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want a burst of colour in autumn

Gardens: want a burst of colour in autumn? Try these plants

[size=5.25]There’s a distinct chill to the air and a softer, golden quality to the morning light, which can mean only one thing: autumn is on its way. But it is possible to hold shorter days at bay with these late-season flowering plants. They are all recommended by the RHS on its list of plants for pollinators, and bring colour to pots and borders over the coming months, as well as providing a welcome source of pollen and nectar for insects as summer flowers fade.

Hardy plumbago

The pretty, blue, vinca-like flowers of Ceratostigma plumbaginoides appear from late summer. The leaves turn spectacular shades of red, making for a striking contrast alongside the blue flowers. A low-growing herbaceous perennial often used as ground cover where it forms dense mounds, it spreads by rhizomes and can become invasive. Happy in a container or tumbling over low stone walls likeErigeron karvinskianus(Mexican fleabane). Underplant with small, spring-flowering bulbs.
Grow it In a sunny border.
Buy it Crocus.

Salvia ‘Blue Enigma’

A statuesque plant that grows up to 1.5m, with tall spikes of attractive, gentian-blue flowers. It’ll produce blooms nonstop from midsummer until the first frosts, provided it has a sunny spot with free-draining soil. Although said to be hardy down to -10C, it won’t be happy in cold, wet soils. Take cuttings in late summer, or lift and store in a greenhouse or cold frame over winter.
Grow it In large containers by an entrance for autumn drama.
Buy it Beth Chatto.

Clematis ‘Cassandra’

A non-climbing clematis that grows like a bushy shrub and forms neat mounds of foliage from a woody clump of stems. Produces clusters of lavender-blue, scented, tubular blooms similar to hyacinth flowers. In late winter/early spring, cut back to near the base. Needs a sunny spot and free-draining soil. Height: 75cm.
Grow it Among herbaceous perennials that will provide ideal shady, cool conditions for its roots.
Buy it Thorncroft Clematis.

Anemone ‘Honorine Jobert’

This late-flowering herbaceous perennial is the epitome of elegance. The pure white flowers with egg yolk-like, yellow centres add a cool note when hotter colours abound. Blooms are held on slender stems above an attractive mound of dark green foliage. It can cope with partial shade, so is ideal for lighting up the back of a border. Grows to 1-1.5m.
Grow it Against the dark green backdrop of a hedge, where those flowers will really shine.
Buy it See offer below.

Aster ‘Little Carlow’

You’ll possibly be more familiar with this plant as an aster, although it has been reclassified by botanists as symphyotrichum. Also known as a Michaelmas daisy, it’s an essential autumn plant with masses of pale blue, daisy-like flowers with a yellow centre held on thin stems, creating a haze of colour. Doesn’t succumb to powdery mildew, and is happy in partial shade. Height: 90cm.
Grow it Alongside other late-flowering perennials such as Rudbeckia fulgida‘Goldsturm’ and Agastache ‘Blue Fortune’.
Buy it Claire Austin Hardy Plants.

Crocus ‘Conqueror’

Crocuses aren’t just for spring: there are several that bloom now, among them C. speciosus ‘Conqueror’, with its violet-blue, goblet-shaped blooms with delicately veined petals and striking orange centre. The flowers appear from late September, and slowly increase to form colonies. Foliage follows the flowers, so if grown in grass, don’t mow until that’s died down. Needs well-drained soil.
Grow it Naturalise in short grass alongside the autumn-flowering Cyclamen hederifolium.
Buy it Peter Nyssen.

Dahlia ‘Honka’

Avoid dahlia varieties with tightly packed petals; instead, choose those with simple, open flowers that allow easy access to pollen. ‘Honka’, with its pale yellow, star-like flowers, is a magnet for bees, and blooms will keep on coming until the first frosts blacken the plant. Try planting with Verbena bonariensis or the lower-growing V. ‘Lollipop’, both of which will flower well into autumn, to create a nectar bar for passing bees and butterflies.
Grow it Mulch plants over winter or lift and store in a frost-free spot.
Buy it The Lost World Nursery.

Bugbane ‘Hillside Black Beauty’

White, bottlebrush flowers tinged pink are held on slender stems above a clump of attractive, dark purple foliage. The flowers of this variety of Actaea simplexhave the added bonus of being sweetly scented. A herbaceous perennial that needs moist soil, it will happily grow in partial shade or full sun, as long as the roots don’t dry out. Untroubled by pests, hence the common name bugbane. Height: 1.2m.
Grow it At the back of a border or a shady woodland spot.
Buy it Dorset Perennials.

Plant offer

Buy a one-litre potted Anemone ‘Honorine Jobert’ for £12.99, or two for £17.98 (prices include free UK mainland p&p). To order, call 0330 333 6856, quoting ref GU400, or go to our Readers’ offers page. Orders dispatched in October.


Bees and butterflies will thank you for planting autumn flowerers. Photograph: Gap Photos

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