Hardy Perennials from A to Z

Acanthus (bear’s breeches)

Acanthus are best grown in isolated positions rather than in a mixed border.

A. longifalius, A. mollis and A. spinosus will in time take up more than their allotted space as a group and then curbing becomes an annual task.

A. mollis flowers less freely than the other two. All have long, jagged glossy green leaves and 3-4 ft. spikes of curiously hooded flowers, lavender-lilac tinged with white.

They prefer a sunny place and well-drained soil, and a group by itself or in company with shrubs, can be very effective as they flower from early July onwards for many weeks.


Achillea (yarrow, milfoil)

This genus includes a few good and showy plants, but also some of a weedy nature. All have flowers useful for cutting. A. filipendulina with platelike heads of deep yellow on erect 4 ft. stems is deservedly popular. It is easily grown in any well-drained soil and needs the minimum of attention. It is usually offered under the name ‘Gold Plate’. Stems cut at their best can be dried for winter decoration. A. ‘Moonshine’, 18 in. canary-yellow, with silvery leaves, is much dwarfer. It flowers from May to July. A. millefohum is the native milfoil. Deep pink, and almost red variants, such as ‘Cerise Queen’ make quite a brave show for a season or two, before they need curbing or replanting back into position. But heads on 3 ft. stems become top heavy and need support, as do the white achilleas, ‘The Pearl’ and Terry’s White’, both 3 ft. tall with double, button-type, white flowers in loose heads. All should be divided in early autumn or spring.

Aconitum (monkshood)


Aconitums are related to delphiniums, but have a hood over the upper part of the flower-hence the common name. Several are good garden plants, and most of them will stand unaided. The hybrid A. x arendsii is a first-rate late flowering plant with strong 4 ft. spikes terminating in a bunch of amethyst-blue flowers in September and October. A. bicolor has more openly branches spikes on wiry stems about 31 ft. high and the blue-white flowers give a bright display for several weeks from midsummer onwards. A. ‘Bressingham Spire’, 21-3 ft., grows rather like a well-foliaged tapering fir. The leaves are deep green and glossy and the terminal spike has violet-blue flowers, followed by secondary spikes, to cover the August to September period. The vigorous growing ‘Newry Blue’ flowers in June-July, but both this and the violet-blue ‘Spark’s Variety’ have more open spikes, about 31 ft. tall. Aconitums should not be left unattended for too long, and if the plants are not mulched, they should be divided and replanted in enriched soil after about three years. This does not apply to the hybrid `Ivorine’, 3 ft., very neat and shapely in growth, with ivory-white flowers from late May to July-August; a splendid plant for sun or partial shade.

Alchcmilla (lady’s mantle)

A. mollis will grow in any but the driest, starved situations and in sun or shade, forming a neat, ground-hugging clump of pretty maple-shaped grey-green hairy leaves. From this loose sprays of tiny yellowish-green flowers spread out and up to about 20 in. for many weeks. The plant divides easily and sets seed freely.

Anchusa (alkanet)

Bright though they are these are not reliable plants. The popular varieties include `Loddon Royalist’, ‘Morning Glory’ and ‘Opal’. The black, fleshy roots send up large coarse leaves and 4 ft. spikes of small but intensely blue flowers from late May to July. They usually need supporting. After July, there is a somewhat blank space, and all too often plants fail to survive the winter, especially in wetter or richer soils.

Anemone (windflower)

A. hupehensis (long known as A. japonica) can contribute so much to the late summer display that no garden should be without these delightful plants. Though shades of pink and white are the only colours, it is the way their flowers are borne that makes them so charming. Individual flowers ranging from 11-3 in. across are like dog roses, with yellow-stamened centres. The wiry, branching stems are tipped by nodding flowers and close-set buds. Most varieties begin flowering in late July or early August and will continue until autumn. They need good drainage and a mainly sunny position and they are especially good on chalky soil.

Anthemis (golden marguerite)

Most anthemis flower freely and for a long time, but they are short-lived plants, especially the varieties of A . tinctoria. The yellow, daisy flowers come on somewhat twiggy, not very erect plants, 2-2 ½ ft. high, from June to late August. If the woody rootstock fails to produce new basal growth in autumn plants will not survive. A. `Grallagh Gold’ is even trickier than the light yellow Wargrave’ or ‘Mrs Buxton’, but the dwarfer species, A. sancti-johannis, 20 in., with deep yellow flowers, is more reliable. Aquilegia (columbine) Very few aquilegias will come true from seed; for those who like a good range of colour and large, long-spurred flowers, such strains as `McKana Hybrids’, about 3 ft. high and Seidermeier’, 20 in. high, are delightful for a year or two, until replacements are need. They are not fussy plants, and some will grow in shade.

Armeria (thrift)

The common thrift is A. maritima which has produced some varieties and hybrids of real garden value. ‘Vindictive’ makes an effective edging; it will make a continuous evergreen row 1 ft. wide within a year or two. In May and June, it is ablaze with 8 in. drumstick heads of bright carmine-pink flowers. The white-flowered variety alba serves a similar purpose. The tallest, largest flowered and brightest armeria is A. latifolia ‘Bee’s Ruby’ (the colour is, in fact, a deep carmine). The central root stem just below ground is so bare, that division is seldom possible. Cuttings are not easy to strike but basal cuttings taken in early autumn or spring and inserted in a cold frame sometimes root. Armerias need full sun and a very well-drained soil.

Aster (Michaelmas daisy)

The garden would be dull in autumn if no Michaelmas daisies were to be seen. New varieties have been churned out over recent years, and although decided advances have been made, enhancing the range of height, colour and size of flower, it is a matter of personal preference when such a wide choice exists. One can only emphasize the need to choose varieties which do not need staking, and to replant every three years, using only the outer ‘healthier shoots. Spring is the best time to divide asters.


