Splashes Of Summer
At this time of year, gardens explode with colour and stop-you-in-your-tracks floral displays. Helen Young shares her favourite show plants.
Flowers for a warm-weather show.
If you’re space-poor, these brightly coloured annuals with double, daisy-like blooms punch well above their weight. Their intense red, yellow, orange, purple and pink flowers perfectly reflect their Mexican origins, and provide a showy display into autumn. Feed with a liquid fertiliser fortnightly and dead-head regularly. Use them in pots, in planter boxes and to fill any bare spaces where they can enjoy full sun and plenty of heat. Zinnias are great as cut flowers, too. Start with seed in late spring or plant punnets of seedlings. ‘Gold Medal’ reaches 1.2m, ‘Lilliput’ is a compact 50cm.
Hippeastrums are bulbs with big, bold flowers in red, white and pink. There are double forms and wonderful bicolours among the dozens of varieties available from bulb specialists. They’re simple to grow in warm-tohot climates. Unusually, the huge bulbs are planted with their necks well above soil level. The sturdy flower stems emerge just before the leaves, to bloom in early summer. ‘Hippies’ look best planted as a group, but also grow well in pots, which you can bring inside for a week or so to enjoy the blooms. The leaves die down in autumn and bulbs should be kept dry over winter.
SMOKE BUSH ( Cotinus)
Smoke bush is named for the tall, hazy flower plumes that follow the less obvious flowers. It’s a wonderful display through summer until autumn on a large, deciduous shrub best suited to cooler areas. The leaves also give brilliant autumn colour before falling.
The straight species has green leaves, but popular varieties are ‘Purpurea’ with deep burgundy-purple foliage, and ‘Grace’, which has reddish-green leaves and pink clouds of ‘smoke’. They’re tough, fast growing and suited to sun or light shade. Prune by half in winter time.
BUTTERFLY BUSH ( Buddleia)
Butterflies adore the fat flower spikes of buddleias, which come in white, pink, crimson, mauve and purple. The nectar-rich flowers attract birds and have a sweet honey fragrance. These softly spilling shrubs have a cottagey style, but are tough as old boots and can bloom from late spring until autumn’s end. They suit frost-free climates in a sunny, well-drained spot and grow quickly. The taller varieties can reach 3m, but dwarf types such as the ‘Lo and Behold’ and ‘Buzz’ ranges grow 1-1.5m tall and wide. Prune by one-third after each flush of flowers.
Sometimes called jungle geranium, these small-tomedium shrubs provide masses of hot-coloured flowers in subtropical and tropical climates where the humidity is high. ‘Prince of Orange’ has fiery orange flower heads, but subtler colours are available in coral, peach, pink, gold and yellow. Use them in pots, as a low hedge or to add splashes of summer and autumn colour to your garden. The attractive, leathery leaves form a dense, rounded shrub that is remarkably tough, especially when it has enriched soil, summer water and wind protection. #