By August most traditionally planted gardens are sadly running out of steam, autumn colour is still a while away and as summer draws to a close rather than ending in a blaze of glory too many of our gardens are fizzling out like damp squibs.
Choosing plants which flower later in the summer isn’t difficult if we know where to find inspiration, and westward to the prairies of North America is a good place to start.
Asters partnered by Heleniums, Liatris, Echinacea and Rudbeckia, their natural grassland habitat partners, can create some really colourful combinations and if it’s more of a fiery finish we’re after then the red hot poker flowers of Kniphofia and Crocosmia originating from hot and sunny South Africa really turn up the heat.
Looking south and east, Japanese anemones are favourites at this time of year, long lived plants increasing over the years into large sturdy clumps but with the most elegant flowers in subtle shades of pink or white. In semi shade they look wonderful with Hydrangeas, many of which share the Anemone’s Asian origins. I like it best with Hydrangea quercifolia which originates from America and is for me the most refined of the hydrangeas.
One shrub which very few gardeners would consider refined is Buddleja, so easy to grow and a plant I would never want to be without. We all know that by dead heading roses we can encourage them to keep flowering and the same can be done with Buddleja. If the spent brown heads are removed, it will keep its flowers coming right into the autumn providing us with lovely colour and so many insects with food, it’s perfect for late flying butterflies.
Ornamental grasses may not have the same flower power but they add so much interest in other ways, their swaying stems catch the slightest breeze adding movement and structure, although subtle in colour, there are some like Miscanthus that have large flower heads and en masse impress from a distance, while others like Panicum and Descahmpsia are graced by the most delicate of flowers made up of pearl like beads which invite closer inspection.
Versatile and so easy to grow grasses are indispensable and partnered by plants with which they are naturally at home they help keep the late summer garden looking lovely.