Pots of autumn chrysanthemums and winter-flowering cyclamen are appearing on garden centre shelves, but why rush into the next season when this one still has so much to offer?
Get rid of the dead weight, the duds and the shameful weeds that are cluttering up your garden — bindweed flowers might be pretty, but they belong on waste ground, not garden ground — and make space for late summer stars that will carry your plot through to autumn in grand style.
You could start by emptying has-been hanging baskets, then give them fresh, vibrant life by planting with a compact, multi-headed chilli pepper such as Prairie Fire, which has pretty, pointed foliage and masses of small, upright scarlet fruits that follow on from the small white flowers.
Pick one at your peril: they’re tongue-tinglingly hot. Masquerade is similar, but has novel violet fruits. Aubergine plants are in fine form now, and can be found, like pepper plants, at garden centres, florists and even market stalls. With their smoky-green foliage and lavender flowers, followed by glossy purple fruits, they look even more handsome in slate-grey pots than conventional terracotta.
Perk up a jaded container display by checking out plants within the houseplant or conservatory section of the garden centre, or the florist’s, with an eye to seeing them on your patio instead of in the living room.
Sansevieria, or mother-in-law’s tongue, suddenly looks fresh and contemporary in an outside space, especially when the long, sculptural, green-and-yellow-striped leaves emerge from a crisp, square fibreglass container.
Kalanchoe thyrisflora, a large and luscious succulent with a rosette of outsize flat, rounded leaves, positively benefits from a place in the sun, where those paddle-like leaves take on striking tones of tomato red. In winter, just bring it indoors where it will keep quietly ticking over.
Create a buffet for butterflies — and boost your borders or containers — with sedums, indispensable hardy succulents that flower from now until autumn.
Sedum Thundercloud belies its name. Hundreds of mint-green buds crowding the grey-green stems open to starry, pink-flushed white flowers that keep on blooming until October. Just 30cm high and half as wide again, it makes the prettiest front-of-border or centre-stage container plant. Just cut back the old growth in spring to keep it compact. Sedum Jose Aubergine, with glaucous foliage as dark as its name suggests, and with deepest pink flowers, makes a dynamic contrast.
Japanese anemones, with their finely cut leaves and cupped daisy flowers on tall stems, are an elegant choice for a late summer border, but often need staking and can be invasive. For small gardens and even for containers, the dwarf Pretty Lady quartet, just reaching 60cm or so, are shorter, better-behaved and need no support to shine. They’re also rather beautiful, especially deep pink Pretty Lady Susan.
This is also the moment to find the next flourish of baby veg plants at the garden centre, ranging from frilly lettuces, red-flushed Little Gems and curly kales to rainbow chard, rocket, perpetual spinach and Chinese cabbage. If you don’t have bed space, choose a dozen or so plants from an edible that is decorative both in the pot and on the plate, such as bronze, lacy-leaved Mustard Red Frills, and settle them into a zinc trough filled with compost, or a wine crate lined with a plastic bin liner, holes punctuated for drainage. Placed in light shade, they will be ready to harvest in a matter of weeks — if you can bear to spoil the display.