Contribute something productive you reprobate!!

The leading English language magazine. Now covering Poitou-Charentes, Dordogne, Vendée and Haute-Vienne too!

Living magazine distribution map

Late summer colour in your French garden

Late summer colour in your French garden

Trevor Bridge shows us how to make the most of our gardens in summer by extending the season with herbaceous perennials


We all know how a splash of fresh spring colour is vital to see out winter, and we are accustomed to the profusion of vibrant flowers in mid-summer. It is just as important though to provide interest during late summer and autumn when gardens can become a little tired and when blossoms are fewer in number.

There are an abundance of exquisite herbaceous perennials, many being daisy shaped, to provide a zing of colour late in the year. It’s worthwhile providing prominent spaces in your garden where they can be appreciated. Many are also useful for pollinating insects which is important at this time of year.

Helenium (Hélénie), with their showy daisy flowers in brilliant yellows and oranges with brown central cones, light up the late season. They are an easy-to-grow mainstay, tolerant of difficult conditions and loved by bees and butterflies. Excellent for cutting, their seed heads are attractive well into autumn too. Helenium ‘Moerheim Beauty’ bears a succession of exquisite dark copper-red flowers and Helenium ‘Wesergold’ has masses of bright golden flowers. Both are ideal towards the back of a sunny border, as are Helenium ‘Riverton Gem’ with its deep orange petals and the intensely yellow Helenium ‘Riverton Beauty’.

Rudbeckia (Rudbeckia) produce daisy-like yellow and golden flowers with black or purple centres and are very effective when mass planted. Easy to grow, they are drought tolerant, disease resistant, attractive to butterflies and bees and make good cut flowers. Rudbeckia hirta ‘Marmalade’ has very weather-tolerant, shimmering golden flowers. It attains 45cm in height. Rudbeckia hirta ‘Cappucino’ is hot and rich with its vibrant 10cm wide gold and mahogany flowers reaching 45cm high. Rudbeckia ‘Spotlight’, bred in France by Suttons, is a low variety reaching 25cm. It has golden-yellow flowers with dark centres and each petal has a chocolate spot.

Echinacea purpurea (Echinacée pourpre), or coneflowers, feature long-lasting, large daisy-shaped flowers from mid-summer to early autumn. They attract bees and butterflies and are excellent for cutting. They look well growing with Rudbeckia, Achillea and ornamental grasses. Echinacea purpurea ‘Fatal Attraction’ is a sturdy cultivar with 70cm high, almost black stems and intense pink-purple flowers around an orange disc. Echinacea purpurea ‘White Swan’, a compact upright plant up to 75cm, produces distinctive white flowers with yellow centres. Echinacea purpurea ‘Ruby Giant’ is tall, 90cm high, with branched stems with fabulous deep-pink flower-heads.

Aster (Aster) are also known as Michaelmas daisies (Marguerite de la Saint-Michel) due to their flowering time coinciding with the Feast of St Michael (St Michel in France) on 29 September. They are therefore associated with the start of autumn. Their flowers are daisy-like, starry-shaped in lavender, purple, pink, red or white. Aster novi-belgii ‘Winston Churchill’ produces spectacular large bouquets of rich ruby-red double blooms with yellow centres and grows up to 100cm. Aster lateriflorus ’Horizontalis’ is a lovely low, spreading plant up to 60cm high with masses of small white, rose-tinted flowers contrasting perfectly with a central brown disc. Aster x dumosis ‘Prof Anton Kippenberg’ has profuse lavender-blue flowers with yellow centres formed on attractive globe shaped 45cm high mounds. It is excellent for cutting.

Dahlia (Dahlia) are easy to grow. In colder areas on well-drained soils they will need winter protection of a 10-15cm layer of compost. In heavy soils or where there is heavy frost lift and store them then replant in spring. They are superb for cutting, will bloom until frost and are attractive to bees and butterflies. Dahlia ‘Lavender Perfection’ has striking, lavender-rose flowers 20cm wide and is very bold plant attaining 100cm. Dahlia ‘Préférence’ is popular due to its spectacular salmon coloured double blooms with long, tapering petals. It grows up to 150cm. Dahlia ‘Kennemerland’ produces showy yellow flowers on plants 100cm high and Dahlia ‘Snowflake’ sports 150cm wide pure-white blooms on 150cm high plants. It is exquisite as a long lasting cut flower. It is also possible to purchase mixed dahlias. For instance Jardiland produce a ‘Dahlia Pompon en Mélange’ which has a wide variety of rich colours.