Astilbes grown in good moist soil are plants of incomparable beauty. They have attractive foliage and the plumed flower spikes are in every imaginable shade from white through pink, salmon and cerise to fiery red and deep red. Some are erect, others arch and droop, and heights vary from 6 in. to 6 ft. They do not need staking, are completely hardy and can be left alone for years, trouble-free and reliable, though they cannot stand hot, dry conditions. They appreciate a spring mulch to conserve moisture, and they can safely be divided when dormant. In general, the tallest astilbes are the strongest and least fussy about moisture, but these do not include the brightest colours. One of the best of the taller kinds is A. taquetii superba, about 4 ft., with straight imposing spikes of an intense lilac-purple shade, in July and August. A. davidii, lilac-rose, and the varieties ‘Tamarix’, ‘Salland’, ‘Venus’, pale-pink, and ‘Salmon Queen’ are all tall and robust. Given the right conditions, the more colourful dwarfer hybrid astilbes, 1 ½ -3 ft. tall, will flower for much longer, between late June and mid-August. ‘Cologne’, deep carmine-rose, ‘Dusseldorf’, salmon-pink, ‘Rheinland’, early, clear pink, ‘Deutschland’, a fine white, ‘Fire’ is intense red shade and ‘Red Sentinel’ almost brick-red, are about 2 ft. high. ‘Glow’ at 2 ½ ft. is stronger and `Spinell’ is another fiery shade. The 2 ½ ft. `Federsee’ is a rosy4ed variety, and ‘Bressingham Pink’ has fine clear pink spikes. `Fanal’, deep red, is barely 2 ft. high, and Irrliche is white. A. simphcifitha ‘Sprite’, a sturdy miniature, has very dark foliage as background to the 12 in. ivory pink spikelets.

Bergenia (pig squeak)

These are excellent space fillers for any but the hottest driest situations. The large shiny, almost evergreen leaves usually die off in late winter in readiness for the spring flowering period, when the stubby 9-12 in. spikes produce sprays of little bell-shaped flowers, usually pink-rather washy in older species, but deeper, bordering on red in such modern varieties as the dwarf `Abendglut’ (Evening Glow) and `Ballawley’, which is about the largest and finest of all. `Silberliche is a free-flowering almost white shade. Where ground cover is more important than flowers any B. cordifblia form or B. schmidtii are cheaper. The value of bergenias is their bright foliage from May to March, and their ability to spread fairly quickly but unobtrusively in awkward places.


B. macrophylla (formerly Anchusa myosotid(lora) differs from most anchusas by being a good reliable perennial, with less fleshy roots, forming clumps of rounded leaves which have weed smothering properties all summer. From April to July the sprays of tiny brilliant blue ‘forget-me-not’ flowers are borne on 2 ft. branching stems. In good or moist soil, plants become fairly massive. A bright-leaved form variegata, is rather less robust; of its 6 in. wide leaves more than half is primrose yellow. It is best planted where hot sun does not scorch it.

Campanula (bellflower)

This is an adaptable genus ranging from prostrate plants to those 5 or 6 ft. tall. With such diversity, recommendations will be easier to follow on the basis of height. The dwarfest, semi-prostrate hybrid ‘Stella’ can adorn not only a rock garden, a wall top, path edging or the front of a border, but makes a good pot plant for indoors or outdoors. It flowers from June to August, but if cut back, divided and revitalized it will flower again in autumn. Cultivation is easy in any reasonable soil, in sun or partial shade.

The varieties of C. carpatica are valuable for frontal groups. They are neat in habit, vary in height from 6-12 in. and have upward facing cup-shaped flowers, 1-2 in. across, from June to August. Colours vary from white to violet blue, and though easy to raise from seed, one must obtain named varieties to avoid mixed shades. C. burghaltii has long, near opaque smokey blue bells, dangling from 15-18 in. stems from June onwards. It is vigorous but not invasive. C. van Houteii is similar in habit with equally large pale blue bells. C. glomerata has many forms – the best of this top-clustered group is superba, 3 ft., with upturned violet flowers in June and July. C. lactiflora is also variable; the deepest coloured named variety is ‘Prichard’s’, growing erectly to 2 ½ – 3 ft., with open clusters of bell-shaped flowers. The pygmy variety of this long-flowering species is ‘Pouffe’, which makes a green cushion for the light blue flowers from June to September. The tallest, `Loddon Anna’, reaches 6 ft., with heads of near pink; ‘alba’ is only a foot or so shorter. All these are reliable plants and will grow happily in shade as well as sun. C. latifolia (syn. C. macrantha) which flowers in June and July, and it is similarly adaptable, has strong 4 ft. spikes with large blue bells. There is a good white form- alba – ‘Brantwood’ is deep violet-blue, but the near opaque ‘Gloaming’ is an entrancing pale-sky-blue.

Catananche (Cupid’s dart)

C. caerulea has cornflower-like blooms on wiry stems from June to August. It reaches 2-2 ½ ft. in well-drained soil. Its faults are lack of longevity and a tendency to loll over so that flowers droop rather than stand up to face the sky, especially in damp weather. It is grown from seed sown in May, or root cuttings taken in March.

Centaurea (cornflower)

This genus includes coarse as well as choicer species with heights varying from 2 in. to 6 ft. or more. The deep pink variety steenbergii is a great improvement on the species C. dealbata; ‘John Coutts’ is another improved variety with even larger flowers, of a lighter, clearer pink. Both reach 2 ½ ft. and flower freely in June and July. C. macrocephala, 5 ft. has yellow tufty flowers on more massive leafy plants. C. hypoleuca is charming with a profusion of clear pink flowers on compact grey-foliaged plants, with wiry, 1 ft. tall flowering stems from late May to July. C. ruthenica is distinctive for its shining foliage and gracefully slender 4 ft. stems carrying canary-yellow fluffy-headed flowers from June to August. All centaureas are best divided in early spring. They are easily-grown, vigorous plants, even in poor soil.

