How to keep your garden colourful: the best plants to see you through to autumn

Hardy geraniums  (Alamy Stock Photo)
Hardy geraniums (Alamy Stock Photo)

As we approach the height of summer, many of the season’s brightest flowers start to fade away.

There are some fantastic options to plant now for some high summer colour, however, that will keep your outside space looking glorious and also provide some late-season nectar for pollinators as they prepare for winter.

Grasses Miscanthus nepalensis

When there are so many fantastic flowering plants, it can be easy to overlook grasses. There are hundreds to choose from, but one of the most beautiful is Miscanthus nepalensis, aka Himalayan fairy grass.

In spring and summer, it forms a mound of bright green foliage, and begins to flower about this time of year, which is when the magic begins.

As the panicles finish flowering, they begin to dry out, becoming feathery golden seed heads that stick around all winter. Not only do the plants give you interest from now until January, the dried stems are also a perfect habitat for hibernating insects that are good for your garden.

Himalayan fairy grass (Alamy Stock Photo)
Himalayan fairy grass (Alamy Stock Photo)

Eucalyptus gunnii ‘France Bleu’

An increasingly common sight in London gardens, the silvery blue-green foliage and peeling bark of eucalyptus make them beautiful trees.

They are rapid growers, though, often rocketing up over a metre a year when young to reach a similar size to a London plane tree.

For smaller gardens the Eucalyptus gunnii “France Bleu”, is a dwarf variety that will only grow to two or three metres tall and can be planted in a courtyard or large container.

Hardy geraniums

Not to be confused with the equally colourful bedding geranium found in window boxes and pub hanging baskets (strictly speaking these are pelargoniums), hardy geraniums are seriously reliable perennials.

Look out for cultivars like Geranium “Ann Folkard” (Magenta) and Geranium “Rozanne” (purple/blue), both of which help stitch other plants together. The open shape of the flowers means they are loved by pollinators too.

Day lilies (Alamy Stock Photo)
Day lilies (Alamy Stock Photo)

Hemerocallis Day lilies

Plants, like everything, fall in and out of fashion and it’s been a while since day lilies have had their moment on the horticultural catwalk.

However, with our changing climate and extreme weather events, we’re likely to see much more of the day lily as it is tough-as-nails and nowadays there are some fantastic cultivars to choose from.

Sedums Hylotelephium (Stone crop)

As fleshy leaved succulent plants, you could be forgiven for thinking sedums are only houseplants (some are, like Sedum “Burrito”, Baby Burro’s Tail).

Many sedums are actually very happy growing outside given plenty of sun and reasonably dry conditions. At this time of year many are just beginning to produce umbels of nectar rich pink flowers that hold their colour long into autumn.

Sedum “Herbstfreude” (also known as Hylotelephium “Herbtsfreude”) is an oldie but a goodie, a robust plant that makes masses of pink flowers. Smaller sedums are also great gap fillers in paths and can be frequently found on sunny green roofs, where they thrive on neglect.