Late-summer flowers

by James Alexander-Sinclair

I suppose that the first week of September counts as late summer which is, I think, one of the most exciting times in our gardens.

Late-summer borderI suppose that the first week of September counts as late summer which is, I think, one of the most exciting times in our gardens. The classic English garden is very biased towards midsummer. The June garden is overflowing with full-bottomed voluptuousness, but as the summer wears on and autumn looms this look fades away and everything is so much more relaxed. Most plants that flower at this time of year have more of a 'what-the-hell' attitude. Imagine that your garden was a pair of ever changing curtains (bear with me, this sort of makes sense). Midsummer borders would be all brocade and swags and ferluffles, while late-summer curtains would be a lot simpler and probably with a few spiders' webs along the edges.

I think, perhaps, it's time for another list...

My favourite late-flowering perennial plants, in no particular order:

Rudbeckia fulgida var. sullivantii 'Goldsturm' - about 75cm high. Flowers until at least mid-October.

Agastache 'Blue Fortune' - not one one for very cold parts of the country but given a bit of shelter it won't disappoint.

Anemone x hybrida 'Honorine Jobert' - flowers like an ecstatically happy fried egg (this photograph was taken at Mount Stuart on the Isle of Bute).

Kirengeshoma palmata - a really good light shade lover. Pale custard-yellow flowers, blackish stems and great leaves.

Sanguisorba canadensis - I'm a complete sucker for a sanguisorba. This was one of the first I grew and is an absolute star. Spires of sparkly clean white flowers that stand beautifully all winter.

Actaea 'James Compton' - these used to be called cimicifugas. Tall and very, very elegant. 'James Compton' has dark purplish leaves as well.

Zauschenaria californica - any plant whose name begins with Z has a special spot in my heart. A great edging plant that flowers for ages.

Miscanthus 'Ferne Osten' - many of the grasses come into their own at this time of year. I love the flowers of miscanthus; crimped and twisted braids that slowly unravel. I bet Bob Flowerdew's hair looks like this when he loosens his plait.

Persicaria amplexicaulis 'Rosea' - these persicarias also come in red and white.

If you need more ideas then there is a great book called Late Summer Flowers by Marina Christopher (her nursery, Phoenix Perennial Plants is near Alton in Hampshire). If you follow her advice, never again will your garden suffer from that August slump. (She also used to play octopush for England).

You will notice that I have studiously avoided mentioning the rain that has done its best to flatten every one of the aforementioned plants. Let us pretend that in Blogland the sun is always shining.

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Talkback: Late-summer flowers
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Gardeners' World Web User 25/09/2008 at 13:01

perenials - help what do I do with them now, are they cut down in Aututmn or Spring and does this apply to grasses as well, thank u

Gardeners' World Web User 27/09/2008 at 13:10

Eremurus bulbs look a bit like baby octopii. The central bud should be just below ground level with the fleshy legs spread out around. In heavy soils it is a good idea to add some grit to help drainage. The simplest rule about most perennials is to cut them back when you have got bored of them. Some have fabulous seedheads and skeletal outlines than last through the winter, others quickly collapse into piles of mush. Most grasses come into their own in autumn so leave them to stand until Spring.

Gardeners' World Web User 29/09/2008 at 16:02

Betty - grasses such as Miscanthus look great over winter even when the stems go beige, it would be a shame to cut them down. Cut them back in spring

Gardeners' World Web User 08/10/2008 at 19:17

I am surprised not to see vebena bonariensis in the above list. The willowy stems and pretty purple flowers will bloom away well into autumn.

Gardeners' World Web User 10/10/2008 at 19:48

Verbena bonariensis should, indeed be on the list but I have sung its praises so many times before that I thought a change would be good!

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