Centranthus (valerian)

Many a garden would be the poorer without Centranthusruber for it can colonize a neglected garden and can be seen naturalized on old walls as well as in old borders. Unwanted seedlings can be treated as weeds, leaving a group where it belongs to be self-replenishing. It grows 2- 3 ft. tall and flowers freely. The usual deep, dull pink flowers are not specially attractive; the brighter red coccinea is better and there is also a white form, alba. If you consider it too common to grow among choicer plants, there is usually some odd dry corner where it can fill a need for colour.


Strictly, this genus includes pyrethrums and also marguerites or Shasta daisies. The white-flowered C. maximum ‘Esther Mead’ is the best known, but other excellent varieties include ‘Thomas Killin’, ‘Everest’, large single white flowers; ‘Wirral Supreme’, double white, very large lacy-petalled single flowers; ‘Cobham Gold’, ‘Moonlight’, both flushed with yellow – ‘Esther Read’ and ‘Jennifer Read’, all doubles. But as a garden plant C. corymbosum is preferable. This has greyish foliage and grows stoutly to 34 ft. and bears hundreds of 1 in. wide white daisies from June to August. Even after Michaelmas daisies are over C. uliginosum, 5-6 ft., comes into flower; it has single white, yellow-centred daisies 2 in. across which add a last touch of summer to late autumn.

Cimicifuga (bugbane)

These are effective and easy plants given reasonably good soil that does not dry out too much. All have slender tapering spikes of small fuzzy, pearl-white flowers in late summer and autumn. They need no attention for many years beyond an occasional mulch and feed. C. cordifdia, 3 ft. flowers in August and September; C. racemosa is best in the varieties ‘White Pearl’ or ‘Elstead Variety’, which are taller and later flowering, very effective when even Michaelmas daisies are fading.


C. grandiflora is easily raised from seed in such varieties as ‘Sunburst’ and ‘Mayfield Giant’, but they deteriorate after one season’s profligate show of deep yellow flowers, rather laxly carried on thin 2 ft. stems. The midget `Goldfink’, 8 in., smothers itself in deep yellow, maroon-marked flowers from June to September, and usually survives the winter. If odd plants exhaust themselves, those remaining divide easily in the spring to make replacements. The most reliable and distinctive coreopsis is C. verticillata, which forms shapely 18 in. bushes decked with t in. yellow flowers from June to late August; and var. grandiflora is slightly deeper in colour.


These majestic plants may be considered indispensable, but almost invariably they need staking in good time. They also need rich soil for best results and in some gardens slugs can be a menace. From seed sown under glass in spring it is possible for sonic plants to flower in late summer, otherwise sow outdoors to obtain stock to flower freely the following year after transplanting.

Named varieties will not flower true from seed, which mostly produce mixed shades of blue. A few strains come reasonably true such as the shorter-lived ‘Pacific Hybrids’. Belladonna delphiniums, less tall with more open spikes, are in their way as attractive as the large-flowered varieties, though it is in the latter that double flowers occur.

Dicentra (bleeding heart)

The true bleeding heart, D. spectabtlis, has few faults as a hardy perennial, and it is worth a little extra attention to ensure that it gives of its best. The lush foliage and the arching sprays of dangling red and white lockets are a gladdening sight in May and June. The fanged, brittle roots should be planted carefully in well-drained good soil, where some sun but not the worst of the winds can reach the plant. Division is tricky, but young shoots, with a good base will root in a cold frame.

Dictamnus (fraxinella, burning bush)

D. albus is a deeply rooting plant that likes full sun and perfect drainage where it will live for years to send up 3 ft. spikes of lilac-pink flowers from June to August. Division is difficult, propagation by root cuttings in autumn or spring is better; plants grown from seed are slow to reach maturity.

Doronicum (leopard’s bane)

These easily-grown plants make a bright display of yellow in spring. The earliest to thrust up their widely-rayed yellow daisies are the dwarfest. `Goldzwerg’ reaches only 6 in. and flowers from late March to May. It is followed quickly by the 18 in. ‘Miss Mason’. This is the height of the outstanding fully double-flowered variety ‘Spring Beauty’. ‘Harpur Crewe’ is tallest, with wide-rayed flowers on 3 ft. stems. Doronicums are easy to divide (preferably in early autumn) and respond to division and replanting every few years.

Echinacea (purple cone flower)

E. purpurea (syn. Rudbeckia purpurea) has a special appeal, with its somewhat drooping petals accentuating the central cone on 34 ft., stems. Named varieties as well as variable seedlings are offered. A better plant than the best-known variety ‘The King’ is the erect ‘Robert Bloom’ in a much warmer red shade. This is one of the ‘Bressingham Hybrids’ which show only slight colour variations. All flower from July to September. They like good deep soil, well drained but not too dry and can safely be divided in early spring.

Echinops (globe thistle)

These deep-rooting plants are reliably hardy and perennial, but one or two are too massive for a small garden. All have greyish, jagged, slightly prickly leaves and branching stems which carry rounded flower heads of mainly light blue. E. ritro, 3 ft., is less troublesome than the taller kinds. Old plants are easier to divide than to dig up, and roots left in the ground will mostly sprout again.

Erigcron (fleabane)

These useful members of the daisy family give a good display from May to August and some are useful for cutting. They are happy in open positions, in any well-drained soil and are best increased by division in spring. The most reliable include ‘Darkest of in., single-flowered, violet-blue, ‘Foerster’s Liebling’, 20 in., near double, bright pink, `Lilofee’, 2 ½ ft., mauve blue, ‘Prosperity’, 20 in. light lavender-blue, almost double, ‘Amity’, 2 ft. lilac pink, ‘Gaiety’, 1 ½ -2 ft., single pink, ‘Sincerity’, 2 ft. mauve-blue, single, long-flowering, and ‘Dignity’, 2 ft. violet-blue.

