by Garden Answers |

Revive tired borders with sizzling South American divas, slow-burn beauties and gorgeous grasses, says Val Bourne

September is a fabulous month in the garden. Evenly balanced days and nights cast a clear light that makes colours more vivid. The cooler nights produce reviving heavy dews so, after looking somewhat lacklustre in August, the garden catches its second wind. It’s no wonder so many gardeners pick September as their favourite month.

You’ll find salvias, fuchsias, dahlias and penstemons in garden centres now, although some may be borderline hardy or even tender. Many of these jewel-box beauties come from equatorial regions of the southern hemisphere with flowers in stronger colours, especially orange, purple and bright red. They’ll bloom until the first frost strikes, but can often be overwintered with a deep and protective mulch.

Look out for deep blue salvia ‘Amistad’, a world-wide success discovered in 2013 at a local plant show in South America. Its dark, leaning stems are topped with royal blue flowers for months on end. These tubular flowers, hummingbird-pollinated in South America, attract long-tongued bumblebees.

Fuchsias also shine now and taller hardy fuchsias in rich reds and purples include ‘Mrs Popple’, ‘Lady Boothby’ and ‘Brutus’. All three need good soil and prefer dappled shade. They add a touch of richness to later-flowering Japanese anemones such as pale pink single ‘September Charm’ and pristine-white single ‘Honorine Jobert’.


Penstemon ‘Sour Grapes’

Penstemons are also at their best now. ‘Alice Hindley’ is a white-throated mauve-violet and smoky grey-purple ‘Sour Grapes’ goes with so many things. Or you could use the deliciously dark plum-red ‘Pensham Plum Jerkum’, named after a local plum liqueur. Pale pink ‘Evelyn’ completes my September selection. Deadhead them to promote more flowers, but don’t cut them down until next spring, once new growth appears at the base.

You should also find dahlias galore in garden centres, or you could order tubers for next year. Heritage varieties that still shine in the border include rich purple decorative ‘Thomas A. Edison’ and soft pink waterlily ‘Pearl of Heemstede’. The newer Karma series, bred for cut-flower use, includes sultry-red ‘Karma Choc’, while the insect-friendly Happy Single series and more compact, black-leaved Dark Angels series look good in a patio pot. Star performers include bright red ‘Pulp Fiction’ and vivid pink, raspberry-centred ‘Happy Single Wink’.

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