Grow gorgeous gap fillers
Potted dahlias and cosmos can distract the eye from any fading performers
Any seasonal gaps can be plugged with late-season flowers – it’s worth doing now that climate change has brought us milder autumns. Penstemons provide an infusion of wine-red, purple or pink spires to diffuse all those golden daisies. The wine-red favourite we used to know as ‘Garnet’ (now ‘Andenken an Friedrich Hahn’) is fabulous among blues and hardier than many. Darker ‘Pensham Plum Jerkum’ is especially good with clear yellows. Planted now, they’ll survive winter as long as you don’t cut back until next spring. Just deadhead to keep flowers coming and remove any shabby foliage. Potted dahlias and cosmos can distract the eye from any fading performers and you can stand a pot in the border if it’s impossible to dig. Keep an eye out for a South African beauty called Hesperantha coccinea (previously schizostylis) with fine foliage and rounded flowers in pink, tomato-red or pure-white. Copper-red H. coccinea ‘Major’ has much larger flowers that would complement late-flowering, slate-blue aster, Symphyotrichum turbinellum, which forms a parasol of tiny flowers and glaucous foliage. Both are hardy and will swoon and sway together. Hesperanthas like summer moisture, but overwinter well. Try adding a stunning late crocosmia too, such as mahogany-orange ‘Star of the East’, together with refined Colchicum autumnale ‘Nancy Lindsay’. She’ll throw a succession of up to 20 flowers from one bulb, and the spring foliage is better behaved than most. Hylotelephiums (sedums) can lift a border because many have dusky foliage and flat heads of long-lasting flowers. Neat and compact ‘Purple Emperor’ has a domed head of pink-red flowers that gradually fade to chocolate. The neatly crimped foliage is dusky black from the start, and it doesn’t split at the crown. ‘Karfunkelstein’ is another great addition, with glossy purplish-blue foliage and dusky-pink flowers. The darkest foliage of all belongs to ‘José Aubergine’ with its deep pink flowers; ‘Matrona’ has grey and purple-tinged foliage (think plump pigeon) and pale pink flowers that flatter pastel diascias. Sweetly scented herbaceous clematis and their tubular blue flowers are hardly ever without an insect. Deep blue Clematis heracleifolia ‘Cassandra’ is just right: knee high, a good colour and leans without flopping.
A swathe of Aster frikartii ‘Monch’ studded by Colchicum autumnale goblets and perovskia spires ❤
Crocosmia ‘Star of the East’ and Pennisetum advena ‘Rubrum’ are a perfect bronze duo