Late summer is one of the most exciting times for a gardener, when the borders are at their most vibrant and we start preparing for the next seasons plantings. In the flower garden our tender perennials have performed especially well, benefiting from the recent summer heat. The Dahlias have been particularly pleasing, working as spots of colour through the plantings. ‘David Howard’ has long been established as one of our favourites, with its flamboyant orange flowers always giving a reliable show. Grenadier has also been very effective as a scarlet dot, combined with the red hips of the sweet briar rose. These decorative ‘Water Lily’ Dahlias are gorgeous and showy, but there is something special about the simple single flowers. Of these we have three that are particularly special to us – D. merkii, a species Dahlia from Mexico with pretty lilac pink nodding flowers; D. Dove Grove a deep red with a tint of purple; D. ‘Magenta Star’ which is probably the most beautiful single Dahlia there is, but difficult to overwinter.
As well as the Dahlia, our tender Salvias have been excellent this year. S. confertiflora gives us exciting red spikes, and the pretty magenta flowers of S. curviflora are beautiful. One of my favourites however, are the dark blue spikes of S. ‘Indigo spires’. These have worked well repeated through the restaurant vista and make excellent contrast with the whites and oranges around. Although these plants are not hardy it’s well worth the effort to nurture them through the winter. They are really quite easy to propagate and have been flowering their hearts out since June and will continue deep into November. We tend to take cuttings at this time of year, which root very quickly in the green house. These are soon potted on and as long as the green house is kept frost free they over winter very well. Soon our glass houses will be full of plants ready for next year, and as soon as autumn truly sets in we can start preparing our borders for next year’s spring display.