Eryngium (sea holly)

By comparison with most flowers the eryngiums are freakish, as all have flowers without visible petals. In some the stems are as brightly coloured as the flower bracts and in others the flowers and leaves are green. Such species as E. serra, 6 ft., E. bromeliifolium, 4 ft. and E. pandanifolium, to 10 ft., grow from large green rosettes of vicious looking saw-edged leaves and send up stiffly branching spikes tipped with green spiny thimbles as flowers. E. alpinum is very handsome, with rounded green leaves and sturdy 2 ½ ft. stems crowned with large silver-blue flowers. E. bourgattii is reliable; it is very silvery with a tinge of blue in the 20 in. stems as well as in the terminal bract. E. variifolium, 2 ft., has marbled evergreen foliage. E. giganteum. 3 ft., is imposing, but only biennial. E. planum is easy, but the blue flowering tips are not as bright as in the widely-branching E. tripartitum, 3 – 3 ½ ft., which is the best of this group. Some eryngiums will grow well from seed, but the usual method of increase is from root cuttings in the spring.

Euphorbia (spurge)

This vast genus includes a few good garden plants. All have bracts surrounding clustered flower heads. E. charassias and E. veneta (syn. E. rvulfenii), are sub-shrubs, with year round blue-grey, somewhat succulent foliage, and build up into imposing plants 3 ft. high or more till they burst into almost a fountain of sulphur-yellow heads of flower in spring. They look well with shrubs or on a wall. One of the best of all spring-flowering herbaceous plants is E. polychroma (syn. E. epithymoides), 20 in., a sturdy, compact plant which produces heads of bright sulphur-yellow bracts in April and early May. E. griffithii ‘Fireglow’, 2 ½ ft., produces deep fiery heads in May and June. Of the more vigorous species, which have their uses as ground coverers, E. cyparissias, 10 in., spreads rapidly and has bluish-grey foliage and heads of sulphur-yellow. E. amygdaloides and E. robbiae are similar, with deep green foliage and a reasonable spread, but are more suitable among shrubs than in a perennial border.

Filipendula (meadowsweet)

These are, with one or two exceptions, moisture-loving plants, which will grow well enough in full sun, provided the soil is moist. F. hexapetala plena, which will grow where the soil is quite dry, has reddish stems, 18-20 in. and snow-white heads in profusion during June-July.

F. hexapetala grandiflora, 2 ½ ft., is single flowered but has wide creamy-white heads. The remaining filipendulas are moisture loving. F. digitata nana, 9 in., has deep rosy-red flowers and F. elegantissima, 3 ft., hazy pink flower heads in June and July. Filipendubs can be divided in early autumn or spring and they benefit from an annual mulch.

Gaillardia (blanket flower)

These are not very reliable perennials. They are easily grown from seed, though named varieties can only be propagated by root cuttings-easier from roots left in the ground after plants have been chopped off, than from actual root cuttings. They prefer poor soil and dry conditions. Flowers are borne profusely from June to August, when cutting hard back is helpful. Good named varieties are- `Croftway Yellow’, ‘Ipswich Beauty’, yellow with maroon cone, ‘Mandarin’, fiery orange, ‘Wirral Flame’, browny-red, all 2 ½ – 3 ft. ‘Goblin’ is a 9-in. Miniature.

Geranium (cranesbill)

True geraniums are hardy garden plants, easily grown in sun or shade. G. armenum, (syn. G. psilostemon), ft., makes a dense bush given ample moisture; the flowers, over r in. across, borne from June to August, are fiercely magenta. Tressingham Flair’ is less intense, with more pink in the flowers. G. endressii, about 20 in., forms dense mounds of light green and its sprays of light or bright pink flowers make a good show in June and July. G. grandiflorum, 15 in., clear blue, spreads too quickly for what it gives in flowers, but ‘Johnson’s Blue’, 18 in., is very good indeed. G. ibericum, 2 ft., has dark leaves and rich deep blue flowers. G. renardii has light mauve-blue flowers, marked with delicate crimson veins. G. sanguineum, spreads slowly and has a long succession of magenta-rose flowers. ‘Holden Variety’ or ‘splendens’, is a good clear pink and there is a white fOrm, album. G. sylvaticum ‘Mayflower’, 18 in., has light blue flowers in May and June. The uncommon G. wlassovianum has deeper blue flowers from July to September, and is worth a place.

Geum (avens)

For reliability G. borisn, 1 ft., rates highly with its intense orange single flowers in May and June. The shortest lived are the popular double red ‘Mrs Bradshaw’ and double yellow ‘Lady Stratheden’. These flower very freely, but after a couple of years they lose vigour and die. Other good hybrids which need replanting and dividing every two or three years are ‘Fire Opal’, orange-red and ‘Rubin’, deep red, all about 2 ft. `Georgenberg’, 1 ft., is single yellow, April to June.

Gypsophila (chalk plant)

The tallest, but still popular baby’s breath, G. paniculata, is not an ideal border plant, because of its floppy habit. The double-flowered ‘Bristol Fairy’ has little advantage over the single, longer-lived type. Both are charming in their way, with clouds of pure white flowers, but they need space, as well as free-drained soil, in which to make their expansive display from late June to September. But ‘Bristol Fairy’ can only be propagated by cuttings or grafting on to young seedlings of the single G. paniculata. There is a dwarfer, neater double-flowered variety, ‘compacta plena’. This grows 18 in. high and 2 ft. across and is to be preferred in a mixed bed or border. Two dwarfer double pink varieties are ‘Pink Star’, 18 in., with small pale pink flowers, and the more prostrate ‘Rosy Veil’. All these will increase by cuttings in spring, and all are sun lovers and long flowering.

