03 Dec 2021

Gardening column: September blooms to brighten up your outside space

With Jo McGarry of Caragh Nurseries

Gardening column: September blooms to brighten up your outside space

September is always a pivotal month of the year, especially in the garden. When the children go back to school you can guarantee we will have some fantastic weeks of weather, but the evenings are cooler and a real autumnal feel creeps in as the evenings get darker.

It’s time now to plan ahead, so I will be dreaming up some spring-flowering bulb combinations, before placing my order and planting them out before the end of October. My bulb list is long and varied, but it will have to be cut back considerably, or, as in previous years, I will find bags of unplanted bulbs left in February and I don’t want that.

Meanwhile, for September colour that will see you through to the winter, here are some of our favourites.

Rudbekia Goldstrum

Rudbeckia fulgida var. sullivantii ‘Goldsturm’ bears wide, black-eyed, single, yellow daisy flowers with cone-shaped, black-brown centres from August to October. It’s ideal for creating a splash of late-summer colour in ornamental borders and works well in prairie-style schemes with ornamental grasses. It’s short enough not to need staking, and doesn’t spread so fast that frequent division is necessary, making it a very easy-care plant.

Use it between other plants in a flower border, as it tolerates light shade, to extend the flowering season late into the year. The Royal Horticultural Society has given it its prestigious Award of Garden Merit.

Echinancea Purpurea

Echinaceas have grown in popularity in recent years, thanks to the trend for prairie-style planting. They’re easy to grow as they tolerate most soils, and their sturdy nature means that staking is unnecessary.

Echinacea purpurea has pink, daisy-like flowers with a large, cone-shaped centre. It’s perfect for growing in drifts among the border or among grasses and rudbeckias in a prairie-style planting scheme, and is extremely attractive to pollinators. Its flowers are long-lived and are excellent for cutting.

Panicum virgatum 'Prairie Sky'

Commonly known as switchgrass, is a perennial, deciduous grass native to the prairies of North America. In gardens, it’s particularly valued for the upright foliage, masses of hazy flowers in early autumn followed by gorgeous autumn colour.

Panicum virgatum ‘Prairie Sky’ has glaucous, blue-green foliage topped with blue-green flowers in early autumn. It looks fabulous planted in bold clumps that can sway in the breeze. Later in autumn, the foliage turns a lovely golden-yellow colour.

Crocosmia Lucifer

Crocosmia ‘Lucifer’ adds a tropical flair to any gardens. It flowers from mid-summer and continues into the autumn, with brilliant flame red flowers standing in rows on wiry, gracefully arched stems that are perfect for cutting.

Crocosmia’s broad, sword-like leaves are attractive even when the plants are not in bloom and, from a design standpoint, are effective for adding a spiky textured element to the garden.

Nandina Firepower

Firepower is a compact, slow-growing shrub.

It offers a festival of colours with its pinnate foliage, broad embossed leaflets, from pink in spring to light green in summer, which then turn bright red in autumn and winter.

It produces conical clusters of small, star-shaped white flowers in mid-summer among bamboo-like leaves.

In autumn, the leaves turn shades of fiery red and copper and the flowers are followed by shiny, round, scarlet fruits.

With several seasons of interest, this dwarf form of heavenly bamboo is a hardworking plant for a sunny spot, especially where border space is limited.

Pennisteum Red Pony Tails

This is a lovely grass with mounds of bright green foliage, which is topped with large bottlebrush-like flowers which open distinctly red fading through purple shades to beige.

It needs a sunny, well-drained spot.

It grows up to between 80cm and one metre tall, and is deciduous so cut it back to ground level in February for strong new growth.

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