Who do we turn to for garden inspiration? Has to be Monty Don – on a weekly basis, actually. His garden at home is pretty much world famous and has so many different characters. Without doubt, our favourite part of his garden is the Jewel Garden – see his post below for a recent picture of it.
It is absolutely packed with rich colour that we've been trying to emulate (not overly successfully – but we're trying) all summer. Now, of course, autumn is approaching. And while we were resigned to a distinct lack of floral colour in the month ahead, it seems like Monty isn't.
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'A September garden acquires the colours and textures of a fading but still rich tapestry...' says Monty in his latest blog (opens in new tab). '... on a fine day in early September the Jewel garden can be at its best. Sunflowers, dahlias, cannas, tithonias, Zinnias and cosmos all continue to fill the borders with splashes of bright, strong colour.'
Okay, Monty, that's clear! We've picked out our favourites below from Monty's list and are off to the garden centre this weekend to see if there are any left to buy, ready to stick in containers we can see from indoors. And, of course, they're on our list for next year, too. Plenty of maintenance and planting tips for you below, too.
Zinnias are popular with butterflies, so are a great choice if you're growing a wildlife garden. They are annuals, so you'll need to replant every year – and it's easy to do so from seed as they grow really fast if they like where they're planted. They are frost-sensitive so if you buy any in pots now, keep them in a warm spot in full sun. They like well-drained soil but are pretty tolerant of others. Deadhead to encourage more blooms!
Buy zinnia seeds now (opens in new tab)
We have grown a lot of these from seed this year and have to say they're easy to cultivate. They like hot, dry weather (which is lucky considering the weather we've mostly had this summer) and poor soil will suit them just fine. You can scatter cosmos seeds or start them off in pots then transplant them to borders – or keep them in containers. With any luck, it will then self-seed for the following year. Deadhead flowers as they die off to keep lots of pretty blooms coming.
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Tithonia is a bushy, vigorous, annual that can grow to almost 2m in height. It produces flowers all summer, right up to the first frost, so it's brilliant for long-lasting colour. Another plant that's popular with wildlife, it likes to be deadheaded if it's to produce a profusion of blooms. It likes full sun and is happy in poor soils – stick it at the back of a border for height, foliage and colour.
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Unlike the flowers we've listed above, dahlias prefer a fertile, moist but well-drained soil; like the others, they prefer sheltered, sunny spots. What do we love about them? Their long flower season, which should go on until the frosts start. There's a vast range of colours, but we particularly love the jewel shades. Keen gardener? You can dig up the tubers and move them to a greenhouse or shed over winter then plant out in pots again in May. Or, keep them planted in containers and shelter them in a frost-free spot over winter.
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Now this is something we've failed at this summer – we grew lovely little sunflowers from seed in pots, transferred them to our borders, neglected them for a week and discovered the slugs had eaten them all. So, keep an eye. Otherwise, they're easy: plant out the seeds and when the seedlings start to grow, thin them out to give them around 50cm of space. Use canes to support them as they grow (and use slug-repellents). Find out more about how to grow sunflowers in our guide.
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- Autumn gardens: 14 more plants to add colour this month