Autumn Bulbs for the Border
Candy pink is also the preserve of the nerine with its fascinating spidery flowers appearing before the leaves. Summer dormant bulbs, nerines enjoy a sunny corner with well-drained soil, and will burst into late summer flower. Nerine bowdenii is a splash of vibrant pink, N. sarniensis var. corsusca 'Major' (syn. N. fothergilla 'Major') a clear red. In addition there are miniature (N. filifolia) and white (N. flexuosa 'Alba') nerines. Both are so easy we take them for granted.
Gladiolus callianthus and G. c. 'Murielaie' are tall, elegant late summer and autumn flowers, far from those rather lumpy blooms made famous by Dame Edna. White spires with a flash of maroon at the throat these gladioli give us a fresh clean colour. Plant Gladiolus callianthus in a well-drained soil and a sunny position, lifting in autumn for spring replanting in cold districts.
Late summer spires
A classic blue and white scheme can result from pairing the gladioli with the monkshood (Aconitum). Some of the season's purest blues come with Aconitum carmichaelii (syn. A. fischeri), which has tall spires of deepest violet-blue flowers that reach 1.2m (4ft). There are also white aconitums available. Needing a good, rich soil and cool, shaded roots the monkshoods are easy flowers but take care when dividing and cutting back as the sap is poisonous.
Verbascums flower into autumn; the tall spires a welcome contrast to the billowing mounds of asters, dahlias and anemones. Normally soft or clear yellow, Verbascum phoeniceum is a pinkish species. Relatively easy plants, verbascums need sun and well-drained soil, as they hate having wet, cold feet in winter.
Schizostylis coccinea and its cultivars are another late summer-autumn stalwart. Pink 'Mrs Hegarty' and 'Viscountess Byng', and red 'Grandiflora' are all easily found and their cheery, bright flowers brighten any sunny corner with moist soil. In water edge positions you will find they quickly spread and form clumps.
More pink from the gayfeather, Liatris spictata, a fluffy and bright spike to nearly 90cm (3ft) that is great for cutting. Enjoying most conditions including damp situations, liatris dislike high humidty.
Also good for picking Francoa ramosa, the Bridal wreath, carries tall spikes of white flowers blushed with pink, summer through autumn, above wonderful, creased foliage. Clump forming, Francoa prefers a moist soil and a sunny or part-shaded situation.
Kniphofias are mainly spring and early summer flowering but Kniphofia caulescens and K. ensifolia provide spikes of orange red flowers touched with yellow in late summer and autumn, into winter. Try planting the pale yellow 'Percy's Pride' with the hazy, tall Verbena bonariensis that has become very popular in recent years. An invaluable border plant, V. bonariensis creates a haze of mauve with its clouds of flowers. Often grown as annual, it is a frost hardy perennial and is easily grown from seed.
More Late Summer Colour
Low carpeting Verbena x hybrida carries on the show well into autumn. There is a wide range of colours available from bright 'Sissinghurst Pink' through white and lavender shades to deep purple. Plant in full sun avoiding heavy soils and fertilisers that will encourage leafy growth rather than flowers.
Monardas, or bergamot, have weird looking whorls of spidery flowers, and a scent that is all their own. Mostly cultivars of Monarda didyma, you can chose from 'Scorpion', maroon and mildew resistant; soft pink old-timers 'Beauty of Cobham' and 'Croftway Pink'; and red 'Squaw' and 'Cambridge Scarlet'. Monardas like to be planted in a moist soil, with their heads in the sun, where they will reach 1m (3ft 3in).
Nerine sarniensis var. corsusca 'Major'
Elegant Galdioli callianthus
Aconitum carmichaelii, one of the truest blues in the garden
Tall spires on Francoa ramosa
Dusky pink Liatris spictata
Verbena x hybrida 'Rosy Fire'
Spidery monardas (bergamont) flower well into autumn