Something for the summer

Most small gardens are planted so that flowering and foliage shrubs provide a skeleton framework, highlighted by seasonal splashes of colour produced by perennial flowers and annual bedding.

And with the addition of a few climbers such as clematis, honeysuckle and solanum to clothe the surrounding fences and walls, most suburban gardens are almost fully planted.

But for a lot of gardeners there is always space to show off something new to catch the eye in summer. Which is where seed catalogues earn their corn – they are packed with the must-haves for 2013.

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If you have space for a large drift of annual flowers in a sunny position then Californian Poppies (Escscholzia) are hard to beat. T&M’s ‘Butter Bush’ is worth considering for soft yellow interest, or Mr Fothergill’s XL ‘Peach Strawberry’ gives a swathe of extra large frilly blooms in orange to red. These hardy annuals are tougher than they appear and seem to thrive on poor, dry soils. The papery blooms attract bees and hoverflies, and make excellent, if short-lived, cut flowers.

For a great addition to a cottage garden design there’s now Aquilegia ‘Rhubarb & Custard’ (sometimes you have to think how they come up with the names of certain plants) from Suttons. These columbines are easy-to-grow perennials and produce masses of delicate pinkish-red, yellow-tipped flowers on slender red stems.

Then there are asters. While some breeders are looking for dwarf varieties to make great edging to borders, a new pink variety from Suttons, called ‘Lady Penelope’, grows to at least 60-70cm tall. The large paeony-like flowers are double or semi-double heads of light pink, incurved petals.

Keeping with the Thunderbirds’ pink-loving heroine theme is Cosmos ‘Double Click Pink’ from Suttons. It promises plenty of blooms throughout the summer, and, like the single cosmos, is relatively tall, growing to a height of 60-90cm. Sow February to March indoors for flowers that bloom between July and September.

Sweet pea lovers will be fascinated by ‘Blue Shift,’ a new variety from T&M that has astonishing colour-changing blooms. The petals transform from light mauve as they unfurl, to true blue as they mature.

Summer-flowering pansies and violas have been a great favourite for many years, but the development of tumbling varieties and newest of all the truly trailing ones have transformed the planting of hanging-baskets and containers.

Look out for Mr Fothergill’s ‘Plentifall’, T&M’s ‘Friolina’ and Suttons ‘Balconita’ – they all promise a summer extravaganza.