Gap-fillers for late borders

Now, is a precious time in the garden when you can reflect and write notes on all your trials and tribulations and enjoy remembering all of the seasonal surprises that just happened without any clever forward planning. It’s always a good idea to take photographs of your best plant associations, so that you can repeat them. Make a note too, of any problem plants and pests and make a plan to get on top of them. Take time not to fill holes that have appeared in your fading garden with plants that will give instant impact. The following plants won’t let you down… 

Ornamental grasses are great season stretchers and many, such as Miscanthus, produce decorative seed heads that last well into autumn. Try the tall, willowy Miscanthus sinensis, which creates fountain-like columns of foliage that spurt out 2.4m stems of silvery-purple feather flowers from mid summer to early winter. They are especially good for using as backdrops for flowers or as dramatic accent plants and can also be used to create screens to divide the garden into rooms.

The sword-shaped leaves of Japanese Blood Grass, change colour as the season progresses, starting off green and turning red during the mid summer months, deepening to a darker crimson by autumn.

Japanese Blood Grass is ideal for growing in containers in shady and sunny borders alongside other grasses. It also works well next to water features and streams and looks stunning if you plant en masse against a dark backdrop. In very cold areas it will need protection during the winter

Substantial clumps of large flattened flower heads produced by Sedum spectabile, now renamed as Hylotelephium sectabile, can be used to make a striking centrepiece in a late flowering border. Perfect partners are agapanthus and ornamental grasses as well as hardy geraniums such as the lovely variety Johnson’s Blue. You can also plant them in large pots and give them a starring role on the patio. Choose unglazed clay pots though, so that excess water can evaporate through the walls, as over watering is the most common cause of root rot.

The butterfly- and bee-friendly blooms can also be cut for the vase and even dried for arranging. As the flowers fade they will add structure to winter borders and look especially stunning when coated with a rind of frost or light snowfall. 

Sedum Autumn Joy or Herbstfreude is a favourite for the late-season garden. Its leaves are blue-green, thick, and succulent whilst its flowers, which are irresistible to butterflies and bees, begin to open in August. They start off rosy pinkand over many weeks deepen to salmon, then to rust, and finally they turn rich brown 

Ornamental cabbages are one of the most dramatic plants for winter foliage. They have broad flat leaves with frilly-edges that develop their wonderful colours on the young leaves, veins and midribs as the temperatures fall below 10C. Decorative varieties of kale react similarly. Ornamental kale have curly or lacy leaves, also in white and pink shades. The leaves on the white varieties tend to quickly turn brown and tatty whereas the red varieties hold up until Christmastime.

These brassicas are edible but the taste is bitter, and when the white, pink, red, and purple leaves are cooked, they turn an unappetising grey!

Seed of the F1 variety of ornamental cabbage, Northern Lights is available from They can be grown in pots and borders and have attractive frilled edges to their brightly coloured leaves

The pink varieties of cabbages are the perfect choice for a blue-glazed pot on a warm, sheltered patio and look brilliant when teamed up with pink pansies for winter. You could also squeeze them into containers filled with autumn-flowering chrysanthemums and asters.

When it comes to impact, hydrangeas are superb plants and especially for a late display, flowering for many weeks from mid summer through to autumn. They are versatile shrubs with family members that can be used to clothe shady walls, be the star of mixed border and also pots – indoors and out as well as hedges around a seaside plot. Many will thrive in sun or dappled shade, but all like a well-nourished soil.

The mopheads are a real showstopper and not only easy to grow but also provide lots of colour. They are tough and tolerate both shade and moist soils. Hydrangeas also make excellent cut flowers and look spectacular in pots on the late-summer patio. Hydrangea flowers can also be dried for winter flower arrangements. For this purpose flowers must be cut late in the season then stood in a tall vase out of direct sunlight. Gradually they will begin to dry out, becoming papery but retaining most of their colour.

For something a bit different check out for the brand new and exclusive Hydrangeasy from www There are three magnificent varieties: Shabby Chic, which is early and compact with tall, pointed panicles, with a vintage look; Chameleon has medium high panicles with creamy yellow blooms that change to dark and green and also white-flowered Santis, which is perfect for growing in pots or as a hedge.

Hydrangea Mata Hari has interesting mophead blooms in blue, green and white colours in one bloom

There are many hardy fuchsia varieties that have been given the Royal Horticultural Society Award of Garden Merit, making them a must-have for the late summer containers. Tom Thumb is popular for pots and borders and Magellinca varieties makes great hedges. Popular varieties are Versicolor, which has red-green foliage and Mrs Popple, which produces scarlet-skirted flowers above vibrant purple petticoats. Find them a spot in dappled shade where the root systems get plenty of moisture.

Fuchsia Versicolor is a robust, arching deciduous shrub with small, cream-edged leaves and single, crimson and purple flowers in summer and autumn 

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