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Late summer colours in Hertfordshire gardens

PUBLISHED: 19:32 27 September 2010 | UPDATED: 17:49 20 February 2013

Dahlias come in a range of pretty colours

Dahlias come in a range of pretty colours

After the highs of midsummer, borders are still looking good in the warm rays of September. Philippa Pearson highlights the best late summer perennials

I LOVE late summer in the garden. The excitement of midsummer in June sees borders billowing with blousy roses and tall delphiniums, now giving way to hot colours in Septembers borders. The late summer sun makes the vibrant colours of dahlias, crocosmias and asters glow and bask in the warm days of late summer. Many flowers will continue to bloom until the first frosts and mingle perfectly with a backdrop of foliage changing into Octobers autumnal hues.
Top plants to try for late summer colour include Rudbeckia laciniata Herbstsonne which makes a tall clump, 1.5m high with pretty bright yellow cone-like flowers adored by bees. Another yellow plant to try is the perennial sunflower Helianthus Lemon Queen which thrives in sun or part shade. Asters (Michaelmas daisies) begin flowering in September and come in all sizes and a range of colours from blue, violet, pink and white. Mildew can affect the lower leaves of some species, so place other plants in front of the asters foliage to disguise any not so perfect stems.
Agapanthus also come in different sizes and are perfect plants to have in containers as their roots like to be constricted. Some are not frost hardy so keep in a sheltered shed or conservatory over the winter and place in full sun as shade encourages foliage growth at the expense of flowers.
Echinacea have huge central cones which attract butterflies, bees and other beneficial insects. Lots of hybridising amongst plant breeders has been going on over the last few years and there are now some super flower colours available including green and yellow. Im quite taken with a new introduction, Echinacea purpurea Tomato Soup, which has stunning red flowers, striking in late summer. Dahlias are a must as there is a tantalising range of colours, shapes and sizes that suit all sizes of gardens. Plant them en masse in borders for a striking effect.
To keep late summer perennials bushier and prolong the display of mid-summer plants in borders, many gardeners carry out the Chelsea chop to encourage flowers later in the season. This is particularly good for taller plants like Rudbeckia and Echinacea and is carried out in late May soon after the famous flower show has finished. Simply cut or pinch back plants by half.

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