WITH the midsummer peak now passed, light levels are changing and there’s the sense that autumn is approaching. But that doesn’t mean the gardening year is over and that borders should drift into decline; far from it, as there are plenty of plants that are just getting into their stride. Many of them come in rich, jewel-like and berry colours: ruby reds, amethyst, tones of bruised plum, inky purples and clarets.
These sultry hues fit perfectly with the languid feel of late summer; many also come courtesy of good value plants that will set the garden up for its transition into autumn. And as the shorter days and cooler temperatures deepen, the softer light and morning dew make both flowers and foliage in these colours really sparkle.
Pick a perennial
Tender perennials such as salvias, penstemons and dahlias really come into their own at this time of year – the fewer daylight hours but still-warm temperatures replicating the climate of their native habitats, in places like Mexico. And thanks to the diversity of these plant groups, there are plenty of varieties in bold and brilliant colours.
Annuals such as sweet peas, opium poppies and nasturtiums are also available in these shades – ideal for filling gaps in a border. Meanwhile, climbers including clematis and Ipomoea ‘Star of Yelta’ can be grown to cover bare boundaries and plant supports, and shrub Hydrangea ‘Wim’s Red’ has flowers that change from creamy-white to deep burgundy as summer turns to autumn. Incorporate dark foliage like that of Japanese acres to provide the perfect backdrop to bruised tones of red and plum.
Mix and match
A border planted solely with these smouldering colours can look a bit muted, so add a few pops of brighter colours here and there to lighten the mood – for instance, zingy vermillion orange, a flash of sky blue, or pockets of punchy magenta. Fancy something more subtle? Pastel tones of pink, lavender-blue, cream and ivory will also work to lift the darker colours.
Set aside time this week to refresh a border with these striking colours, or try them in a large container for a vibrant display. You’ll be so glad you did.
6 dusky reds
Clematis ‘Royal Velours’
This deciduous climber produces a profusion of dramatic, claret-coloured flowers from July to September. Covers walls or fences beautifully. Alternatively, allow it to scramble through a tall shrub or tree. HxS: 10x5ft (3x1½m).
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August 08, 2020