Now’s the time for the late flowers

Echinacea.
Echinacea.

I know that some ornamental borders appear to be running out of steam but there are so many late-flowering ornamentals that you could introduce to keep the show on the road a while longer.

Now’s the time to visit local gardens open to the public in search of ideas, then resolve to introduce any plants that appeal to you when nature’s planting time arrives in just a few weeks.

Helenium autumn colour.

Helenium autumn colour.

Some long-flowering ornamentals refuse to stop as autumn approaches.

Shrubby mallows (lavatera) are also reliable in this respect. Several hydrangeas are continuing to bloom too. Penstemon varieties seem to combine winter survival with months of flowering so planted in groups, they are a blessing to any border.

Begonia semperflorens is an outstanding traditional summer bedding plant. As the name suggests, it is always flowering.

Although it’s grown as an annual, the top growth is reduced severely in autumn, the plants dug up, and root-ball checked for vine weevil grub. This is followed by potting-up and moving into the greenhouse where they recommence flowering which lasts through winter.

Hydrangea.

Hydrangea.

We treat large-flowered geraniums in a similar way, only less severely on the pruning, and they put smiles on faces in the winter conservatory.

The purple blooms of Verbena bonariensis, set atop tall wiry stems, will continue feeding butterflies until October making them value for money. Not that they cost much, only the price of a packet of seed sown three years ago without heat, that gave rise to oodles of plants. A number of other perennials that continue blooming from mid-summer onward can be raised in this way, rudbeckia, echinacea, and helenium spring to mind.

We’ve grown the annual Rudbeckias Marmalade, Rustic Dwarf and Irish Eyes for years but the perennial version Goldsturm eclipses even them. Maintenance amounts to pruning away the dead top growth in winter then applying mulch to the soil. Every so often we divide the plants up to maintain vigour. Echinacea and helenium are the other important cone-type flowers presently gracing our mixed borders. These plants can be raised from seed, division of roots once established, or bought as pot-grown plants now at the garden centre for circa £5.

Don’t be hasty in removing those summer displays, bedding, hanging baskets and containers, whilst they hold the interest of passers-by. Keep them well maintained. There’s time enough for the changeover to spring subjects when October arrives.

Rudbeckia `Goldsturm`.

Rudbeckia `Goldsturm`.

The annual Northumbria in Bloom presentation of awards is scheduled for September 16, with several local towns, villages and individuals eagerly anticipating the results. How embarrassing it would be if you were the recipient of praise and the plug had been pulled on those lovely displays!

Verbena bonariensis.

Verbena bonariensis.