|Gardening With Caro|
Filling those last summer gaps
All right, I know, it’s only August. How dare I breathe the words “late summer” just yet? Personally I prefer to stave off Autumn for as long as possible BUT we have had a fairly advanced year, horticulturally speaking, so it’s possible, just possible, that your garden has already done most of its riotous summer flowering thing and is limping a little by now. If not, well done you! You don’t need to read on, obviously.
For those of us in the limping-a-little stage, we’re pretty desperate for a quick injection of colour to cheer the senses. Time for a spot of post-holiday retail therapy, methinks. Now you can go down two main routes here. First to hit you in the face at the local garden centres are the tarty annuals that will go mad for a few more weeks and then conk out at the first sign of cool night temperatures. Essentially the fun, flirty and fickle brigade.
Or you can go for some longer term garden mates, the autumn flowering perennials, and it’s these more sophisticated types we’re aiming for here. They will be more expensive than annuals but will repay you by turning up again at the late summer party next year, probably bigger and better still.
A few favourites – stately Agapanthus in beautiful shades of blues, from palest sky colours to inky purples, almost black. They can be quite chunky, reaching a metre or so high, but there are some dwarf ones around too. And they look great in pots (and are very happy having their roots constricted too, so putting them in a pot is actually doing them a favour).
Every autumn garden needs some big daisies and these Leucanthemums are a great crowd of big shouty faces, refusing to be dragged down into winter. Rather more serious Echinaceas (after all they have an important pharmaceutical job to do too, well they think so anyway) droop elegantly nearby. Word of warning - if you get Echinaceas, be prepared to fight snails and slugs tooth and nail till the plants get past the adolescent stage. Assuming the slimy things don’t actually have teeth or nails, you should win out.
Dahlias have dipped in and out of fashion over the past decades, some of us of a certain age associate them with our granddads of an ever greater age, lovingly tending a dubious mix of sherbet coloured frilly things. They truly were! But now of course, fashions have changed, and we do dahlias in our 21st century style – deep reds and pinks and creams, contrasting with strong purple stems and foliage, much more the thing, darling, even popping up at Chelsea from time to time. You’ll need the hardy ones to be certain of them returning next year, some are frost tender, so check before you buy.
And can’t go without mentioning my favourite late flowering stalwarts, the trusty Penstemons, which in my garden amazingly keep going till Christmas. Almost outstay their welcome, they do. No I don’t mean it! Another drink?