Can you imagine a world where all the plants flowered at the same time? Thankfully, our gardens can be home to such a diverse range of shrubs, annuals and perennials that the flowers are spread across a full 12 months of the year, so there’s always something exciting just coming into bud.
Flowering is triggered by seasonal changes in light and temperature – those species that flower in early autumn are usually responding to a subtle combination of factors such as a reduction in daylight hours, cooler temperatures and increased moisture in the soil. They’re affected by the season that has come before too – for instance, a wet summer can produce lots of lush growth and earlier flowering.
Flowering time also has a lot to do with the type of pollinating insects a plant hopes to attract. In late summer, bees, butterflies, moths and hoverflies are still out foraging for nectar, and it’s their attention the late flowers are hoping to attract. And although the midsummer flowers may be more varied and numerous, these late-season beauties are definitely worth the wait. In many cases they’ll keep going for weeks, until the first frosts nip them back.
Many of these annuals and perennials are easy to grow, reliable and readily available at the garden centre in a dazzling palette of hot pinks, purples, blues and golds. September and October often bring fine weather and, by adding vibrant flowering plants to beds, pots and borders, you can soon create your own ‘Indian summer’ vibe.
2. Crocosmia crocosmiiflora ‘Harlequin’: Bicoloured yellow and orange red-backed flowers. Sun or part shade. H75cm (2½ft) S15cm (6in)
3. Dahlia ‘David Howard’: Fully double burnt orange decorative dahlia with purple-bronze leaves. Likes sun. H and S75cm (2½ft).
5. Helenium ‘Sahin’s Early Flowerer’: This is a popular hardy perennial that enjoys full sun and little care.
8. Hylotelephium spectabile: Rosettes of succulent, grey-green leaves and large, flat, pink flower heads that attract pollinators in sun. H and S45cm (18in). Hold off from cutting it back in autumn because it adds interesting shape to the border in winter.
4. Rudbeckia ‘Goldsturm’: Reliable, daisy-shaped single flowers, with a dark black centre, make a real statement in the border. They rarely need plant supports but reach a useful height of 60cm (2ft).
11. Symphyotrichum novae-angliae: New England asters have large pink many-petalled daisies with a yellow centre; needs sun. H1.2m (4ft) S90cm (3ft)
6. Japanese anemones: Easy late pink flowers that grow almost anywhere, reaching a height of about 80cm (32in). Perfect for the middle of a deep border.
9. Miscanthus sinensis ‘Malepartus’: Chinese silver grass has white-striped leaves and reddish flower heads. H2m (6½ft) S1.2m (4ft)
13. Ceratostigma plumbaginoides: Hardy plumbago offers cornflower-blue flowers and rich red autumn leaf colour. H45cm (18in) S30cm (12in)
1. Alstroemeria ‘Indian Summer’: Dramatic fiery flowers June-autumn and bronze-flushed foliage. Sun or part shade. H75cm (2½ft) S60cm (2ft)