Helenium (sneezeweed)

These are quite indispensable for providing a rich display of colour, but neglect can cause some disappointment. They need dividing and replanting every three years or so, in early autumn or spring, in enriched soil. Heleniums are very easy to grow in fully open positions. The tallest varieties should be avoided. ‘Bruno’, and `Moerheim Gem’, browny red and `Butterpat’, yellow, are in the 4 ft. range and flower from July to September. Earlier, sturdy varieties are ‘Bressingham Gold’, `Coppelia’, ‘Gold Fox’ and ‘Mahogany’, all with orange and browny flame shades. ‘Golden Youth’, about 2 ½ ft., is a fine clear colour, and Wyndley’, 2-2 ½ ft., is brown and orange.

Heliopsis (orange sunflower)

These can be left alone for several years and relied upon to flower freely unsupported. All have basically yellow-green flowers as in `Goldgreenheare, and the rich buttery-yellow ‘Golden Plume’, both semi-double. Good single varieties are ‘Ballerina’ and H. patula, both 3 ft., with 3 in. flowers from June to September. Divide in autumn or spring.

Helleborus (hellebore)

The true Christmas rose (H. niger) has a never failing appeal even though it seldom opens in time for Christmas. But January and February flowering is exciting enough to make this a very desirable plant, though it is best placed in cool shade, not where it is over-hung or the soil is dry. Old plants do not move or divide easily; young seedling plants do best. Seed is slow to germinate and needs to be sown when fresh. H. niger is followed by the Lenten rose, H. orientalis, 12 to 18 in., and its hybrids, most rewarding plants, varying from white to deep pink and even plum purple. A few plants can fill permanently an odd corner even where it becomes quite dry in summer, so long as it is not sunbaked. Where it is moist enough, self-sown seedlings will appear, but mature plants can also be divided in autumn. H. corsicus has pale greenish-white flowers on 2 ft. stems in spring, and the 2 ft. tall H. foetidus with greenish flowers may become naturalized, even in dry shady places.

Hemerocallis (day lily)

Many new varieties of this sterling garden plant have appeared in recent years. The rushy-leaved plants are robust without being invasive. They flower from June-August and are not pernickety about soil, shade or sun, but they respond to good treatment by giving a better, longer display of their richly-coloured trumpet flowers. A wide range of colour exists, including a reasonably good pink, ‘Pink Damask’, through every shade of yellow, orange and brown to the ruby-mahogany shade of ‘Black Magic’. Where hemerocallis score is in the purer shades of yellow and orange. ‘Hyperion’ is a beauty, and so is the golden-yellow ‘Doubloon’. ‘Primrose Mascotte’ is one of the best light yellows and ‘Stafford’, ruby orange; ‘Golden Orchid’, ‘Golden Chimes’, dwarf orange; ‘Fandango’, ruffled light orange; `Larksong’, lemon and ‘Morocco Red’ are all excellent. Most varieties grow into very large plants. Divide in autumn or spring.

Heuchera (coral flower)

Heucheras have that rare combination of compact, well-foliaged evergreen growth and a show of brightly-coloured flowers carried daintily on sprays or spikes for several weeks in early summer. On a well-grown plant hundreds of small, bell-shaped flowers are borne on wiry stems. Colours range from white to every shade of pink, and red including scarlet, coral, salmon and coppery-crimson. Heucheras must have good drainage, and are best in sun or only partial shade. They flower better in rich soil, yet they are draught resistant. Every three to four years mulch deeply with soil or compost, or dig them up and replant them deeply, using only the most vigorous shoots. ‘Bressingham Hybrids’ is a mixed strain in a wide colour range. They do not come true from seed and division is best after flowering ceases in July.


‘Bridget Bloom’, 15 in., is a splendid plant for fairly good light soil, in light shade, and may produce its sprays of light pink flowers almost as freely in autumn as at its normal period of May and June. This and H. tiarelloides are hybrids between a Heuchera and a Tiarella. H. hare/bides makes modestly spreading ground cover with slightly golden-green leaves, producing in April and May 1 ft. spikes of pink flowers. It is easily grown in any but hot dry positions.

Hosta (plantain lily)

These plants have come into their own of recent years, because of their hardiness, adaptability, reliable growth, good foliage and pleasing overall appearance. In any but parched or starved conditions they can be left for years to develop into solid clumps. They are happiest in cool shade. They vary in height from 8 in. to 4 ft. and can be used in a wide range of places from waterside to woodland conditions, for edging and for a mixed bed or border. H. crispula, 3 ft., has handsome leaves edged with creamy-buff and lavender-mauve flowers from June to August. H. fortunei and its varieties flower earlier. The species has large pointed blue-green leaves and 2 ft. stems of pale lavender flowers. H. f. picta comes through in spring with bright and very attractive variegations which last until flowering at midsummer, before turning green. `floneybells’ is a green-leaved variety, with 2 ½ ft. spikes of sweetly scented lavender trumpets. H. lancifoha has 20 in. lavender spikes in late summer. H. rectifilia, 4 ft., is a splendid free-flowering plant with lavender-mauve spikes. H. undulata medio variegata has brightly variegated leaves all summer and 12 to 18 in. spikes of deep mauve flowers. H. ventricosa, 3 ft., is easy and reliable. It bears its deep lavender trumpets freely in July and August and has bluish leaves; in its variety variegata, they are deep green and have streaks of yellow which make it one of the most attractive kinds. Hostas are best divided in early spring. Incarvillea Once the deep fangy roots begin to sprout in early May, growth is rapid and startling. In two or three weeks, the exotic looking deep reddish pink trumpet flowers begin to open. The deeply-cut dark green leaves follow. In I. Delavayi the stems reach 3 ft. or more before the last flowers fade in early July. I. Grandiflora begins flowering almost at ground level and seldom exceeds 1ft. Old plants can be carefully divided, or plants may be from seed. They need well-drained soil and sun.


