Is your garden bare? 12 ways to plug the summer flowering gap

Is your garden bare? 12 ways to plug the summer flowering gap

'My garden has no colour or flowers during mid to late summer'. Is this you? If so, you might want to plug your summer flowering gap. It's easier than you might think. Here's 12 suggestions to help you fill the garden with colour:

As much as gardeners tend to love summer (because they can spend all those luscious daylight hours outdoors), the time is approaching when garden beauty starts to dwindle.  Many spaces begin to look barren, with dry soils and parched plants without much in the way of colour. What can you do during summer to perk up your plot?

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A significant feature of dry summers, weather-wise, is the water table, which can sometimes be very low. The garden naturally tends to look a bit dry and sleepy during a transition period between perennials that flower early and those preparing to flower late. One way to minimise this is to cut back everything before this happens in order to encourage more flowers.  If you do this now you should be rewarded with extra blooms in August. The hardy Geranium 'Rozanne' pictured below responds brilliantly to this treatment. There are wonderful plants, however, that specialise in a show of colour during late July and August and it’s well worth putting some in place. Gardeners are very good at planning ahead, and these flowering plants will give you a boost this year and be ready for multiple action thereafter.

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Summer flowering perennial favourites

Hardy Salvias and Penstemons

These are sun-loving drought-resistant plants that are rising to their peak, even in the dry soils. Once they are in bloom, these beauties will keep on giving you summer joy right through until the autumn provided you keep dead-heading the plants. Given the right sort of care, these will bulk up each year and should prove to be a long-term investment, including the Salvia nemorosa 'Caradonna', also known as the Balkan clary, pictured below.

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Penstemen 'Garnet', pictured above, is a great perennial for providing mid to late summer flowers. Just give Penstemens a winter mulch in order to keep them covered during winter.

Dahlias

If you like exuberant colour, look no further than Dahlias, which come in all shades of extravagance and styles. They will perform brilliantly during shortening days and stay until the first frosts. Then the tubers should be lifted and stored, so they are not entirely maintenance-free.

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Sedum

There are succulents such as Sedum which store water in their leaves and form their flowers during August. These are loved by bees, butterflies and other insects and deserve a space in every garden. Dry weather and sunshine is a Sedum's friend. In fact, there are several low-growing types of Sedum which make the perfect planting for a green roof.

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How to recognise a plant that loves sunshine and can tolerate drought conditions

Anything with silver leaves should do will in a dry garden. Foliage with soft, downy hairs is also well designed to resist drought. The aromatic silvery foliage of Perovskia (Russian sage), pictured below, is well suited to dry periods. It produces small, tubular blue flowers in late August onwards and looks marvellous in a ‘drift’.

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Crazy daisies

The daisy-shaped flowers of many perennials including Anthemis, Helianthus, Heliopsis, Rudbeckia and Leucanthamum take centre stage in the height of summer. Their ray-style petals draw in the pollinators to their pollen-filled centres. This group of daisy plants never fail to lift the spirits and they should bulk up each year, including Rudbeckia 'Goldsturm', pictured below.

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Echinaceas

Then there are Echinaceas with their curious, reflexed petals in pink, purples, whites, lilacs and even red. The coneflower is a seductive, beautiful daisy-like plant that flowers at a time of year when there is a gap. It also has herbal qualities, with Echinacea purpurea having been used as a health boost for decades. Echinacea 'Butterfly Kisses', pictured below, is as beautiful as the name suggests.

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Clematis

Don’t forget Clematis; particularly the viticella and texensis varieties which start flowering when others have finished. They do need their feet in the shade, so cover the base with mulch, rocks or gravel to help them stay cool. Many types of Clematis can be encouraged to flower multiple times during the summer.

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Buddleja and more

There are plenty more garden delights such as Buddleja and Agastache, filling the borders with colour and nectar too. Buddleja don't have to be huge and rangy, for example, Buddleja Free Petite 'Tutti Fruitti' is a compact form (below) that grows to only around 60cms tall.

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Grasses

Finally, don’t overlook ornamental grasses which just start to shine when many flowers are fading. These reach a peak in late summer and early autumn, plugging gaps and being equally awesome in their own right. Plant the larger grasses as specimens and the smaller in drifts – you’ll never regret inviting grasses to the summer party!

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