Don’t say goodbye to summer too soon. Thanks to today’s warmer 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. Turn up the heat and try our plant choices to keep your borders looking good until the first frosts.
Perennials that peak in late summer are wide-ranging, as are shrubs and climbers. 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 forget 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.
Here’s how to keep the colour going in your borders.
Formerly known as montbretia, crocosmia are spreading plants featuring clumps of strappy leaves alongside sprays of trumpet flowers in shades of red, yellow and orange. They for several months and looks great as part of a hot border.
Japanese anemones are 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.
Pink Japanese anemones
Penstemons have short stems of large bell-shaped flowers in purples, pinks and blues that flower for a long period. They’re drought tolerant and pretty hardy, although it’s still advisable to take cuttings as a back-up, which you can then overwinter. Cut back plants in spring.
Deep-pink and white, bell-shaped penstemon flowers
Sedums, stonecrop or ice plants (many of which are now known as hylotelephium) grow reliably in hot, dry positions and are much loved by bees. Leave the flowers on the plant after they’ve died, as they’ll continue to look attractive in winter.
Magenta sedum flowers on purple-red foliage
A classic late-summer border perennial, Phlox paniculata comes in a wide range of colours, and one or two have variegated foliage. They’re reliable and trouble-free plants.
Bright-pink phlox blooms
For a zing of blood-orange, there’s little to beat heleniums (sneezeweed), whose daisy-like flowers are loved by bees for their nectar. After flowering, the seedheads are attractive well into autumn.
A bee on orange-yellow helenium flowers
Hydrangea aborescens ‘Annabelle’ is a real gem, with huge domes of white flowers dotted like plump cushions across a light-green leafy background. It flowers for ages and the huge heads last in semi-dried form until the first frosts.
Huge, white hydrangea blooms
Ceanothus ‘Autumnal Blue’
Ceanothus ‘Autumnal Blue’ (Californian lilac) is reliable, evergreen, easy to grow and doesn’t need pruning. An old favourite, it is covered in billowing deep-blue flowers from early July to the end of September.
Blue caenothus flowers