This is another genus with yellow daisy flowers. I. Barbata spreads fairly quickly, and bears 1 in. wide flowers many weeks from June onwards; I. hookeri is similar, but about twice as tall, at 2 to 2 ½ ft., with large flowers. ‘Golden Beauty’, 2 ft., is a neat plant flowering from June to September: I. ensifolia compacta, a most useful little plant for frontal positions, is long-lived and trouble-free. Though I. Orientalis grows only to 20 in. or so, the flowers are 3-4 in. across and finely rayed. All are easily increased by division.


The most popular irises, the germanicas, June-flowering flag irises, are available in a wide range of colours. There are others that help to spread the flowering season. I. Pumila, under 1 ft., is at its best in April and May, in shades of yellow, blue and white. I. Foetidissima, the wild Gladwyn iris, will grow in quite deep shade. One seldom notices it flower, but cannot fail to notice the vermilion seeds revealed in autumn as the pods open. There is an excellent variegated form as there is of the old I. Pallida-the ‘poor man’s orchid’ of cottage gardens. I. Sibirica is a moisture lover, and where suited will flower for four or five weeks. The growth is erect and rushy, with stems rising to 4 to 31 ft. in shades of blue and purple as well as white.

Kniphofia (red hot poker)

All kniphofias like a sunny open position, and the range is now so wide that the five months from June to October can be covered, while heights range from 11-6 ft. when in flower. The early variety ‘Atlanta’ makes massive broad-leaved plants with heavy red and yellow 3 ft. spikes. ‘Bee’s Sunset’, deep orange, ‘Gold-else’, ‘Springtime’, red and yellow, and K. tubergenii, light yellow, are all about 3 ft. and flower in June and August along with the salmon flushed ivory ‘Jenny Bloom’, and the white ‘Maid ofOrleans’ – ‘Bressingham Torch’ and ‘Bressingham Flame’, also flower at this time. For late flowering-August to October, there are some of majestic stature, such as the brilliant flame `Samuel’s Sensation’. Division is best deferred until spring, although September is safe for early flowering varieties.

Liatris (gay feather)

With erect or curving poker-like 3 ft. spikes of bright lilac purple flowers, these are showy, distinctive perennials. An unusual feature is that the fluffy flowers begin to open at the top of the stems, in contrast to nearly all spiky plants. The species L. callilepis is most often listed; L. spicata and L. pycnostachya are similar. Old plants are best dug up in the spring and rejuvenated by division and replanting in enriched soil.


These thrive best in good deep soil and should not be planted in dry, windy positions. L. chvorum and its varieties have very large leaves and upright stems, 3-4 ft. high, carrying dozens of deep yellow, daisy-like flowers from early July to late August. `Gregynog Gold’ grows 31 ft. tall; Desdemona’ has purplish leaves and deep yellow flowers 2-3 in. across. These are all good waterside plants, spectacular when at their best, but they droop quickly on hot windy days. L. przervalskii is one of the easiest; its deeply jagged leaves do not spread widely and the 4-5 ft. spikes are slender but erect. The black stems contrast well with the somewhat ragged yellow flowers which open close to the upper half of the spike. ‘The Rocket’ is even more attractive with brighter flowers. All will divide in autumn or spring.

Limonium (formerly Statice) (sea lavender)

The most reliable is L. latifoha which makes a large plant with a fair spread of shining green leaves and widely branching 2-3 ft. sprays of tiny blue flowers from July to September. For drying stems should be cut before the flowers begin to fade. The varieties ‘Blue Cloud’ and the deeper blue `Violetta’, have to be increased by root cuttings in spring. Plants do best in well-drained soil and open position.

Linum (flax)

The blue L. perenne, 1 ½ ft., seldom lives beyond two summers. L. narbonense, 20 in., is much longer lived in well-drained soil and where it is happy it is one of the finest of dwarf border plants. The flowers are richly blue, 1 in. across. L. dolomiticum, 18 in., a compact plant, has wide clusters of bright yellow rounded flowers in. across, from mid June to late August. L. campanulatum and L. flavum are similar.

Lupinus (lupin)

With new varieties coming on to the market each year, the choice must rest with the purchaser, as far as named varieties are concerned. Many people prefer to have the cheaper seedling plants, even if they turn out to be a mixture of colours. Lupins grow better in neutral or acid soil rather than alkaline soil.

Lychnis (catchfly)

L. chalcedonica, 2-3 ft., is a good perennial, with a head of small but intense red flowers from June to August. L. coronaria has silver-grey leaves and loose sprays of pink or carmine flowers for a long period. It grows best in a dry place. L. viscaria, 10 in., in the double form plena, has very bright pink flowers in June and July.

Lysimachia (loosestrife)

These are mainly moisture-loving plants, robust enough to grow in drier soils. L. clethroides has white flowers and is very attractive with curved spikes in late summer. The yellow loosestrife, punctata, is very showy, with 3 ft. spikes of bright yellow flowers from June to August. Plants expand quickly and have to be curbed, but when small pieces are replanted, flowering is more prolonged.

Lythrum (purple loosestrife)

These prefer moist soil. They flower freely from June to September. L. salicaria is taller and more robust than L. virgatum, and only named improvements of these wild types need be considered. Pirecandle’, 3 ft., has intense rosy red spikes, and ‘Robert’, 2 ½ ft., is a compact plant with clear pink flowers. L. virgatum ‘Rose Queen’, 2 ft., is light pink, ‘The Rocket’, 2 ½ ft., and has deeper, brighter flowers. All have a very tough woody root, but old plants will pull apart, and can be planted in autumn or spring.

