Rather than being all over by August you can have your garden blooming away throughout summer and into autumn by selecting the fittest, all-rounder plants. Growing a handful of ultra-reliable, perennial workhorses is a great starting point. Look for plants that hold an Award of Garden Merit, the RHS seal of approval that the plant performs reliably in the garden. By using tricks such as the Chelsea Chop (pruning perennials in early summer so you get better blooms, over a longer period) and regular deadheading, you can keep plants flowering for longer. There is a plethora of brilliant flowers to select from, such as dahlias, hydrangeas, cleome, late roses, fuchsias, agapanthus, penstemons and the daisy-like forms of heleniums, rudbeckias, anthemis and echinacea. As the season stretches into autumn if gaps begin to appear in your borders add in decorative heucheras or ornamental grasses.

Butterflies and bees also enjoy brightly coloured EchinaceaButterflies and bees also enjoy brightly coloured Echinacea (Image: Leigh Clapp)

Predicting the weather is a challenge but overall expect hotter temperatures and periods of both drought and rain so your plants need to be tough and as weather resistant as possible to cope with this increased pressure on them to perform. Get to know the marathon plants that will keep the show going for months. Think also of the wildlife in your garden and focus on plants that will attract beneficial insects, as well as ones that will provide food and shelter. Gain an appreciation for using appropriate plants to the location, from trees and shrubs to infill and groundcovers as this always makes sense ecologically and financially, as you won’t need to replace plants that don’t work. For hot, dry summers learn to identify drought-tolerant plants and plant them in appropriate positions.

Some of Sussex’s top gardening luminaries share their favourite flowers and plants they wouldn’t be without through summer.

Vibrant tithonia will draw attentionVibrant tithonia will draw attention (Image: Leigh Clapp)

Rosemary Alexander

Founder and Principal of the English Gardening School, garden designer and author

• Astrantia

‘There are so many wonderful astrantia that it is hard to single out just one. I usually cut mine back after flowering and it performs again until the first frosts. Best in moisture retentive soil and light shade.’

• Tithonia rotundifolia ‘Red Torch’

‘Mexican sunflower is a superb plant reaching 1 – 1.2m. Forming large, compact plants with orange-scarlet flowers flowering freely July to October, it prefers full sun. Deserves to be better known here and I grow it annually from seed sown under cover in March. Much remarked on in my red border and doesn’t need staking.’



Juliet Sargeant

Award-winning garden designer and presenter

• Penstemon

‘Penstemons are drought-tolerant, slug-resistant, unfussy perennials that come in a variety of colours. They are not all fully hardy but I find ones such as ‘Raven’, ‘Garnet’ and ‘Heavenly Blue’ reliable. The bees love them and it’s easy to take cuttings.’

• Sanguisorba

‘Garden cultivars are related to the UK and edible salad burnet. The rampant habits of some have given them a bad name, but there are lots to choose from. ‘Tanna’ is well-behaved and the airy flowers of sanguisorbas work well amongst grasses and other more solid perennial flowerheads; giving pops of intense colour – like seasoning your scheme with a few twists of the pepper grinder.’


Sarah Raven

Renowned author, presenter and gardening entrepreneur

‘One of the most important considerations for me when garden planning and selecting plants, is colour and abundance. With these attributes in mind, I’ve selected three must-have summer plants that create a bustling and vibrant garden.’

• Dahlias

‘For a long-performing flower in summer, you can’t beat dahlias. The bold splashes of colour that Dahlia ‘Molly Raven’ produces are brilliant, and the Venetian marbled paper textures make it a stunning centrepiece with the rich stripes and pink petal base contrasting perfectly against the stems. Support it with a stout stick, making sure to tie it in every couple of weeks. For best results, you should plant dahlias in moist but well-drained soil.’

• Teucrium

‘Teucrium is a fantastic evergreen drought-tolerant Mediterranean plant, so is great if we’re blessed with a long hot summer. You should plant teucrium in a sheltered border, it looks delightful against a sunny wall.’

• Erigeron

‘For a softer summer display Erigeron karvinskianus ‘Profusion’ is a truly brilliant option. The masses of pink daisy-like flowers are perfect for softening garden steps, walls, and patios. Erigeron will flower for months on end, self-sowing into all nooks and crannies it finds. It’s a brilliant value plant, which no garden should be without in summer. You should deadhead regularly to encourage growth and place it in a sunny sport with well-drained soil.’



