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Late-summer colour

The final flourish

Don't say goodbye to summer too soon. Instead, turn up the heat and try my plant choices to keep borders bubbling.

Find out the best way to deadhead flowers

Thanks to today's Mediterranean climate, summer now stretches into early October, and the traditional midsummer floral display seems like a flash in the pan. Where once we threw all the big guns at June and July, you now need a second set of late-flowering plants to see you through September and October.

A diverse choice

Flowers that peak in late-summer are pretty wide-ranging, as are shrubs, climbers and herbaceous perennials. Most fashionable annuals, exotics and tender perennial patio plants should also stay in flower until late-September, or even early October, if properly looked after. Don't overlook ornamental grasses, which can lift a border into the designer league. And don't forget to grow a few spare plants in pots, so you can slot them into gaps that may appear in a scheme.

My top plants for extending colour

Crocosmia ' Lucifer', photo by Tim Sandall

Crocosmia

Also known as montbretia, this spreading plant features clumps of strappy leaves alongside sprays of trumpet flowers in shades of red, yellow and orange.
Anemone hupehensis var. japonica 'Pamina', photo by Jane Sebire

Japanese anemone

This plant is ideal for the no-fuss gardener. The large, long-lasting flowers in pinks, mauves or white are held on strong, medium-tall wiry stems that don't need supporting.
Penstemon 'Garnet', photo by Jason Ingram

Penstemon

This must-have plant has short stems of large bell-shaped flowers in purples, pinks and blues. It's drought tolerant and pretty hardy, although it's still advisable to take cuttings as a back-up, which you can then overwinter.
Butterfly on sedum flower, photo by Stephen Hamilton

Sedum

Ice plants are very reliable in hot, dry positions. Varieties of Sedum spectabile and S. telephium are particularly lovely. The green, domed heads of buds are distinctive in midsummer, before they take on pink tints. Leave flowers after they've died, as they'll continue to look attractive in winter.

Phlox paniculata

This classic late-summer border perennial comes in a wide range of colours, and one or two have variegated foliage. They're reliable and trouble-free plants.
Helenium 'Rauchtopas', photo by Jason Ingram

Helenium

For a zing of blood-orange, there's little to beat heleniums, whose daisy-like flowers are loved by bees for their nectar. After flowering, the seedheads are attractive well into autumn.

Hydrangea arborescens 'Annabelle'

This plant is a gem, with huge domes of white flowers dotted like plump cushions across a light-green leafy background. The huge heads last in semi-dried form until the first frosts.

Ceanothus 'Autumnal Blue'

Reliable, evergreen, easy to grow and doesn't need pruning, this old favourite is covered in billowing deep-blue flowers from early July to the end of September.

Petunia surfinia

The most reliable of bedding plants for containers, these will bloom right through to the very end of summer, as long as they're looked after. Choose a sheltered spot with light shade to enjoy their delicious scent.


Discuss this plant feature

Talkback: Late-summer colour
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jcossins 24/11/2011 at 15:28

Just had a look at the Sticky Wicket website and the garden is unfortunately closed for the rest of 2009 and also for 2010.

maddiemc 24/11/2011 at 15:29

i have a plant or maybe its a shrub i dont no wich but ive had it about 8yrs got it as a cutting off my next door nieghbour who does not no what it is aswell it grows off the older wooded stems it has bright orange bell shaped fowers the leaves are sticky to the touch ive never seen it in garden centres or anyone elses garden to find out what it is it started flowering in early july and is still in flower an also survived the bad winter last yr dont no how to post photo to gardener

tgirls44 24/11/2011 at 15:29

as a novice this is great advice for interducing new plants to my garden

Gweno 24/11/2011 at 15:29

I am re designing our new garden & desperate for late flowering flowers so this was a great article to find. Thank you x

Valdel 24/11/2011 at 15:29

As usual all info is excellent & if followed we should all be able to enhance our gardens.
I have a beautiful phlox which has grown too large for it's spot in the garden & would like advise on the best time to dig it up & move it please. Keep up the good work. Thanks.

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