Grow late summer lovelies

They’re fashionably late, but worth the wait… Val Bourne nominates her favourite plants for late summer colour

The days may be getting shorter and the nights might be a little bit chillier but the garden is even better because it has mellowed into a dreamworld full of rich harvest-golds, vivid oranges and jewel-box pinks and purples set off by sun-bleached seed heads and grasses. Like a woman in her prime, the garden wears a confident air, and there’s time to sit back and enjoy life as summer slides towards early autumn. Have a glass of fizz, whether it’s elderflower or Prosecco, and sit back and enjoy the butterflies as they skim through the garden looking for a nectar fix.
Keep August as fresh as you can by deadheading any fading flowers on summer perennials, dahlias, pelargoniums and roses. Cut out any signs of brown in summer and autumn-flowering borders, right up until the end of August, so that the garden keeps looking summer-fresh. Once September arrives you can allow autumn to creep in a little because seedheads and red berries look sensational in the crystal-clear light created by evenly balanced days and nights. Those longer nights suit southern hemisphere dazzlers such as salvias, dahlias, fuchsias and penstemons. At last they come into their own along with Japanese anemones and hardy chrysanthemums. 

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• Keep watering containers until the end of September.
• Keep feeding containers weekly with a high potash tomato food to encourage flowers and toughen up foliage.
• Deadhead repeat-flowering roses, summer-flowering perennials and annuals to prevent them setting seeds – until mid-September.
• Cut out patches of brown in August to keep the garden looking fresh.
• Plug any gaps by visiting the garden centre to find flower. Penstemons, dahlias, later pokers and crocosmias should be available.
• If you have a green area of the garden, don’t panic. You can make a new container with flowering plants, or add a splash of foliage colour using heucheras.
• If you have bare gap in the border, fill it with a hydrangea in a container placed on two bricks. Keep it watered.