Penstemon (Penstemon) are a ‘must-have’ plant. Easy, reliable and drought tolerant, they are valuable late-summer perennials attaining around 80cm. They produce masses of short stems bearing tubular purple, pink and blue flowers. Penstemon ‘Violet’ has spectacular spikes of deep purple-violet flowers and Penstemon ‘Rose Blanc’ is covered in rose and white blooms. Penstemon ‘Sensation’ is a mixture of crimson, red, rose, purple and cream shades in self and bicolours. This mix is available in France as well as the UK. So popular is it that I have even seen it for sale in Australia.

Phlox paniculata (Phlox paniculé) is a classic late summer perennial in a wide range of colours and some have variegated leaves. With their fragrant flowers, the scent becomes more noticeable at night. They are reliable, trouble free, upright plants attaining 80cm and are attractive to pollinating insects, including hummingbird moths and butterflies. Phlox ‘Judy’ produces a mass of pink flowers and the colour of Phlox ‘Orange Reflection’ and Phlox ‘Blanc’ need no explanation.
Achillea filipendulina (Achillée filipendulina) or fern-leafed yarrow is an easy drought-resistant perennial forming a 120cm tall bushy mound of fragrant ferny foliage with huge clusters of golden-yellow flowers on tall stems which are attractive to butterflies. Whilst it starts flowering in early summer, it continues to bloom through to September, particularly if faded flowers are removed. There are many varieties such as ‘Cloth of Gold’, ‘Inca Gold’ and the old favourite ‘Parker’ which is popular in France as well as the UK.

Crocosmia (Crocosmia) are also known in France and the UK as Montbretia. These familiar plants with lush green sword-like foliage produce arching spikes of freesia-like red, orange or yellow blooms from July to September. They will spread to form good-sized 60cm high clumps and provide intense late summer colour. A neighbour gave us two small bundles of these a couple of years ago and they have established into lovely clusters. The best known, Crocosmia ‘Lucifer’, has bright green leaves topped with vermillion-flame flowers that blaze across the garden. Also popular is Crocosmia ‘Masoniorum’ with bright orange-red blooms that hover just above the leaves. They make excellent cut flowers. Crocosmia ‘Star of the East’ has large light orange flowers with beautiful pale centres which continue through until October.

Anemone x hybrida (Anémone), or Japanese anemones, are ideal for no-fuss gardeners wanting a touch of class in the border. They are highly coveted for their large, long-lasting poppy-like flowers in white, yellow, pink, blue or violet, held on sturdy stems that need no support. Fast growing, they mostly reach around 120cm high and are perfect for lighting up a dark corner of the garden or the back of the border. The white-flowered Anemone x hybrida ‘Honorine Jobert’ occurred in France over 150 years ago and is a stunning plant for late summer. It has masses of pure white flowers from August to October and vine-like, dark green, semi-evergreen leaves. Anemone x hybrida ‘Serenade’ has glorious semi-double, deep pink blooms contrasting with a central cluster of bright yellow stamens. Anemone x hybrida ‘Pamina’ is lower growing, reaching about 75cm, and ideal for smaller gardens. It produces semi-double, carmine pink flowers on deep red stems above mid-green leaves.

Sedum (Sédum d’automne / Orpin d’automne), or ice plants, with their thick, succulent leaves, fleshy stems and clusters of star-shaped flowers they are easy to grow and reliable in hot, dry positions. They combine well with Salvias and ornamental grasses; they are good as cut flowers and excellent for bees. Leave their flowers after they have died as they look attractive in winter. Sedum spectabile reaches 45cm high with grey-green leaves and has outstanding large clusters of starry pink flowers. Sedum telephium ‘Autumn Joy’ is a garden favourite, bursting into bloom in late summer with its large rose-coral flower heads 45cm high.

Salvia (Sauge) or sage is an easy, fast growing plant that blooms abundantly and is attractive to pollinating insects. Salvia uliginosa is a moisture loving perennial with beautiful clear blue flowers in late summer to mid-autumn.
It forms 150cm high shade tolerant clumps and is suited to the back of the border. Salvia farinacea ‘Victoria’ is a vigorous 60cm high border plant producing dense spikes of attractive violet-blue flowers until September. It is excellent in drifts or as a specimen plant in large beds. Salvia nemerosa is a lovely drought tolerant perennial that grows up to 90cm high with flowers in shades of violet, purple, white and pink from summer to autumn.


© Living Magazine. Published August 2015