Late-sea­son peren­ni­als

De­mure isn’t a word you’d as­so­ciate with au­tumn peren­ni­als. Bold or beau­ti­ful is.

NZ Gardener - 365 Days of Flowers - - The Autumn Garden -

With­out water, an­nu­als and peren­ni­als hun­ker down and fo­cus on sheer sur­vival rather than putting on a spec­ta­cle. In dry times, choose plants that thrive on ne­glect. He­le­ni­ums and echi­nacea, for in­stance, tough it out when the go­ing gets tough.

MEX­I­CAN HAT

Rat­i­bida colum­nifera is of­ten in­cluded in wild­flower seed mixes. Grow­ing to 60cm tall, its up­right stems are topped with a ring of droop­ing bronze petals around a pointy cen­tral cone. Its com­mon name is Mex­i­can hat be­cause it re­sem­bles a Mex­i­can som­brero.

GOLDENROD Sol­idago canaden­sis

is a herba­ceous peren­nial with pan­i­cles of rich yel­low flow­ers on stiff, up­right stems. It's win­ter hardy, tol­er­ant of heat and hu­mid­ity, and ex­cel­lent for cut­ting. It mixes well with the steely-pur­ple globe this­tle, Echinops ritro.

CUTE CO­RE­OP­SIS

Co­re­op­sis – both the quick-to-flower an­nu­als and hardy peren­ni­als – de­serve to be more widely grown. They grow ev­ery­where, need­ing reg­u­lar wa­ter­ing only at the start to es­tab­lish. These daisies come in yel­low, cream, yel­low­bronze and burnt si­enna.

PUR­PLE CONE­FLOWER

Peren­nial pur­ple cone­flow­ers (Echi­nacea pur­purea) are work­horses in the sum­mer and au­tumn gar­den. They pro­duce an abun­dance of pur­ple-pink blooms which con­sist of a cen­tral cone sur­rounded by a skirt of petals that hang down­wards. As the petals fade, pull them off and use the or­na­men­tal cone in ar­range­ments. This hardy peren­nial is easy to grow, flow­er­ing the sec­ond year from seed. It's heat- and drought-tol­er­ant, with very few pest prob­lems.

SEN­SA­TIONAL SNEEZEWEED

For bright colour and long flow­er­ing, plant a swathe of he­le­nium. These are ver­sa­tile plants, thriv­ing just as well in windy, mild-cli­mate gar­dens near the sea as in in­land gar­dens. Any rea­son­able soil suits them fine, and they rapidly grow into gen­er­ous clumps. 'Mo­er­heim Beauty' is usu­ally the he­le­nium va­ri­ety of choice for its long-bloom­ing sea­son and unique colour, though 'Wal­strand', 'Sahin's Early Flow­erer', 'But­ter­pat' and 'Lord of Flan­ders' are equally en­tic­ing.

When care­fully se­lected, waves of colour­ful blooms can be en­joyed year af­ter year in the late–sea­son gar­den.

PER­FECT PART­NERS

While the pur­ple cone­flower is the most pop­u­lar, breed­ers have man­aged to come up with more up­right and even dou­ble cul­ti­vars, in vary­ing shades, in­clud­ing white, peach, tomato red and yel­low. Seeds for 'White Swan' are read­ily avail­able. This plant's blooms, which are 10-12cm in di­am­e­ter, start out lime-green to cream, then ma­ture to pure white. Plant 'White Swan' with Gera­nium 'Rozanne', which flow­ers al­most con­tin­u­ously from sum­mer through au­tumn, and the clump-form­ing spiky Eryn­gium planum, or sea holly.

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