The 7 best plants for late summer garden success
How is your late summer garden looking? A friend recently told me she was really enjoying hers.
I’m pretty pleased with ours, too, provided no-one looks too closely at the bare patches and the weeds.
But there were three of us in the conversation. The third person shook her head sadly. ‘Late summer is no good for my garden…it’s over by now.’
I was thinking about the conversation as I walked the dog yesterday. Some front gardens around us are looking outstanding now. Others have faded away.
Are some gardens just better at certain times of year? Maybe you have to decide whether you’re a June garden person or an August garden person?
I don’t think so. The holy grail of middlesized gardens is that we want to look good all year round, or for as long as possible. The late summer garden is an important ingredient in that.
I think that late summer garden plants get less attention than spring and early summer plants. The RHS Chelsea Flower Show is the gardening equivalent of London Fashion Week, setting the pace for garden fashion for the rest of the year.
But that means that spring and midsummer planting get all the publicity and admiration. They are seen in a design context, so it’s easier to imagine how to use them in your own garden. Cow parsley, for example, gets much more publicity than dahlias.
But if you want a garden to look good for a long time, then you’d choose dahlias, as in the Salutation in Sandwich.
Hydrangeas are another plant that offers huge choice, a long season and are easy to look after. But, apart from Hydrangea arborescens ‘Annabelle’, you don’t see many hydrangeas in designer gardens.
Posy Gentles and I started discussing which plants were best for the late summer garden. We came up with dahlias, hydrangeas, fuschias, unusual bedding plants such as cleome, all the daisy types such as helenium and rudbeckia, late summer roses, echinacea and verbena bonariensis.
All the hydrangeas, dahlias, fuschias, echinacea and roses come in a very wide range of colours and styles, so there would be something for every garden style. They have little or no presence in the garden in early spring, so combine well with bulbs and early bedding.
Hydrangeas, dahlias and fuschias are sometimes seen as too suburban. Garden snobbery also blankets the ‘yellow daisy’ types in disapproval. But I believe that is about timing. You’ll never win a Chelsea Gold Medal designing a garden with hydrangeas and dahlias, because it’s not the right time of year.
If there was a late summer show that was influential as ‘Chelsea’, and which got as much media coverage, then the ‘late summer garden’ might be a more fashionable concept.
Once we started to list the plants that look good in August, we couldn’t stop. We thought of penstemons, sedum, hibiscus and Japanese anemones.
So which are your favourites? And do spread the late summer garden message by sharing this using the buttons below. Thank you!