Category Archives: Colour

Plants for late summer colour

By the time I get to August I’m looking around for plants that’ll add some late summer colour into the garden. Annuals provide a much needed splash of colour but I often miss my spring sowing window and need something that will come back year after year. So I’ve complied my own shortlist of top ten plants that’ll add some colour to your late summer borders:

  1. Anenome ‘Honorine Jobert’ (Perfect for shade)
    Anemone 'Honorine Jobert' - suburban-gardenFor me this is the perfect plant for brightening up shady places in the garden and especially our immediate borders at the back of the house. This Japanese anemone has been flowering since July and will continue to right into September. ‘Honorine Jobert’ prefers to be planted in cool, shady areas otherwise it is liable to run at a quicker pace than usual. It can also be used a cutting flower.
  2. Geranium oxononium ‘Wageningen’ (Perfect for sun)
    Geranium oxononium 'Wageningen' - suburban-gardenSalmon-pink flowers with darker pink veining provide plenty of ground cover above mid-green leaves from June to August. Flowers fade to paler shades as they age. This hardy geranium does scramble but is not as vigorous as some varieties and is not prone to mildew. At first I wasn’t sure of the colour because it is bright but on dull days it really does light up a flowerbed.
  3. Heuchera’Caramel’ PVR (Perfect for shade and partial shade)
    Heuchera 'Caramel' PVR - suburban-gardenHeuchera ‘Caramel’ makes this list because of its beautifully sandy, limey and apricot foliage. I love the different shades of leaves that come from just one plant and this is complemented by peachy-red stems and undersides to the leaves. This plant does produce delicate spikes of cream flowers from May to August but it is the range of colours on the foliage that attracts my attention. I find that larger heuchera plants tend to be less susceptible to snail or slug attacks. It is just getting them to a more substantial size that requires patience and watchfulness. This heuchera has been planted with gritty compost and some plant food granules in a planter, in full shade for over a year now and feels like a perfect fit.
  4. Persicaria ‘Indian Summer’ ( Perfect for sun/part shade)
    Persicaria 'Indian Summer' - suburban-gardenI’m always on the lookout for unusual and intriguing plants and this is certainly one. Persicaria ‘Indian Summer’ came from Cally Gardens and produces small bunches of deep pink flowers from July through to September. However the real gem is the spectacularly blotchy, red leaves that go slightly purple in full sun and turn people’s heads. It is hardy but I cover it with bark chipping or spent crocosmia leaves at the base before winter as the foliage dies back during the winter.
  5. Inula barbata (Perfect for partial shade)
    Inula barbata - suburban-garden Inula barbata is really easy to grow and will provide fast-growing groundcover.  Yellow, finely-petalled daisies flower from July to August above hairy green leaves and stems almost reminding me of a lion’s mane. This plant is good at attracting pollinators but prefers to be in the soil rather than in containers. Just cut this plant back in the spring to promote new growth. This is another plant that can be used for cut flowers.
  6. Crocosmia ‘Emberglow’ (Perfect for sun)
    Crocosmia 'Emberglow' - suburban-gardenIn the early morning light you really get a sense of the richness in colour of Crocosmia ‘Emberglow’. The flowers are predominantly  a crimson red colour tinged with orange at the throat just like glowing embers. The flowers also unusually point downwards. ‘Emberglow’ is not as vigourous as ‘Lucifer’ but it does command a substantial prescence in the garden. I think the green sheafs of foliage are a beautiful vibrant green. This variety is suitable for cutting, is really easy to grow even in large pots and is wildlife friendly. The foliage will disappear during the winter but will reappear in the spring.
  7. Sedum populifolium (Perfect for sun)
    Sedum populifolum - suburban-gardenBeautifully fragrant cream flowers emerge from August to September above fleshy green multi-pointed leaves. Sedum populifolium is a slow-growing, woody plant that loses its leaves in the winter but they will come back in the spring. It is unique and I’m really taken with the texture of the leaves and the rich scent. The flowers just look like a mass of tiny stars. Never seen a plant quite like this before.
  8. Hakonechloa macro ‘Aureola’ (Perfect for sun/part shade)
    Hakonechloa macra 'Aureola' - suburban-gardenGrasses are useful sources of green throughout the growing season and more so when like many they are variegated. Halonechloa macra ‘Aureola’ has this beautiful golden green foliage that sweeps down providing the overriding interest. Although very fine flower spikes do appear it is the leaves that command attention. Use this plant as a soft edging to paths or borders or grow in large pots. Really easy to grow. The foliage just needs to be cut back in the spring and a light mulch applied. This plant will die back in the winter.
  9. Phlox paniculata ‘David ‘ ( Perfect for sun/part shade)
    Phlox panniculata 'David' - suburban-gardenPhloxes remind me of my childhood garden in summer especially with their dusky summer scents. I’m starting to collect quite a few varieties in my garden now but one of the ones that stands out is Phlox paniculata ‘David’. I planted it last year in partial shade nestled between two shrubs and this year it really has exploded. Abundant heads of pure white flowers have only just opened and should last until September. They do say that phloxes take a year or two to reach their full potential and ours certainly has. The leaves are a glorious bright green and this variety is one of the more mildew resistant types. Good variety for flower arranging and pollinating insects.
  10. Helianthus atrorubens ‘Miss Mellish’ (Perfect for sun)
    Helianthus atrorubens 'Miss Mellish' - suburban-gardenIn our garden Helianthus atrorubens ‘Miss Mellish’ is just about to open into finely quilled, yellow petals. To be fair it copes with dappled shade in the first half of the day, so I’m not surprised that it is late in flowering but it does create an amazing mass of yellow colour. This helianthus is invasive but at a steady pace and I’m happy to keep cutting it back. It can be sunk into the ground in a pot but prefers to grow directly in the ground, preferably somewhere where you don’t mind it being invasive. This plant is perfect for cut flowers and can cope in poor soil conditions.

