer and autumn can simply be incorporated into existing mixed borders. Finally, a further way of using these types of plants is in the now popular ‘Prairie’ style of planting, using large naturalistic drifts of single varieties along with ornamental grasses too. So, to inject some life into your garden in these coming months, here are my top recommendations:
Helenium ‘Moerheim Beauty’
This is a good choice to start off your late summer flowering. It will flower from June but will last throughout September. The sight of the rich mahogany red flowers being lit by sunshine is a sight to behold. I would complement it with a planting of the strong violet purple blooms of Phlox ‘The King.’
This has to be my favourite daisy type plant of all time. Although this plant is very common and planted in gardens throughout the country, I believe that the sight of its deep golden yellow petals with the browny black cone-type centre is an eye catcher in any garden. It lifts my spirits and it looks like a pool of sunshine has fallen into your garden!
This is the original form of Echinacea and to my mind is one of the best. These plants are known as cone flowers in North America, which of course is where most of these daisy type flowers originate from. Echinacea now come in a wide variety of colours, but I still use this rich purple one more often than any of the other coloured varieties in my planting schemes.
This is a long and very free flowering, medium height Aster. My plants have been in flower since the beginning of August and I fully expect them to continue flowering right through until November! Its glowing lavender blue flowers have yellow centres, and it’s perfect planted with Solidago ‘Fireworks’, whose yellow flowers combine perfectly with the Asters, whilst also providing a contrast of texture and form.
Helianthus ‘Lemon Queen’
This is a perennial sunflower, and is a plant for the back of the border as it will easily grow to six feet high. The many branching flowerheads support a mass of clear lemon yellow flowers, which stand out well against its dark green foliage.
I only discovered this plant for the first time earlier in the year; a brand new introduction, it is a cross between Rudbeckia and Echinacea.
I have so far been delighted with its performance and appearance. The large daisy flowers are a rich orange mahogany around a dark central cone. The plant is still in full flower now and I expect it to flower through until November! This plant is most definitely going to be given more growing space in my garden for next year.
All the recommended plants I have chosen are, of course, hardy perennials so will require very little care or maintenance. The simple daisy flowers are long lasting and will attract masses of butterflies, bees, hover-flies and other insects. They only need cutting back at the end of autumn or in the winter and, of course, as they are clump forming perennials you can easily increase your stock by splitting the clumps with a sharp spade just as they start to come into growth in the spring. This will allow you to extend the planting area given to any particular species or indeed to pot them up and hand out as presents to friends and loved ones.
Every time they see the plant in flower, they will think of you!
Images by Richard Lucas