Gardens can often lack colour in late spring/early summer when there’s lots of foliage but not enough flowers. Here’s my pick of plants to fill the gap.
1. Aquilegia vulgaris var. stellata ‘Black Barlow’
With delicate flowers on long stems, this dark plum variety is equally at home in cottage garden schemes or more contemporary settings with grasses and euphorbias. Aquilegias are short lived but self-seed easily creating a naturalistic feel and are happiest in moist soil in sun or dappled shade.
2. Iris ‘Jane Phillips’
Whether rich velvety purples or this delicate pale blue variety, bearded iris are a spectacular sight in May – and their grey/ blue strappy leaves add texture too. Plant them with the upper part of the rhizome on the soil surface in the sun so they can bake. Another option is the more delicate clump forming Iris sibiricas such as mid blue ‘Silver Edge’, which has narrower leaves and likes more moisture.
3. Papaver orientale ‘Patty’s Plum’
The paper-thin petals of this gorgeous pinky purple perennial poppy are fleeting, but are so beautiful it’s worth it. Plant in sun or part shade, with grasses or late flowerers such as penstemon to keep the interest going.
4. Paeonia ‘Early Windflower’
Like poppies, peonies make a short lived but lavish show. This early flowering variety has delicate single white blooms with a golden eye. Slightly later comes the more blowsy white P. lactiflora ‘Duchesse de Nemours’. Plant in sun or part shade depending on the variety, stake to avoid flopping and avoid planting too deeply.
5. Libertia chilensis
More useful than showy, this has stylish evergreen sword like leaves and pure white flowers on long stems from May. Likes full sun or part shade.
6. Erysimum ‘Bowles’s Mauve’
The mauve flower spires on this perennial wallflower actually start in February and last into October, which along with its grey green evergreen leaves make it hugely useful for smaller spaces. It’s happy in sun or part shade and contrasts well with zingy Euphorbia characias wulfenii.
7. Allium hollandicum ‘Purple Sensation’
Alliums are the perfect late spring/early summer bulb and this popular variety has deep purple flowers on 90cm stems. It looks wonderful in drifts popping up through ornamental grasses, euphorbias, box balls or lavenders to hide the tatty foliage. Plant in autumn in full sun.
8. Anthemis tinctoria ‘Sauce Hollondaise’
This soft creamy yellow daisy is so pretty and perfectly complements blues and purples, cheering up the border in May to July. Likes full sun and well drained soil.
9. Erigeron karvinskianus
A more low growing daisy with masses of tiny white flowers turning pink from May until October. It thrives in well-drained soil, in sun or part shade where it’ll form lovely mounds at the front of a border or along paths – also good in pots.
10. Viburnum x burkwoodii
This is a gorgeous shrub with heavenly clusters of pink buds opening to beautifully scented white flowers in April and May. Plant in full sun or part shade near a path or in the front garden to fully appreciate the perfume.
This article first appeared in the May 2018 issue of SE22 magazine