By September many gardens are starting to look listless. Long gone are the spirited new blooms of spring and the flowering free-for-all of early summer. August’s punishing mix of heat and heavy showers proves gruelling for plants and soil alike. This sends your garden sliding helplessly towards autumn, where garden colour can be hard to come by.

But it doesn’t have to be like this. With some careful planning, many flowers and shrubs will fill your garden with autumn colour and interest during September and beyond.

Plants for autumn colour

One of my favourites is the Japanese Anemone. I often specify the hybrid ‘Honorine Jobert’ in my garden designs because it is a real trier. Free-flowering from August to October, it produces an abundance of cup-shaped, single white flowers. It prefers partial shade and is fully hardy. Cut back once the flowers have faded and mulch in spring for a repeat performance the following year.

Another regular is Anthemis tinctoria ‘E.C.Buxton’ (pictured above), which gives excellent value in the late summer garden. It combines lemon yellow daisy-like flowers with delicate green leaves. It is attractive to butterflies and bees, tolerates drought well, and blooms into November.

If it’s movement and texture that interests you, Miscanthus sinensis ‘Morning Light’ could be a contender for your autumn border. This tall, variegated grass puts out pink-tinged panicles of flowers during autumn, which hypnotically catch the breeze. In a couple of years, it will reach its full height of 1.5 metres.

A great companion for Miscanthus is Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’. Another hit with the butterflies, its succulent leaves and stems are topped with a froth of pink flowers from August that matures to an autumnal copper by November.

I have a theory which goes like this: during spring and early summer you see a lot of blue and purple flowers, but during late summer and autumn, it is warmer reds, oranges and yellows that dominate. As I like to use blue flowers throughout the year, these next two often feature in my gardens: Aster frikartii ‘Mönch’ and Ceratostigma plumbaginoides.

The Aster, also known as the Michaelmas daisy, produces lavender blue flowers from July right through until October. Ceratostigma, or hardy blue-flowered leadwort to give it its unglamorous common name, is a spreading perennial which produces clusters of vibrant blue flowers through September.

So it’s not all downhill for the garden at this time of year – with plants like these, next September your garden could look fabulous.

Photo credits: Anemone ‘Honorine Jobert’. Photo © bluebrightly. Aster x frikartii ‘Monch’. Photo © David Short 

This article first appeared in the September 2014 issue of Village Breeze magazine.

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