We all have our favourite plants and it’s a buzz to recommend these favourites to others who aren’t already growing them, because you know they’ll love them too once they discover how good they are! After the beating our gardens took this summer, now's a good time to identify gaps that might have appeared in your beds and with the soil still warm but the rains of autumn surely, inevitably, on their way, now is a good time to plant herbaceous perennials so they can get established before the winter weather sets in. Plus, you might be able to pick up an end of season bargain at your local garden centre.
I asked 3 top horticulturists to share their unsung herbaceous perennial flower border plants;
Martha Krempel – Martha Krempel Garden Design
Rudbeckia fulgida var. deamii is an essential late summer favourite. It’s simple, open daisy-like construction is a happy, sunny shape in the border. It’s a colour we might shy away from early on in the season for being too garish, but in August when the green of the garden is very lush and dominant, obscuring the remaining flowers, you can count on Rudbeckia to enliven and invigorate, shining on until October. It works well with the whole garden at this time of year, packing a punch particularly on a gloomy day.
Tanya Batkin – Vergette Gardens
Hailing from North America and beloved from the 1800’s here in the UK Penstemons still seem a tad underrated. It may be their reputation for being tender flower border plant's or perhaps it’s their 90’s popularity but a lot of gardeners pooh-pooh the Penstemon.
To those who think they're old hat I would suggest that you're looking at them the wrong way, for a plant to still be widely grown after 200 years shows its value. As to the tenderness I can vouch that P. ‘Black Bird and P. ‘Hewell Pink Bedder’ both fought off the Beast from the East and have been flowering happily for months here in my Midlands garden. If you are worried they'll be lost over winter they are also one of the easiest plants to propagate from cuttings.
From the teeny delicate Penstemon pinifolius ‘Wisley Flame’ to the voluptuous ‘Ice-cream Series’ out of the 250 or so species of Penstemon and their subsequent cultivars, there’s one out there that’s perfect for whatever type of planting scheme you have in mind, the only limitations are your imaginations, so what are you waiting for, go pick up a Penstemon.
Simon Sutcliffe – How Green Nursery
One of the most underrated perennials we grow has to be Scabiosa caucasica Fama Blue/Fama White. We've grown both varieties for years and from a sales perspective they sell, but not in the numbers they should! Scabiosa Pink Mist or Butterfly Blue are much more popular, but in our opinion are inferior cultivars!
It takes centre stage in our nursery garden and gets much admired throughout the summer. Such a great plant, it produces a continuous display of giant 7cm sized flowers from June to October. Remember to deadhead to keep them re-blooming. Either vibrant sky blue, or pure white the flowers have wavy edged petals and are borne on long stems up to 75cm, so team up nicely with ornamental grasses for a contemporary feel. They also lend themselves to the traditional English cottage garden style, making these very versatile plants.
They’re very hardy (down to - 18°C) and are easy to grow. Plant in full sun and well-drained soil, we add grit for drainage to safeguard against Winter wet. A great plant for pollinators, they attract bees, butterflies and insects in numbers. They also make fab cut flowers and can last up to ten days in a vase. Try this pincushion plant in your garden, you won't be disappointed!
Getting tips from professionals is always a treat, so thank you Martha, Tanya and Simon for shining a light on your secret heroes of the border. If you’d like to share the love for your favourite underrated or under-used plant, please tell us the name of the plant you like to champion and why you think it should be more widely grown, below. Thanks for reading!