Maeleaya (plume poppy)

These easily grown plants make strong spikes up to 6 ft., with powdered stems and pretty leaves, brownish beneath and bluish above, and large sprays of tiny flowers in late summer. In M. cordata the flowers are buff and it is an effective plant, by itself or against a dark background. M. macrocarpa has a wider branching flower spike, and the flowers are a brownish yellow; ‘Coral Plume’ is a slightly more colourful variation. The somewhat fleshy roots of macleayas tend to wander and shoot up among neighbouring plants. They will grow in quite dry soils and do not object to shade.

Meeonopsis (Himalayan blue poppy)

Few plants have achieved such an aura as M. betonicijaia (M. baileyi) with its 3 ft. spikes of 2 in. wide sky-blue flowers. It is easily grown from seed. M. chehdonifoha, 2 ½ ft., is easy and fully perennial; it has 2 in. wide yellow flowers from June to August. All meconopsis prefer light leafy soil and some shade.

Monarda (bergamot)

These are showy plants for the late June to September period. The flowers are of curious shape, having upward pointing petals, and come at the tips of the leafy stems which do not branch to any extent. These stems are however very profuse, and vary in height from 24-4 ft. according to soil and situation. They revel in deep moist soil, and form quite wide mats of surface growth where happy. Such spread may need curbing and it is often necessary to dig over the centre part of a group and fill back with vigorous pieces which have spread away, as an alternative to a complete replant in early spring. Bright colours are available in such named varieties as ‘Cambridge Scarlet’ and ‘Adam’, and the salmon red ‘Prairie Glow’. Troftway Pink’ and ‘Melissa’ are both good pinks and for purple there is ‘Prairie Night’. The leaves have a distinctive and not unpleasant odour.

Nepeta (catmint)

N. faassenii (syn. N. mussinii), gives a long succession of lavender-blue flowers on 1 ft. spikes, from grey-leaved plants, from June to September. Though adaptable to sun and partial shade, winter losses occur where drainage is poor. Division is best done in the spring. ‘Six Hill’s Giant’ has sprays up to 2 ft. tall. ‘Blue Beauty’ has erect, 20 in. spikes of larger violet-blue flowers.


There are several full perennial kinds that make a bright display with their big yellow cup-shaped flowers. O. cinaeus has bright leaves – buff, pink, purple-red in spring, fading to deep green as the loose sprays of rich yellow cups open. O. ‘Fireworks’, ft., is a deep yellow, with purplish-green leases, as is ‘Yellow River’, 2 ft., with green foliage, and these and the 2 ft. tall ‘Highlight’, can easily be divided in early spring. The most distinctive is the virtually prostrate O. missouriensis, which from July to October bears 4 in. light canary yellow flowers. This needs sun and good drainage and can only be increased by seed.

Paeonia (peony)

Among the longest lived of all perennials, paeonias should be planted with permanence in mind, space in which to expand in an open situation. They like a rich, deep soil and respond to mulching. Old plants can be divided, between August and October, carefully using a knife to separate the most vigorous chunks. Planting depth is important; the new buds should rest 1 in. below the surface. Varieties of the popular June-flowering Chinese peony (P. lactiflora) up to 3 ft. tall, have huge flowers in shades of pink, red and white, single, semi-double and double. Some are more fragrant than others. Consult a reliable catalogue for details of the numerous varieties. P. officinahsis the old cottage garden peony, 2 ft. tall, with very fragrant flowers, usually double, in red, crimson, pink and white.


For size of flower, P. orientalis, the Oriental poppy, can easily compete with paeonias. For brilliance of colour, they can excel them, but they are not so permanent. All flower from late May until late June. The most erect is the blood-red ‘Goliath’, 3 – 3 ½ ft., though the orange scarlet ‘Marcus Perry’ is nearly as erect. Other varieties include brownish-red, various shades of pink, also white. All like a very well-drained soil, not too rich. Their fleshy roots are brittle and any pieces left when old plants are dug out will sprout again. Propagation is by 3 in. long root cuttings in spring.


The showiest kinds are the least reliable as hardy perennials. Some are used as bedding plants by taking cuttings in late summer or autumn and keeping them under glass till planting out time in spring, when they quickly make bushy plants to flower from July to October. The trumpet-shaped flowers are borne on spikes up to 2 ½ ft. tall. In milder localities the deep crimson ‘Garnet’ and the blood-red ‘Firebird’ (P. schonholzeri) will usually survive for several years, as will ‘Pink Endurance’.


Among the brightest of border plants, phlox are happiest in light rather than heavy or alkaline soil. They should be divided eery three years, or propagated by root cuttings to avoid attacks by phlox eelvvorm. The newest introductions do not necessarily supersede older varieties, and recommendations include older kinds which have stood the test of time. The best dwarf white is still `Mia Ruya’ – ‘White Admiral’ at 3 ft. is taller. ‘Mother of Pearl’, 3 ft., is a vigorous, weatherproof pink suffused white; ‘Mies Copijn’ is soft pink and ‘Dodo Hanbury Forbes’ is somewhat deeper, with ‘Windsor’ a carmine-rose shade. ‘Endurance’, salmon-rose, ‘Brigadier:, orange-salmon; ‘Spitfire’ and the intensely bright ‘Prince of Orange’ should not be missed. The most reliable deep red is ‘Star-fire’, with ‘Tenor’ an early flowering blood red – ‘Aida’, ‘San Antonio’ and ‘Vintage Wine’ are in the magenta range, with ‘The King’, ‘Parma Violet’ and ‘Marlborough’ for violet purples. Lavender-blue shades include ‘Skylight’ and ‘Hampton Court’, while ‘Balmoral’ has a tinge of lilac.