Andy Sturgeon

Award-winning landscape architect and garden designer, author, presenter and journalist

• Digitalis canariensis

‘The Canary Island foxglove is technically a tender shrub. The spikes of orange tubular flowers are meant to appear in summer but frequently arrive in late spring and are jaw dropping. I have found them surprisingly hardy in the southeast and are well worth the risk.’

• Nepeta

‘I have long been a fan of catmint as it’s the perfect low plant for the front of the border. The soft pastel blue flowers last all summer and seem to work in so many scenarios. ‘Cat’s Pyjamas’ is a new compact variety, which only reaches about 35cm tall and allows you to interject that wonderful blue into any space. Nepetas favour well-drained soil, but I don’t find them particularly fussy as long as they have plenty of sunshine.’

• Phlomis

‘Phlomis tuberosa ‘Amazone’ is a plant for high summer with whorls of flowers like lilac butterflies clinging to sturdy erect stems that fade beautifully as days shorten, darkening in colour and standing stately and architectural well into winter. These tough, drought-tolerant perennials are at home in a dry Mediterranean style garden.’


Jo Thompson

Award-winning garden designer, known for her classic English style gardens

• ‘Roses of course – shrubs, ramblers, climbers – old and new! They are indispensible for creating that romantic, magical atmosphere that we all dream of in our gardens. They also bring colour from April through to October and are super for structure. I like to train them into domes. I don’t spray or use any chemicals – the baby bluetits remove aphids, I also don’t water them after initial planting as this way they send their long taproot into the ground and so can survive periods of drought.’

A drought tolerant gravel garden offers an array of options. A drought tolerant gravel garden offers an array of options. (Image: Leigh Clapp)

Joe Perkins

Award-winning landscape architect and garden designer

• Ornamental fennel

‘Statuesque yellow flowerheads with soft feathery foliage make this an easy plant to use amongst drifts of salvias, grasses and other Mediterranean plants. Likes well-drained soil and full sun, perfect for gravel gardens. Young plants make take a couple of years to build up resources before flowering.’

• Stipa gigantea

‘Eye-catching in flower, the stems can reach 2m, evergreen foliage 60-80cm high. This is a perfect plant for adding accents of drama without being heavy, and excellent for providing movement in the wind. Grow in well-drained soil in full sun. Don’t feed too much and it can also self-seed.’

• Bistorta ‘Pink Elephant’

‘A member of the persicaria family, this is much more compact with long-lasting soft pink flower spikes. Use in drifts in fertile, well-drained soil in full sun to part shade.’


To know

• Rosemary Alexander, English Gardening School

Web: englishgardeningschool.co.uk

Opens her garden Sandhill Farm House, Rogate, GU31 5HU

Next opening 21, 22 September

Web: ngs.org.uk

• Juliet Sargeant Garden Design, Hurstpierpoint, BN6 9RQ

Web: julietsargeant.com

Sussex Garden School – fun and informative garden days, talks and courses

Web: sussexgardenschool.com

• Sarah Raven, Perch Hill Farm, Robertsbridge, TN32 5HP

Online shop

Pre-booked open days, including 4, 5, 18 19 July

Events and courses, such as A Year Full of Flowers, 18th Sept

Web: sarahraven.com

• Andy Sturgeon, Landscape and Garden design, Brighton, BN1 1UB

Web: andysturgeon.com

• Jo Thompson Landscape and Garden Design, TN5 7PR

Web: jothompson-garden-design.co.uk

• Joe Perkins, Landscape and Garden Design, Hove, BN3 5RH

Web: joeperkinsdesign.com

Fill your garden with summer favouritesFill your garden with summer favourites (Image: Leigh Clapp)

Get the look 

• Choose tough, resilient trees, shrubs, perennials, annuals, climbers and bulbs

• Drought-tolerant indicators are ones with grey-green and silver foliage as they reflect the sun’s rays and conserve moisture in the plants, small narrow leaves that transpire less water, fleshy leaves store water, while reflective, glaucous, waxy coatings also indicates an adaption to survive in hot, dry environments.

• Thoroughly water in plants and for the first season and then once established they will be more drought resistant

• Planting ‘en masse’ to cover the ground preserves the soil from being washed away

• Select plants that will form communities of plants, thriving in the same conditions

• Immature, small plants will be more resilient and adapt as they grow

Summer delights from sunflowers and salviasSummer delights from sunflowers and salvias (Image: Leigh Clapp)

Further summer champions

• Hardy geraniums

• Sedums

• Verbena bonariensis

• Agapanthus

• Calendula

• Nasturtium

• Sunflowers

• Cosmos

• Hydrangeas

• Salvias

• Agastache

• Echinacea

• Borage