Plant colourful flowers to keep your summer garden smiling through to the frosts, says Adrienne Wild


Flower beds stuffed with plants is the key to creating a great garden and reliable, perennial favourites, like bee balm or Monarda which attract pollinators such as butterflies and bees, is a good choice for late-summer planting schemes.

The variety ‘Cambridge Scarlet’ is one of the most sought after and reliably produces bright scarlet flowers growing in a circular cluster on top of tall stalks until the end of August.

Monarda also has scented foliage and when crushed releases a pleasant, citrus-like aroma. Both the leaves and flowers are edible and can be used to garnish salads and desserts.

The fresh or dried leaves can also be brewed into a refreshing aromatic and medicinal tea.

Cooling blues

Blue flower combinations are excellent for giving the garden a cool feeling, which is especially welcome in a warm summer.

You can make an instant feature at this time of year with perfect perennials like Echinops, which has thistle-like leaves and globular heads of pale blue globe-shaped flowers partnered with Perovskia atriplicifolia ‘Little Spire’ and Sedum ‘Matrona’.

Salvia is a special group of perennials, which includes culinary herbs and exotic tender plants from the new world.

Salvia nemerosa ‘Amethyst’, which has glowing purple stems and stunning spikes of lavender-pink flowers is brilliant for drawing in butterflies, so plant them en masse to keep your borders ‘busy’ until the frosts.

They require a well-drained soil, flourishing on chalky or sandy soils and combine well with bright yellow Anthemis and Cosmos.

Clary sage, another salvia, is also an excellent plant to grow if you want your garden to remain colourful through the autumn.

The pink, white and mauve- coloured bracts are produced on stiff spikes and attract bees and butterflies.

Phlox take their name directly from the Greek word flame, undoubtedly due to their ability to add light and warmth to any spot in the garden.

The bright, vibrant colours of Phlox paniculata, which come in a range of colours from dark reddish-black to pure white, captivate gardeners and insects alike.

Full of fragrance

Phlox varieties that have won the coveted RHS Award of Garden Merit include ‘Miss Elie’, which produces large panicles of candy-coloured flowers, the purplish-pink flowers of ‘Peacock’ and the weather-resistant pure white flowers of ‘Danielle’.

The blooms, which appear over a long period, bear a sweet fragrance, that’s most apparent when days are warm and sunny.

Who would believe that the velvety vibrant chocolate coloured Coreopsis-like flowers of Cosmos atrosanguineus produce an amazing chocolate- fragrance?

The appetising scent becomes more evident as evening approaches, toward the end of a hot day.

While the plant is hardy, losses are very common in wet winter weather, so give it good drainage and plant plenty in a sheltered sunny or semi-shaded spot, avoiding the cold north and east winds.

Astrantia major, also known as Masterwort, is an easy-care perennial much used by garden designers, as it produces unusual flowers that demand attention.

The flowers are made up of shaggy papery bracts that resemble a Tudor ruff, which come in greenish-white and pink-tinged, as well as plum and claret shades, around a paler-coloured pin cushion-like umbels of tiny blooms, making them resemble a star or firework.

Astrantia ‘Glebe Cottage’ is one of the best of the dark-flowered types.

It has papery plum-coloured bracts and is useful for adding depth to planting schemes during midsummer.

The blooms can be cut and dried for winter use.

Penstemon is one of the most collectable of border plants. It flowers from early summer to mid-autumn and even in hot, sunny conditions and dry soil.

The plants grow 30-90cm tall, depending on variety, and look best planted en masse.

The tubular flowers come in a range of pretty colours and elegant habit means that penstemons blend seamlessly into any herbaceous border.

Planting a harmonising blend of hot, sunny colours such as orange and yellow, are especially useful for creating sizzling summer borders.

For the most effective results, choose a main colour and then one or two closely related colours, which are selected from either side of your main colour on the wheel.

Try to avoid using too many colours as it can easily lead to confusion.

Autumn colour

To create a smouldering late-summer planting scheme, plant Helenium ‘Moerheim Beauty’, which is an upright, clump-forming perennial with large, dark-centred, copper-red flowers. Other heleniums are available and come in a range of colours from deep red to pale yellow, including blends, stripes and bands of colour.

Heights vary from 30cm to more than 150cm and it’s possible to have plants in full bloom past the end of October.

Bronze foliage looks especially striking with gold blooms. Kniphofia ‘Tawny King’ is a good choice to stoke up your borders from now until October and makes a good partner for the airy bronze foliage of fennel, which is one of those see-through plants that can even be placed in the front of the bed.

Plant purple–leaved Sedum maximum ‘Atropurpureum’ or ‘Ruby Glow’ and add a vertical accent with the dainty Kniphofia galpinii, a striking yellow poker that flowers until the autumn, for a late-summer border.

Michaelmas daisies are the must-have candidates for reigniting a mixed or herbaceous border, and make striking bedfellows for Crocosmia, Rudbeckia and Echinacea, as well as ornamental grasses.

Aster ‘Monch’ is by far the best blue Michaelmas daisy with long-lasting flowers with orange centres that appear as soon as the days start to shorten.

It’s resilient and remains healthy if you plant it in a sunny spot in enriched soil and it will become clothed with blooms that are 
a magnet to pollinating insects.

When the petals fade the seed heads provide a feast for birds.