Prolonging late summer colour

Prolonging late summer colour

Do you have lots of late summer colour? If there are gaps in your garden as summer wafts onwards towards autumn, never fear! You are not alone - in fact the latter part of the season is often referred to as ‘dire’ for flowers because of spent flowerheads, dryness and bright light. But this flowering vacuum can easily be filled - there are many stalwarts that bring a touch of magic to borders. What’s more, many of them will reappear year after year to ensure you have colour throughout the whole of summer. Here's a guide to help you prolong the beauty into late summer and even autumn:

Firstly, you might like to think about which colours are your favourite. Psychologists agree that red is the most emotionally intense colour. It stimulates the breathing and heartbeat and this bold colour is comparatively difficult to place in a garden, although of course red roses are traditionally popular and ‘hot borders’ make a daring statement. Red provides drama and can be very effective as a 'stand-alone' feature in a pot.

.Red makes a statement

Pink is far easier to accommodate within the body of the summer garden. It is soothing and romantic and blends well with tranquil blue which can promote peace and calm. Pastel shades of pink, blue and violet look beautiful in a cottage garden or naturalised border.

Cool blue

Yellow tends to provoke reaction and many despise this attention-seeking colour. Forsythia is often shunned for its precocious splash of spring joy and people have been shown to lose their tempers more easily in a yellow coloured room. Apparently babies cry more frequently in a yellow environment, so don’t park them by the daffodils! But it is undeniably a sunny and cheerful colour that can make people smile – just think of a sunflower.

Sunflower head with seeds for the birds

On the opposite side of the spectrum, purple is the colour of royalty and it can suggest luxury and wealth. Purple makes a splash of grandeur that is instantly noticed in a garden – Verbena bonariensis, for example, is seldom ignored. If you really want to make a statement plant yellow and purple together, they will not go unnoticed!

Yellow and purple

But perhaps best of all is the colour green which is refreshing and calming. Gardens can be beautiful without flowers if they utilise green in various shades, shapes and forms. Variegated forms of foliage such as Hedera helix ‘Gold Heart’; shaped balls of Buxus, tall,  pencil-thin conifers, floaty, delicate trees, ornamental grasses, strappy and spikey leaves such as Phormium and Astelia, can all be combined to make a spectacular garden which looks just as good in the winter as in the summer. What’s more, green is said to be the easiest colour on the eye, even being credited with improving vision.

Green only

The secret to prolonging late summer colour is to select your palette of plants with colour in mind. Make a note of when things flower and choose different plants for different months. Don't plant just one of smaller plants, they look much better in a swathe that contains several plants. Then deadhead all summer long. Most plants with smaller flowers can be encourage to flower again. Remove the spent flower heads as soon as they are past their best. In this way you can get every plant to perform as long as possible for you. 

If you are stocking your garden with mainly green plants, go for contrasting shades. Some greens contain lots of yelloiw. Others have tones of red and purple. Plant with contrast in mind - you can achieve real drama that lasts all year round, not just for the summer.