Bridging the gap

Kniphofia, the red hot poker of the garden that will add colour in late summer through to autumn.
Kniphofia, the red hot poker of the garden that will add colour in late summer through to autumn.
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Many gardens have plenty of flowers to bring colour for weeks on end, but August is probably the dullest month of the year with many plants past their best or not quite ready to put on a late-summer show.

Getting the planting just right to provide a steady progression of colour can be a difficult task but there are some perennials which will bridge the gap between July and the late-flowerers of September and October. And when the frost holds off, some will bloom even longer, particularly when they are dead-headed regularly. It is, in fact, possible to have colour through the year, particularly in sheltered gardens where winter finds it hard to make an impact.

And yet August can sometimes seem to be a ‘tired’ time with only a few stalwarts doing their best to keep things going – which is why the gardener should choose with care. If in doubt, visit a garden renowned for its perennials.

There are plenty of plants which will bloom this month – and continue to do so year after year. They range from Acanthus and Achillea through to the mighty Verbascum hybridum which can easily reach a height of six feet and produce stunning blooms.

Others to consider are the bellflowers (Campanula), Echinacea, sunflowers (Helianthus), Hostas, Phlox, Rudbeckia, Salvia, Solidago and Stachys.

There are many more (too many to mention here) but among the most colourful are Kniphofia, the beloved red hot pokers, although they do come in a variety of colours.

Kniphofia flower from late summer through till autumn. They are best grown in a sandy soil enriched with humus, but any deep, moist but well-drained soil will do.

Give them the sunniest spot you can find and they should do well. They are relatively easy to propagate – just divide established clumps in late spring when you’re removing the old foliage.

With very young plants, it’s best to mulch them during their first winter. As they mature, they get tougher and can put up with most weather.

If you’re not into perennials, you can still fill the garden with year-round colour by planting variegated evergreen shrubs. Some are very accommodating; others need watching because they can grow to become too big for their roots. A decent pair of shears or secateurs should be kept close at hand.