Cirsium rivulare ‘Atropurpureum’

Cirsium rivulare 'Atropurpureum' - suburban-gardenMay’s plant of the month at suburban-garden is Cirsium rivulare ‘Atropurpureum’. An attractive addition for any garden, with spiny green leaves and beautiful crimson heads, this extremely hardy thistle is a magnet for bees and other wildlife.

What’s your favourite plant for attracting pollinators, butterflies and other wildlife?

Summer inspiration in the shade

Patio planter - suburban-gardenIt’s summer and my garden is bursting with colour and different textures against a lush, green background. Some plants require more attention than others while some have happily self-seeded and spread across the garden. Some of the plants moved house with us, while others have been added in to those that were already here. I’m a fairly thrifty person and am glad that I’ve kept some of the original planting as it fills the space and with a little care and mulching has revived.

Shade is tricky because there are different kinds of shade and light conditions change as the year progresses. There are very few plants that can tolerate full shade and those can tend to flower earlier in the year. Also the colour palette of these plants are usually limited to cooler colours which can work as I’m trying to stick to a colour scheme to harmonise the variety of plants within our garden.

At some point I’m hoping to create my own attempt at a low raised bed along the dividing fence between our house and our neighbours which will be better for the plants (and save time on watering in the summer). To be honest these pots end up fending for themselves most of the time and still manage to look good.

These are the plants that are working for me at the moment in the pockets of shade in my garden:

Dianthus 'Tatra Blush' - suburban-gardenDianthus ‘Tatra Blush’ – This is a very fragile, unusual dianthus that has won over my heart. As it ages it turns pink and has a rich scent. Dianthus should be planted in full sun however this one manages with some strong sun during lunchtime and for most of the afternoon during the summer. The rest of the time it is in shade. The pot has also had a generous mulch of sand. This is a hardy dianthus as it comes from Cally Gardens in Scotland, however it will die back to some extent during the winter. I’m going to leave it on my patio over the winter, so it should hopefully be sheltered from the worst of the frosts.

Geranium versicolour - suburban-gardenGeranium versicolour – I adore anything that is patterned and so it is a joy to see this geranium sprawl over the container from my back window. It only gets some sun in the morning and so copes well. Because it is white, it gives off an almost luminous glow and helps to lighten the space. Geranium versicolour is as versatile as its name suggests and is also just as at home in full sun.

