I love a repeat flowering plant, something that lasts for months and is still flowering in September. Small spaces in particular need a plant that is going to earn its keep, roses, geraniums and lavender are all good examples. Roses not only start flowering in early summer and on until the first frosts but are often scented too. As well as using roses to fill borders or in pots they are ideal for providing height, whether using climbing roses or ramblers to scramble up a fence or over a pergola. English shrub roses can equally be trained up a fence or used to give some height in a small space and they have the added advantage of having lower flowering branches. Personally I’ve tried this in my own garden with the white fading to blush of Rosa ‘Desdemona’ trained along a fence, mixed in with a rambler, Lady of the Lake. Every time I look out of the kitchen window, from early summer until October or November I see them swaying in the breeze.
Roses are available in colours to blend in with any existing border scheme, from some of the more locally apt varieties, the pink of Rosa ‘Harlow Carr’ or the pale peach-pink of Emily Bronte. Or perhaps the apricot of The Lark Ascending or the pale yellow of Charles Darwin. Rosa ‘Kew Gardens’ is a white variety that also works really well as an alternative to the traditional hedging plants. Unless the winter is really cold it holds onto its leaves and it’s not too prickly so won’t attack you when giving it a quick prune.
Geraniums work really well as an underplanting to roses, to hide all the bare soil. Many geraniums flower for months. The blue with white centres of Geranium ‘Rozanne’ was not only the Chelsea Flower Show plant of the year but of the show’s centenary. It is stunning mixed in with delicate oranges such as Achillea ‘Terracotta’ or Geum ‘Totally Tangerine’. Geranium nodosum, a lilac variety, flowers from May until September but will often go on into the autumn until the first frosts. It is also equally happy in sun or partial shade. Geranium clarkei ‘ Kashmir White’ with its delicate lilac veins is another variety that flowers until October.
Mixed in with Verbena bonariensis ‘Lollipop’, a shorter variety ideal for the front of the border. Or perhaps a sage, either the purple leaved Salvia officinalus ‘Purpurascens’ or one of the ornamental varieties the pink Salvia x sylvestris ‘Rose Queen’. Salvia verticillata ’Purple Rain’ has unusual lilac whorls that run down the stems. Perhaps add the fluffy seed heads of a few grasses, Pennisetum alopecuroides ‘Hameln’ or the deep red leaves of Pennisetum advena ‘Rubrum’ (they can be a little tender in cold winter weather). Perhaps a hint of the acid green Alchemilla mollis and you’ll have a long flowering summer border ready to carry on into the autumn.
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