As summer days start to draw in there is no need to say goodbye to colour in your border - you might think gardens are past their peak by September but with a little thoughtful planting many can come into their own in the late summer.
Many of these will flower until the first frosts, not just giving you a longer late season colour and interest, but also providing insects with nectar and pollen they wouldn’t usually have.
Perennials that peak in late summer are wide-ranging, as are shrubs and climbers. Many annuals, exotics and tender perennial patio plants should also stay in flower until late-September, or even early October, with a little care and some protection at night with an Easy Fleece Jacket if temperatures drop.
Ornamental grasses such as Stipa and Miscanthus which can add a stylish contemporary feel and if you grow few spare plants in pots they can be slotted in to any gaps that appear as other planting goes over.
Find below our top favourite coloured flowers for late summer.
Also known as montbretia, Crocosmia spreads easily once established and forms a clump of graceful long leaves with sprays of trumpet like flowers in shades of red, yellow and orange. They flower for months and have attractive seed heads once flowering has finished. Try Crocosmia 'Lucifer' for a tall and dramatic splash of fiery red.
Japanese anemones are easy to maintain and happy in sun or shade. The large, long-lasting flowers in pinks, mauves or white are held on strong, medium-tall wiry stems that don’t need too much supporting – an Elegance Plant Support will help keep the stems upright. Try Hadspen Abundance for masses of cup-shaped, deep pink, semi-double flowers with reddish-pink outer petals.
Penstemons have upright stems of large bell-shaped flowers in purples, pinks and blues that flower strongly through the Autumn. They’re drought tolerant and easy to propagate as cuttings. Pensham Laura has a distinctive, pink and white two-tone effect which is hardier than many other penstemons and resistant to slug damage. The pretty colouring of the flowers rings the changes amongst the hot colours of late summer and looks particularly good with deeper pinks, lilac and purple.
Sedums – also known as stonecrop or ice plants - grow reliably in hot, dry positions and are much loved by bees and butterflies. They have flat-topped flower heads, which can grow up to 20cm across, are made up of greenish white buds that open to pale pink, star-shaped flowers. The flower heads look great left during the winter to add shape and texture to your border.
Sedums can have a tendency to flop leaving an open and unsightly centre so use an Elegance Round Plant Support to keep things together and maybe try what the professionals call the 'Chelsea chop' - During the last week of May (normally Chelsea Flower Show week), cut one in every three stems back to the ground. This will produce plants that are less lush and flower slightly later.
For a dazzling hot splash of blood-orange, there’s little to beat Helenium Moerheim Beauty, or sneezeweed – an absolute favourite of bees. The daisy-like flowers in shades of rich orange and red have a prominent brown centre and after flowering, the seed heads are attractive well into autumn.
Hydrangea arborescens ‘Annabelle’ is a fantastic addition to the late Summer border with, with huge domes of tightly packed white flowers which fade to a lime green. It flowers for weeks and the flower heads last until the first frosts or can be dried for floral arrangements inside.
These beautiful flowers are heavy which means the stems on young plants may need some help until the shrub strengthens up as it matures – Elegance Plant Stakes can support individual stems well.
The brightly coloured daisy-like flowers of echinacea – or cone flower - adds great structure and real impact whether you go for a pink, purple or white variety. Large daisy-like flowers with prominent orange or yellow centres are held on strong upright stems which cope well with adverse weather conditions. The long flowering season makes Echinacea a great choice for a sunny border with the added bonus that it is highly attractive to bees and butterflies.
In spite of its reputation as an invasive plant most often found on wasteland and railways, buddleja can be a fabulous and graceful addition to a sunny border, with fragrant flowers that are attractive to butterflies and other beneficial insects. Prune it hard in spring, to keep the plant to border shrub height and enjoy watching the feeding on the flower spikes. 'Black Knight' has fragrant, dark purple flowers with orange centres and grey green leaves and would be our choice of ‘butterfly bush’.
Last, but certainly not least for the most glorious array of colours, shapes and sizes in the Autumn border would be the Dahlia. Available in single, double, pom pom , ball and many more forms they are a must, either in the border or in pots.
Dahlia tubers can be planted outside after frost, or started off in pots under glass in late winter to early spring. They benefit from support so either use Grow Through Frames which can also help to mark where the tubers have been planted, or a bell cloche to support the plant in full growth.
In mild areas Dahlias can be left in situ over winter protected with a generous layer of mulch. In colder areas lift the tubers once the first frosts have blackened the foliage store in a frost-free place until planting out again.
Penstemon photo credit - chattygardener