Geranium nodosum 'Silverwood' - suburban-gardenGeranium nodosum ‘Silverwood’ – Another useful geranium to have as this new introduction which provides good ground cover without sprawling wildly. It can even cope with dryish shade and the leaves are unusual with their glossy texture. The whiteness of the flowers really does brighten up my patio. Gets practically no sun at all. Although these are starting to look a little ragged now they still glow.

Geranium phaeum 'Our Pat' - suburban-gardenGeranium phaeum ‘Our Pat’ – A new variety of geranium with tall heads of purple-black flowers. This is enchanting and adds some height to my border of pots. Gets practically no sun at all. The leaves provide really effective ground cover and this geranium grows in clumps. Although this plant is hardy it is also deciduous so it will disappear during the winter months and emerge once more in the spring.

Geranium macrorrhizum 'White-Ness' - suburban-gardenGeranium macrorrhizum ‘White-Ness’ – Another useful geranium, happy in either sun or shade, wet or dry. This is a really undemanding, semi-evergreen geranium which covers the ground well. The pure white flower heads are unusual and so dainty and sit tall above light green, aromatic foliage.

Heuchera 'Binoche' PVR and Heuchera 'Silver Dollar' - suburban-gardenLast year both Heuchera  were very small. So, I decided to plant them up in pots, to create some autumn/winter colour by the back door. They have just grown stronger and stronger. I adore the mint green leaves of Heuchera ‘Silver Dollar’ PBR (right side). Again it adds some illumination to an otherwise dark corner and has kept its intensity throughout the year. The pink flower heads just came out at all angles and have been in flower since May. Gets a small amount of sunlight in the early morning.

Heuchera ‘Binoche’ PBR (left side pot) – The intense darkness of the leaves caught my attention more than anything else. The flowers on this heuchera seem a lot more delicate and are a creamy colour but it is the leaves that seem to take over. I don’t think this heuchera would work well on its own in the shade in my garden but the mint-green leaves of the sedum really help to show off the red-black foliage. Gets a small amount of sunlight in the early morning.

Sedum unidentified - suburban-gardenSedum – I haven’t identified this sedum yet. It was in our garden when we moved and I was looking for other plants to add to my winter pots, so in it went. I love the soft but firm, succulent leaf textures. I observe in anticipation every year the transformation of green into pink/red heads and then into autumn seedheads. Sedums tolerate partial shade but can also be planted in full sun. This sedum gets a small amount of sunlight in the early morning and still looks healthy.

Hosta 'Guacamole' - suburban-gardenHosta ‘Guacamole’ – This hosta has simply enjoyed being in the shade (it gets a small bit of light in the morning) and its heart-shaped leaves have turned a luminous green colour. Although Hosta ‘Guacamole’ can tolerate full sun. In winter I cover all my hostas with a layer of bark chippings and that seems to keep them safe until the spring.

Hydrangea macrophylla 'Quadricolor'Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Quadricolor’ – I think the pale green and cream leaves overlaid with a yellow edge are incredibly striking on this hydrangea that is just about to burst open with pink lace-cap flowers. This hydrangea does not get any sun and is only hardy if it lives in a sheltered or maritime garden. Hence why it is placed near a fence at the back of the house. Again its leaves have provided plenty of interest since March and will continue to do so until the autumn. My soil isn’t that great for hydrangeas so I tend to keep them in pots with ericaceous compost and regularly make sure they are fed.

Hydrangea aspera 'Villosa' - suburban-gardenHydrangea aspera ‘Villosa’ – I like the unusual, large velvety grey-green leaves of this hydrangea. It also has lilac-blue lace-cap flowers that develop during the summer and open in the autumn, providing plenty of interest over a long season. What is more remarkable is this hydrangea does not rely on acid conditions to produce its blue pigmentation as most hydrangeas do. Prefers partial shade and is hardy.

Aucuba japonica 'Variegata' - suburban-gardenAucuba japonica variegata – I needed a decent sized shrub to cover up a ragged corner wall and one that could cope in partial shade and found this. It is really unfussy and has thrived. In the summer it does get some light in the late afternoon on a sunny day and once more has toned down the grey colour walls. Fully hardy.

