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Late Flowering Plants and Grasses For Your Garden

Published on September 27th 2020
A close up of a flower
Most people may think that the UK garden season peaks in June, but things have been changing recently, as new later flowering plants become more available.
As someone who enjoys delayed gratification, this suits me fine. I enjoy having something new to look forward to in the garden every day until the cold and dark drive me indoors to sit by the fire.
If the late-flowering trend has passed you by, it may be that you have depended on local garden centres for your plants, and you may have missed visiting gardens late in the year.
Garden centres depend on plants looking good in pots, which works well in spring but is not so good for plants which have grown tall after a whole season.
To get what you need for your outdoor space or garden, order your plants online, on Candide.

Which plants should you choose?

One joy of late flowering plants is that they flower for longer than earlier flowering plants.
Crocosmias such as 'Emily Mckenzie', 'Babylon', or the wonderfully named 'Hellfire', in oranges and red, clash wonderfully with the magenta of hardy geraniums like 'Anne Thomson'. And they flower for ages.
Crocosmia and Geranium Ann Thompson

Shop Crocosmia

Three plants which have excited me recently flower so late that I look for the flowers every day in late August and September, and it always seems so late before they appear.
One, Althea cannabina, is amazingly tall and is usually recommended for the back of a border.
Althea cannabina
I actually have it against a railing beside a path, and I love it towering, looking quite ethereal, above and around my head.
Its pink flowers look surprisingly good with another of my favourites, Solidago' Fireworks' – a cascade of delicate yellow, and with Patrinia scabiosifolia. This is another tall and beautiful flower which flowers in September for me, whatever the nurseries may try to tell you.
Add Galega officinalis 'Alba' for a touch of white.
Althea cannabina, Solidago Fireworks
To most people's horror, I am a great fan of Koenigia campanulata, which flowers in white or pink for months and can spread all over the place in damp soil.
Commonly known as Lesser Knotweed, it makes a great edging to liven up a hedge, and bluetits love it. You can rip out easily when necessary, but timid gardeners should avoid it. Try tiny Cyclamen hederifolium instead, which doesn't spread as much.
Koenigia campanulata
There are many wonderful less rampageous Persicarias. Dark red 'Blackfield' is one of the best, adding a sharp contrast to roses like the hybrid musk 'Felicia', which re-flower in September, or with Japanese anemones.
I've heard of people creating the same effect with Miscanthus, such as 'Ferner Osten' which flowers at about one and a half metres and will flower for one hell of a winter treat.
There are other ornamental grasses which will light up late for you. Molinia caerulea ssp. arundinacea 'Transparent' starts with airy, grassy flowers, but then the leaves turn buttery gold and look superb in the sunshine. (Some Miscanthus have this trick too.)
Molinia caerulea transparent
I have mixed them in the past with paradise lilys, as these flower early and they live very happily together.
I have one treasure of a late flowering plant - Geranium procurrens, which may be tough to get hold of.
As a scrambling plant, it slings itself over plants which have gone over, giving them a wonderful sparkle. It grows from a very small root which is only visible in spring. Should you want to dispose of it, that's when you can dig it out and perhaps give it to a friend, but I can never have enough.
Geranium procurrens with Japanese anemone (Anemone Japonica)
Cutting back is also a trick that can give you late flowers. I usually cut down the front clumps of Campanula lactiflora in my garden, so that the back plants flower in June and the front in September.
Cutting back is worth trying with plants which may otherwise flop over your paths.
Campanula lactiflora
If you can find the plants that I've mentioned here, autumn is not a bad time to get planting. Unless your garden is very wet, in which case spring might be better.
These are also all plants which take time to establish. It could be three years with many perennials, depending on the size of plant you start off with.
Now is the perfect time to go out and notice which parts of your garden are boring you and you don't enjoy too much. Take out the dull plants, chuck them on the compost heap – and get started on an exciting late-flowering garden.
Anne Wareham is the garden maker of Veddw House Garden in Wales, recently voted one of 100 best gardens in the UK.
She is a garden writer of books and articles, the editor of thinkinGardens and a self-described 'thorn in the flesh of the garden world'.

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