A lot of gardens start to look at bit tired in August and it can be difficult to think of what to plant to perk things up a bit. If you have a sunny garden then you're in luck as there are plenty of sun loving perennials to chose from. If your garden is on the shady side then you are going to be limited as not much flowers once the tree canopy has grown over, but there are still some options for partial shade.
A lot of late summer perennials are great for wildlife. Rich in nectar, they first provide food for bees and then, if left, their seed heads are a great source of food for birds such as goldfinches. They also add interest to the winter garden. To prolong the late summer display it's worth doing the "Chelsea chop". Cut back all stems by a third around the time of the Chelsea flower show at the end of May. This not only reduces the eventual height of plants which might otherwise flop, but it will delay flowering, thus extending the season. (If you have several of the same plant try cutting back some and leaving others). I always do the chop to Sedums, Heleniums and Nepeta if it's grown close to a path.
So here's my selection of plants late summer colour:
First up the sun lovers....
The perfect pinks... Echinacea purpurea and Sedum 'Matrona'
Hot and sunny... Helenium 'Moorheim Beauty' and Rudbekia 'Goldsturm'
For partial shade:
A delicate hardy Cyclamen and the ever useful Anemone x hybrida 'Honorine Jobert'
And finally a couple of late flowering shrubs:
Sun loving Hibisucs syriacus 'Woodbridge' and for sun or partial shade the classy Hydrangea paniculata 'Limelight'
For gardens to visit at this time of year Sussex Prairie Gardens just outside Henfield in East Sussex is well worth a trip http://www.sussexprairies.co.uk/. The garden is a great example of prairie planting, an informal style very much in vogue at the moment, pioneered by designers such as Piet Oudulf. It combines late summer perennials with tall grasses creating swathes of gentle movement. To recreate the effect in a domestic setting you will need space for the large blocks of plants and as everything is cut to the ground at the end of february or early march it's good to have other areas in the garden spring and early summer interest. It's best to use a restricted palette when chosing plants for this type of scheme, oh and make sure you have lovely free draining soil, these plants won't like to sit in water all winter. Of course if you garden in more moderate surroundings, like myself, you could always introduce some grasses to a mixed border to add a bit of movement and soften the overall effect in the late summer sun.
Sussex Prairie Garden, Henfield, E. Sussex