Perfect perennials

Create a beautiful and colourful summer garden with perennials that flower over a long period.

What would we do without perennials? They don't need replacing each year, have an extensive range in shape, height and colour, and fill the need for continuity in the garden. Perennials are valued for their colour, longevity and reliability. Unlike annuals that grow, flower and die in a year, perennials return in their given season to delight and decorate our gardens and our homes. Life is a garden if you grow it your way with perennials.

Choose vibrant colours of day lilies such as 'Double Talk', 'Scene Red' and 'Fudge', red Crocosmia 'Vulcan' and yellow Rudbeckias 'Maya', 'Prairie Sun', 'Indian Summer' and dwarf 'Toto' to add zing to a border, and to draw attention to an entertainment area.

Delphinium Cool down hot colours with agapanthus in shades of blue. Dwarf Agapanthus 'Tinkerbell' has variegated leaves and clusters of pale blue flowers, and Agapanthus 'Blue Velvet' has deep cornflower blue flowers with a velvet sheen. Grow agapanthus in broad sweeps in the landscape, in indigenous gardens, grouped in borders, as edgings along paths, and in large pots. Their strong root system is good for holding soil on banks.

More blue for the garden, and blooming throughout summer are, Salvia Mystic 'Spire Blue' with long spires of dark blue flowers that attract butterflies, and Salvia 'Victoria' with upright flower spikes holding indigo-blue flowers above the foliage.

Add structural interest as well as colour to the border with delphiniums that have vertical height, agapanthus and tulbaghia with rounded flower heads, and dieramas with graceful arching stems. The trumpet-shaped flowers of day lilies and the flat heads of achillea contribute yet more shapes.

There's something about daisies that gives a feeling of cheerfulness. The Shasta daisy is dependable, robust and long flowering, an excellent cut flower and a favourite of butterflies. Whether you prefer single flowers, double or fringed cultivars, the classical white Shasta daisy is one of the stalwarts of the perennial border with sturdy stems standing up well to adverse weather. They require little attention other than the removal of faded blooms to encourage more flowers, and cutting back after flowering to maintain a neat and tidy appearance. Divide every two or three years.

Gaura lindheimeri

Grow among ornamental grasses the dusty pink cone flower (Echinacea purpurea), to attract butterflies and bees. In the species, petals are narrow and reflexed, but in modern cultivars the petals are flat and wide. Once the petals have fallen, the prickly cinnamon-brown central seedheads can be left for seed-eating birds.

Echinaceas contrast well in shape and texture with the dainty pink and white butterfly-like flowers held on tall, wiry stems of gaura. Modern cultivars include rose pink 'Siskiyou Pink', pale pink 'Blushing Butterflies', 'Crimson Butterflies', soft pink 'Sunny Butterflies', white 'Jingle Bells' and 'So White'. The best effect is obtained when a number of these plants are clustered together.

Create a patchwork garden with a bed of alstroemerias. These tuberous rooted perennials deserve garden space because of their long flowering season throughout summer and into autumn, and because of their usefulness as a cut flower. Tall varieties need staking to prevent their flopping onto their neighbours. For small gardens and containers, grow the more compact Princess Series. 

Attract butterflies and bees to your summer garden with the pincushion flower, scabious. The frilled pink and blue-mauve flowers of Scabiousa 'Butterfly Blue' and Scabiousa 'Pink Mist' flower on stems 30cm high through summer and into autumn. Scabiousa africanus is an indigenous, water wise and hardy perennial that grows into a large mound with soft, hairy and ruffled-edged leaves and tall stems of dainty mauve flowers.

Grow lavenders, with their grey aromatic foliage and spikes of blue, lavender or violet flowers in sunny borders, bordering paths, in herb gardens, clipped as low hedges, and in containers. 'Lavender Lace', 'Violet Lace' and 'Margaret Roberts' flower for most of the year.

Some like it hot! Giant statice (Limonium perezii) from the Canary Islands has umbrella-like heads of violet-blue and white papery flowers on sturdy stems. The flowers are long-lasting in the garden and make excellent cut flowers for fresh and dry floral arrangements. This statice is a good choice for mixed borders, rockeries and for landscaping large areas. Grow in full sun in well-drained soil.


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