Achillea ‘Moonshine’

Plant of the month - suburban-gardenMy plant of the month for June is the extremely sunny Achillea ‘Moonshine’.

I think this is a very aptly named plant. The yellow is so bright it does indeed shine and the silvery-green fern foliage is so dreamy. The flat heads packed full of tiny flowers seem to float in midair.

Achilleas are useful in full sun and the taller varieties can be placed to great effect at the back of borders. If you don’t fancy this bright canary yellow then you can get achilleas in a whole host of other colours ranging from whites to reds.

Achillea ‘Moonshine’ is really easy to look after and will last for most of the summer although achilleas are short-lived perennials, so be prepared to either dig it up and replant it or take cuttings. This will die back in the winter and as such vigilance is needed in the spring while young shoots emerge from the ground. Slugs tend to make a bee-line for achilleas until sufficient growth has been established and then achilleas are generally trouble-free.

Read more at suburban-garden.

Signs of spring in the garden

Cally mix hellebore - suburban-gardenIt is easy to dismiss a garden in January but there are some signs of spring evident even though it’s a bit early! You just need to want to keep your eyes open and know where to look.

Our garden is currently going through an overhaul. We moved in at the end of 2013 and last year was a ‘do as much as you can year’ in order that we got some of the benefits this year. And it seems to be paying dividends even through some of the plants were established way before we arrived on the scene.

Last Sunday we did a bit of tidying up in the front. As well as making the plant pots that stand outside our doorstep a little neater and replacing the top layer of soil in them with some fresh compost, I also sorted out the hollyhocks.

I persist with hollyhocks even through they are prone to rust because I couldn’t imagine a summer without their tall blooms waving about in the wind. I removed any dead leaves and any that showed signs of rust. We are lucky that we have a large beech tree in our back garden and I gathered some of the leaves and packed them in and around the hollyhocks, taking care not to damage the roots. Eventually the beech leaves will decompose and hopefully give the hollyhocks some much needed nutrients. Anyway they already look much healthier, so that’s good enough for me.

Here is a little flavour of what else is going on in our garden at the moment:

I think the ‘Cally mix’ Hellebore featured as my main image is simply stunning. It has really brightened up a dull part of the garden. The clematis is still going strong and I know once it passes its’ best then the silky seed pods add another dimension to the trellis support.

The snapdragon has been going strong all year. Again I just tidied it up a bit by cutting off the seed pods and any straggly leaves and branches. The yellow ranunculus ficaria was one of the first signs of spring last year although since then we’ve disturbed a lot of the soil at the back. As a result we’ve probably lost the carpet effect that all these plants created last year but I’m not going to worry about it; these plants are considered invasive.

How to create colour in your garden at this time of year

How do you create colour in your garden at this time of year? September is a funny time of year for plants; some like my sweet peas have decided to flower forever this year while my sunflowers are coming to an end. So what happens now and how can you fill the gaps that may appear?

Whenever I plant a part of my garden I always try to imagine what my plants will be like throughout the year. I know some will shrivel up, others will lose their leaves while many wait to do battle with the first frosts. And that’s where we need to remember that it is not only flower heads that create interest but also stems, leaves and seed-heads.

Pink sedum heads

First on my list to provide inspiration is the sedum. These slowly unravel from the ground during the spring with leaves and stems that may be light green or almost black. During the summer you can see the flower heads forming but it is not until September when the colour really starts to come out.

This plant is hardy and will do well in both droughts as well as wetter summers however it prefers an open-airy spot in the garden. Then once the winter sets in it leaves behind an amazing mass of dried flower heads to take you through to the next year. Sedums can be ground-covering or tall and bushy like these and you can get a range of orange, white, red and pink flowered sedums.

Close up of a green headed aster

I always know September is here when asters start to make their way onto the flower stand in supermarkets. I have both white and purple asters in my garden and although they are not out at the moment I know that in a few weeks they will add some sparkle to an overly green corner. However my ‘Emerald Isle’ aster has made such an impact in my garden that I may be tempted to grow some more from seed next year.

