How glorious a summer so far! Forever immortalised and linked with Van Gogh, the mighty sunflower, Helianthus annuus, epitomises happiness, sunshine and a perfect symbol for celebrating a long, hot summer… of skipping and twirling, of giggles and knowing smiles on the green, of that easy abandonment that steals our hearts and goes hand in hand with outdoor living. What summer flower or plant captivates your heart and imagination and has you swooning?
You are often surprised by its exquisite scent carried on a gentle breeze before you spot this summer beauty – Trachelospermum jasminoides (star jasmine to 9m). A highly fragrant evergreen climber with pure white star-like flowers for a sunny but sheltered spot – a spectacular choice not just for perfumers, flowering June to August.
Known for its aromatic foliage is Artemisia ‘Powis Castle’ (wormwood) – feathery silver-green foliage (spread 90cm) – a delight in its own right but a wonderful contrast for hotter colours or blues and purples. A worthy substitute with similar qualities is A. ludoviciana ‘Valerie Finnis’. Contrast either with the rich burgundies of Heuchera villosa ‘Palace Purple’ or H. ‘Obsidian’.
For more moisture-retentive soils, try Ageratina altissima ‘Chocolate’ (white snakeroot, up to 1m) with fluffy white flowers and chocolate-bronze leaves from now to September. Fantastic interplanted with ornamental grasses and other late-flowering perennials such as Heleniums and Asters, and a great magnet for bees and butterflies.
Should you have a gap or two in your borders use annuals such as Cosmos bipinnatus ‘Purity’ (white) or C. bipinnatus ‘Dazzler’ (carmine-pink). If deadheaded regularly it will flower from June through to first frost – one of those reliable low input, high output plants!
Jobs this month: leave water out for birds/ hedgehogs, deadhead flowers, watch out for powdery mildew, trim hedges, prune vines/ climbers as sap slows, harvest courgettes, French and runner beans, plan your autumn/ winter vegetables, plant autumn flowering bulbs, take softwood cuttings, cut back faded flowers on lavender.
Whatever symbolises the essence of summer for you, whether it be a plant or a late summer’s evening spent outdoors with friends, may the telling of tales and shared laughter propel your spirit and send you into orbit!