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Summer Colour from Perennials

Summer Colour from Perennials

There is “Summer Colour” to be planted in our gardens beyond bedding plants. Although these tender annuals are brilliant giving rainbows of colour from June to September, they will only last one season and disappear as soon as the first frost in the autumn arrives. They will not survive the cold winter weather and low levels of sunlight.

Hardy summer flowering perennial plants will however provide lots of background colour during these summer months and although the top growth will die down and disappear in autumn, they reappear with the warmer weather the following spring with lots of vigour. Here are some reliable suggestions to try.

Alstroemeria, The Peruvian Lily, has orchid like flowers available in a large range of hot colours. They are easy to grow in a sunny place and vary in height. Plant A. Sunshine, pink and A. Sunlight, yellow 30cm tall at the front of a border or A. Summer Breeze, yellow orange or A. Summer Heat, Red, at 60cm towards the middle.

Some new varieties of Scabious, called Kudo, are interesting flowering from late spring well into November. They are much loved by butterflies and bees being very rich in nectar. The flowers are attractive long lasting Pom Poms in the cooler colours of white, pink, mauve and blue. Remove the faded flowers regularly when they will be replaced by many more. They are tolerant of most soil types and also grow well in tubs.

Verbena Bodnatense is a popular perennial for the back of the border growing to 120cms tall. The dainty lilac flowers are borne on long wiry stems throughout summer and are a magnet for all pollinating insects. These Verbenas produce a lot of seed and in a less formal setting could be allowed to naturalise.

Hostas are really grown for the ornamental foliage which can be large and dramatic like Empress Wu at 150cms or small and discreet like H. Sun Mouse. The beautifully shaped leaves can vary in colour depending on variety from every shade of green imaginable to blue green, lime, yellow or variegated cream or white. The flowers appear in summer above the leaves and are white or mauve and often perfumed. Grow in partial sun or shade in the border or pots but protect from slug and snail damage with natural slug pellets or by surrounding the plants with sharp shingle. There are a couple of varieties that show some pest resistance Hosta Halycon and Hosta Sieboldiana Elegans.

Agapanthus the African Sun Lily are sun loving plants that produce large spherical flowerheads in beautiful shades from white, pale and dark blue through mauve to violet from midsummer onwards. These sway on tall stems above clumps of strappy foliage. Some varieties to look for are A. Fireworks, pale and dark blue, A. Navy Blue, rich dark blue and A. Royal Velvet, dark violet. They thrive in hot sunny places, in poor light soil and will tolerate periods of drought. By planting in pots or narrow borders they form large clumps that flower even more prolifically.

Rudbeckias are a group of late summer flowering perennials with bright yellow, orange and red daisy flowers with velvety brown centres that flower for several months. They are very easy to grow in a sunny border with plenty of humas and look really attractive if planted with ornamental grasses. Good varieties are R. Luna, R. Ophelia and R. Alicia.

Kniphofia the “Red Hot Poker” is another long flowering summer autumn perennial for planting with Hermerocallis, Achilleas and Heleniums who all enjoy a hot sunny position. All these varieties are easy to grow in any good garden soil.

Salvia Nermorosa have very dark blue almost black stems with masses of blue to violet flowers from spring and throughout the summer months. The attractive pale grey leaves are scented and the plant is a magnet to bees and butterflies as the flowers are very rich in nectar. Salvia Hot lips has fascinating flowers in red and white that look like pouting lips.

Echinacea, the Cone Flower, is a neat growing compact upright plant. It has daisy flowers with dark purple brown centres. The colour range is white to pink, red, mahogany and violet depending on variety. The Sunseeker series is a choice series that produce larger clumps each year. Another plant adored by all pollinating insects Echinacea associate well planted with Ornamental grasses, an excellent flower to cut for a vase in the house.

Next month I will talk about summer flowering shrubs but now it’s time to fill up those pots.

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