Crave colour? Careful selection and planning will ensure continuous blooms all summer long.
Long-blooming perennials make life so much easier for gardeners. Hardworking hydrangeas, alstroemerias, dahlias and daisies flower all summer. Add perennial fillers and social climbers, and things will quickly go from humdrum to Hollywood.
A popular and widely used cut flower, alstroemeria has an exceptional vase life and long season, bearing its bold or pastel blooms from spring to autumn. Choose a tall variety for picking; the dwarf forms are suitable for pots or at front of borders. New varieties are very hardy.
Centranthus rubra bears clusters of reddish blooms in profusion from late spring through summer. This hardy perennial is great for picking, but keep it in check. It can become invasive. Remove spent flowers, or cut to bring indoors, to avoid self-seeding.
Dreamy Thalictrum delavayi produces lilac sprays year after year from late summer through autumn. It weaves itself nicely in amongst other perennials, its wispy blooms borne on purpletinted stems. This elegant plant adds height to the garden, up to 150cm tall.
Aside from rambling roses, climbing drama queens are easy to find at this time of year, from honking campsis trumpets in orange to cumulus clouds of purple or pink bougainvillea. Clematis are, in comparison, quite modest, but the pure density of flowers demands attention. A climber needs room for its roots to roam and feed, so give them space and keep them as far from house and wall foundations as possible. Plant 30-40cm out from the base of a wall.
FILLERS & FLUFF
Both Queen Anne's lace ( Daucus carota) and false Queen Anne's lace or bishop's weed ( Ammi majus), are long-lasting in the vase. There is a burgundy Daucus carota too, but the daucus take twice as long to flower from seed as Ammi majus. Black parsley ( Anthriscus sylvestris ‘Ravenswing') is an excellent cut flower too. It's a biennial or short-lived perennial with purple-bronze foliage and umbels of small white flowers similar to the Queen Anne's laces.
Long-blooming perennials are well worth the effort, but plant them in the right conditions or they’ll sulk.
These colourful chameleons warrant a spot in any picking garden – and indeed any garden at all. The traditional dark blue, pink and white mophead varieties look spectacular mass-planted, but lacecaps, paniculatas and oak leaf varieties are great for mixed borders.
Both lacecaps and mopheads are resilient plants that are tolerant of shade and sun, with some growing well in coastal areas. The creamy white blooms of oak-leaved Hydrangea quercifolia are cone-shaped and the various forms of this drought-tolerant species grow well in shade or sun (more so in cooler regions). In fall, their leaves turn burgundy and red, and their flowers take on a pink tinge.