Perk up your late summer garden

The sun is shining and summer is here at last, just about. But if you stepped outside at the weekend only to find your garden resembling the aftermath of a tropical storm, here are a few simple tips to whip your plot back into shape ready for the sunny weekends ahead...

Chop, chop!

If the shrubs in the garden have grown to triffid-like proportions, given the constant supply of water, and are now swamping adjacent flowers, the first task is to cut them back. Wilkinson Sword’s Ratchet Bypass Loppers, on promotion at ACHICA, make light of this job, slicing cleanly through thick stems like a knife through butter. I’m so impressed with mine, which I bought from ACHICA last year, that friends are quite bored of me waxing lyrical about these amazing garden tools. Cut off whole stems at the base, or prune them back to just above a leaf or stem bud. And remember to wear gloves – these blades are super sharp.

Next, do a spot of deadheading. Cut off the faded flowers of bedding plants, hardy geraniums, campanulas and roses to encourage them to bloom again. Some roses, like ramblers and old roses flower just once a year, but many modern and shrub roses, like this ‘Ballerina’, will continue to bloom well into autumn if you keep trimming off the old flowers. Use clean sharp secateurs, and cut off individual blooms or a head of flowers if they grow in clusters. Spray the secateur blades with household disinfectant between plants to prevent transmitting diseases from one to another.

Fill the gaps

To inject some colour into your borders, fill any permanent gaps with a few late summer flowers. Great choices include Shasta daisies, or Leucanthemum if you want the posh Latin name. I have a few clumps of ‘Highland White Dream’, which are perfect for the back of a sunny or partially shaded border and produce masses of large white daisies on sturdy stems. I also got very excited about a Shasta daisy called Leucathemum x superbum ‘Old Court’, which I spied last week at the RHS Tatton Park Flower Show – the spidery flowers look like little white feather hats, and I’ll be definitely finding a spot for a few of these too.

Other late summer blooms include Heleniums. I snapped these golden beauties in Phillipa Probert’s stunning ‘Taste of Ness’ garden at the Tatton show, and love their little chocolate-topped cone-shaped flowers. You’ll find a good range of heleniums at Crocus.

Rudbeckias (pictured top), which form the mainstay of any late summer display, are also worth seeking out. One of my favourites is Rudbeckia ‘Prairie Sun’, which grows to about a metre in height and sports these large flowers with bright yellow petals radiating from mint green centres. If pastels are more your thing, opt for Michaelmas daisies or asters, which come in a variety of whites, pinks, purples and blues. Among the best are the blue-flowered Aster frikartii ‘Monch’, mauve Aster ‘Little Carlow’, and cerise pink Aster novae-angliae ‘Andenken an Alma Potschke’, which is one of the last to bloom in mid September.

Place your pot

Gaps left by spring bulbs can be plugged with pots of foliage and flowers. Choose decorative containers like this gorgeous handcrafted slate urn by Tristan Cockerill, which he has filled with lavender. Alternatives for a sunny spot that will bloom into early autumn include osteospermums and garden chrysanthemums.

For shady areas, spice up your pots with some zesty begonias, like this trailing orange variety called Million Kisses, which will be happy in a pot in the garden or shaded hanging basket. Begonias will bloom until the first frosts, when you can take them indoors to overwinter. Trim the stems and remove the soil from around the roots and tubers, allow them to dry and pack them in boxes, then replant the tubers outside in fresh compost next May to repeat the performance.

Other ideas for shady areas include ferns, heucheras, and the golden Lysimachia nummularia, which Clare Edwards and Claire Skidmore chose for their Enchantment Garden at Tatton Park. Check out Plantagogo for the widest range of heucheras in a rainbow of colours.

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Zia Allaway, Garden Expert

View all posts by Zia Allaway, Garden Expert