Although my asters are hardy they can also be susceptible to slugs and snails when new shoots emerge in the spring as well as mildew so this may be something to bear in mind.  That said there are varieties out there that are said to be mildew-resistant such as Aster x frikartii ‘Monch’.

Purple and dark blue staticLimonium or statice (as I know it) is another autumnal flower. It forever reminds me of being lumped in buckets outside my childhood greengrocer’s.

It doesn’t smell but even as a plant it still has that dried, harvest festival kind of feel about it. These plants have been growing for two years before they were planted out and survived last winter although they were in my cold-frame in a sheltered spot. I’m not sure what I’m going to do with them this year apart from dig them up but they’ll be worth it. This year I’ve had a range of blues and violets but you can get this plant in yellow, pink or white as well.

Statice will do well in any soil but needs to be in a sunny space. I’ve planted these in between hollyhocks to fill in any gaps in the border and they seem to be doing just that. They are drought resistant and mine have actually thrived during hotter spells and have come in pretty hand for using as cut flowers. So you shouldn’t need to worry about watering them during the summer.

Some forms of dianthus or carnations have this wonderful greyish foliage complete with straight spiked leaves. And some of my carnations have even started to flower again. You will never lose this foliage although it may need cutting back when it starts to look slightly ragged and but this will give you both texture and colour all the year round as well as some gorgeous scent in the summertime.

Creamy-white scabious head

If you’re looking for a plant to flower from the summer into autumn then you can’t go far wrong with scabious. We have scabious grown from both seed and also brought from a garden centre and they have both flourished once more in a sunny place.

Some forms of scabious are fairly tall and wiry and may need staking in strong wind other types are more compact ground-spreading plants. Scabious is a usually a more short-lived perennial so you may need to propagate by division or cuttings if you want your plant to last more than three years. I’ve found these great space-fillers useful both in flower arrangements as well as being wildlife friendly.

Pink pelargoniums and violet geraniumsThis little beauty of a Pelargonium ‘acetosum’ (seen here with Geranium ‘Joy’) has flowered non-stop since June and is slowly creeping over my terrace wall.

I know I will have to take it indoors before the first frosts but to me that’s worth it. The gentle salmon-pink almost starry flowers fill a space with ease. Again this has enjoyed basking in full sun and in well-drained but fairly dry soil. If you keep this in a pot you should avoid over-watering.

However what I find most unusual is the almost webbed, rubbery texture of the leaves which surprisingly for pelargoniums do not leave behind an attractive scent.

Mint green and white leaved shrubI needed a plant to liven up a rather dull corner that gets some sun but not a lot and even less during the winter months. I was actually browsing another plant nursery website and happened across this Pittosporum tenuifolium ‘Silver Queen’.

Its’ variegated leaves bring some light relief and because it is an evergreen it will show these off all year round and provide an amazing backdrop for whatever you decide should go in front. It should also produce a few purple flowers but mine hasn’t yet. It is also worth noting that this foliage is useful in flower arrangements as well.

This pittosporum will need protection from cold-drying winds and prefers full sun which will create a better leaf effect than if it is planted in shade. It will grow up to four metres in both height and width and prefers light, well-drained soil.

Nothing can really eclipse seeing a host of Japanese anemones all huddled together in a flower bed. Mine have only been planted this year so will need some time to get established but they are already gracing flowerbeds that would otherwise be struggling for colour. These perennials show off a green-foliage in spring and will suit both full sun and partial-shade, along with most soil types. I’ve grown these in clay soil and haven’t had any trouble but the soil needs to be well-drained.

A row of teasel headsWe didn’t plant these teasels but they are irresistibly tactile (although caution should be exercised as the spikes on their heads are sharp) and they look good right throughout the summer and into autumn.

Not only will they look great at the back of borders, individually or in groups but they are also wildlife friendly. They provide shelter and food for bees, butterflies, frogs as well as many other insects and if you’re really lucky a goldfinch may take some of the protein-rich seed that forms.

These are biennials, so will look like small florets of green in the soil in their first year. Only in their second year will they grow their trademark stem and head.