An acquaintance who felt his garden lacked colour once the main display of bulbs was over, asked about options for extending displays throughout summer.
A well-timed question I thought because we’re standing on the threshold of planting opportunities for the year.
Visit your local gardening outlet now and you’ll find a diversity of choice, everything from plug plants to perennials in pots, all ready to plant out, some in need of protection until the threat of frost has gone.
But first consider boosting existing displays by adding low-growing perennials such as brunnera, pulmonaria, doronicum, trillium and primula denticulata. Taller, highly-fragrant shrubs – viburnum juddii, osmanthus burkwoodii and skimmia rubella – are also worth considering. They’re a knockout at present.
For continuing colour that will return year on year, consider a small group of David Austin roses, which, with a little attention, will bloom from late June until autumn arrives.
Lavender, both English and French, either planted as a low hedge, in group form or individually, will flower continuously through July and August, acting like a magnet for your favourite insects. We have the English favourite Munstead and a French cultivar Fathead, both of which were raised from seed, and how well they’ve performed over five years!
For lasting floral displays, I’d always want herbaceous perennials rudbeckia Goldsturm and echinacea Paradiso Mix nearby. Commonly called coneflowers, if there are any bees or butterflies in the area, the chances are they’ll be unable to resist visiting. These two can continue flowering well into autumn along with various cultivars of Anemone japonica and the penstemon which comes in a bewildering range of colours.
Look out for tempting group offers for several varieties in the media.
Although penstemons are not traditional herbaceous perennials they can survive our winters. The trick is to root stem cuttings from July to August when soft, none-flowering growths exist, pot them up and nurse through winter – just in case.
Parent plants left in the ground with some summer growth in place will perform again when you cut them back in late spring.
There are several useful flowering plants around for the autumn mixed border but one you can’t overlook is the Michaelmas daisy.
The so-called ice plant (sedum spectabile) should be in there too, if just for the spectacle of bees and butterflies queueing up for nectar. Heleniums also attract them, and there are some stunning cultivars available, but I do love the old favourite Moorheim Beauty.