Tall perennials without stakes

As the freshness of early summer has matured, there can be a feeling of heaviness in the late summer garden. Leaves are now deep green, if not blotched with blights and viruses. The daintiness of dancing cow parley along country verges has been obliterated by mowing. Early flowering shrubs such as magnolias and forsythias stand around like bores at a party, offering little in the way of entertainment.  The shade under purple leaved cherries and sycamore is so deep it does not invite anyone to sit underneath.

Late flowering tall perennials are a great antidote to this heaviness. Many are see-through, their long lasting flowers waving in the breeze, and silhouetted against a dark back ground of gloomy shrubs or back lit in the morning or evening, they lift the spirits no end.

The best kinds are ones that are capable of standing up for themselves.  I cannot be bothered to stake plants unless they are runner beans. It is a job too far for the gardener who is short of time. I no longer grow Crocosmia Lucifer. In a one sided border, it will lean towards the light, hinge over at the base and lie flat on the lawn by September. Its pleated leaves are delightful in May, however, the medium size crocosmias such as Emberglow hold themselves up nicely and are better suited to smaller gardens.

All this class of plant tend to be overlooked in the spring buying frenzy at the garden centre. Most grasses will be shaved to stubs at Easter. You may look in vain in April for Veronicastrum Pink Glow, any tall verbenas such as hastata or bonariensis, inulas, aconitum, kniphofia, agapanthus, or echinaceas. They will be scarcely showing themselves at Easter so they are unlikely to be on display. In your own garden you may interplant them with spring bulbs for an early show.

Later in the season, they are inclined to topple over on the display benches when in full flower, and some are a little brittle when young and lose stems when woman-handled through the check out and into the car. No wonder that you will see more dumpy dwarf bedding plants than graceful giants for sale.

They will be happiest grown in colonies, holding each other up and looking less self-conscious than on the own, shy as six foot debutantes at a ball. I am planning a sunny border for a client who was reluctant to consider late tall perennials, as she thought I would recommend the bold intense reds and yellows she dislikes. Muscular beasts of red hot pokers like Kniphofia uvaria, bright yellow rudbeckia laciniata, and Helianthus Lemon Queen will suit a very large border if you like the hot colours, but they do not suit every client or garden.

I put together some pots of Veronicastrum Pink Glow, with Echinacea Magnus, Pennisetum macrourum, Verbena rigida and Agastache Blue Fortune to show her other possibilities.  I hope you like them as much as she does.