Physalis (Cape gooseberry, Chinese lantern)

Though the showy orange seed bags of P. alkekengii, 1-2 ft., are excellent for floral decoration, as plants they are scarcely suitable among other perennials. The roots wander and the flowers are insignificant. Propagation by division is easy.

Physostegia (obedient plant)

These are good reliable perennials for any soil, with tapering spikes, flowering from July to September. P. speciosa, ‘Rose Bouquet’, 2 ft., has a profusion of light rosy-lilac flowers; dwarfer ‘Vivid’, deep pink, flowers later, but the roots wander so widely that it pays to dig them up every spring and replant them where they belong. P. virginica ‘Summer Snow’ and the deeper rose-pink ‘Summer Spire’, are both about 3 ft. Physostegias have a vigorous rootstock of spreading, whitish crowns, which tend to fall apart when dug up, and in moist or rich soil need curbing after two or three years.

Platycodon (balloon flower)

When the buds of P. grandiflorum expand, the petals are joined together to form a hollow globe of about walnut size, changing into a saucer-shaped, campanula-type flower. Platycodons have real merit – they are long lived, have fleshy roots, and need only well-drained soil.

Heights vary from the 1 ft. tall variety mariesi1 in shades of light blue, to the 2 ft. of the tallest kinds of P. grandifiorum in white, blue and very pale pink. Seed-raised plants are variable in colour, but old plants will divide.

Polemonium ( Jacob’s ladder)

Some of these are short lived and seed about to become a nuisance. More reliable and seldom setting seed is P. foliosissimum, 2 ½ – 3 ft., a good perennial with a much longer flowering period, from June till September, with heads of open petalled lavender-blue flowers. Polemoniums are not fussy plants, and when old can be divided to rejuvenate them, especially the dwarfer kinds, such as the light blue ‘Sapphire’, 15 in., flowering in May and June and ‘Blue Pearl’, 10 in., which also flowers for several weeks in May and June.

Polygonatunn (Solomon’s seal)

P. multi-forum and its forms, with arching sprays of green and white flowers, are best naturalized; they need cool soil for their tuberous roots to run and flower freely in June. They can be divided in autumn or spring.

Polygonum (knot-weed)

Most polygonums have poker-shaped spikes of tiny closely-set flowers. In the robust P. amplexicaule, the 4- 5 ft. spikes top a rounded dense bush of pointed leaves, at least 3 ft. in diameter. The dull red variety atrosanguineum and the lighter, brighter red ‘Firetail’ can be recommended for reliability and for a three-month flowering season. The 3 ft. stems of P. bistorta superbum carry 4 in. long pokers of a clear light pink in May and June. P. carneum has smaller but deeper pink spikes in June and July and sometimes well into August.

Potentilla (cinquefoil)

For rich colourings, long flowering -and reliability many of the potentillas rank highly. They are mostly dwarf plants, easily grown in ordinary soil and open positions, and all have green, grey or silvery strawberry-like foliage. P. atrosanguinea has silvery leaves, vigorous growth and sprays of bright red flowers, in. across.

‘Flamenco’, 2 ft., is similar, but with larger flowers and green leaves. Both flower from May to July, but from June to September the more prostrate but equally brilliant `Gibson’s Scarlet’, 18 in., takes over. Tiredance’, orange salmon, ‘Miss Willmott’, pink and the good semi-double flowered ‘Glory of Nancy’, orange or red, ‘William Rollison’, flame orange and ‘Yellow Queen’, all grow about 18 in. Potentillas can be divided in autumn or spring.

Pulmonaria (lungwort)

These adaptable spring-flowering plants can be used effectively in places one can more or less forget when summer comes. P. angustifolia aurea, has brilliant blue bell-shaped flowers from March to May; ‘Munstead Blue’ is a little dwarfer and flowers later. P. saccharata is much coarser, and this and the red-flowered ‘Bowles’s Red’, take up space with their large rough leaves. Of those with prettily white-spotted leaves, which are effective even when flowering is over ‘Pink Dawn’, 1 ft., is worth while, its flowers pink at first, fading to blue, to give at times a two-colour effect. All are easily propagated by division.

Pulsatilla (pasque flower)

P. vulgaris, gm in., is a deeply rooting plant, with grey-green ferny leaves, which in early spring sends up goblet-shaped flowers, surrounded by silvery gossamer calyces. Colours range from pale lavender to purple, and include white and ruby red, all with prominent golden stamens. The flowers are followed by prettily tufted seed heads. Seed, the only method of increase, must be sown when freshly gathered.


The brightly coloured daisy-type flowers of pyrethrums- are decorative from late May until July, but unless they have ample light and air space, they need supporting, even though they are mostly under 3 ft. high. Well-drained soil and sun are essential, and they prefer.alkaline soils. It is best to plant in spring and, other than in March and early April, old plants can be lifted and divided immediately after flowering. Named varieties include single and double flowered white, various shades of pink, as well as rich salmon and crimson. Cut plants back hard after flowering.

Rudbeckia (cone flower)

All the true perennial species are yellow, but their variations in form make all but the tallest of value. Tall kinds, varieties of R. laciniata include the well-known 5-6 ft. ‘Autumn Sun’. ‘Goldquelle’, however, grows without support to a shapely 3-4 ft., bearing fully double chrome-yellow flowers 3 in. across from July to October. R. deamii, 2 ½ ft., makes a wonderful show from August to October with its black-eyed, deep-yellow, black-centred flowers. The amazingly free `Goldsturm’, often begins in June or July and continues into autumn. No rudbeckias like to be in parched conditions and in good, reasonably moist soil will flower for much longer.

Salvia (sage)

The best hardy salvias flower from June to August. S.x superba makes erect stems, 3 ½ – 4 ft. tall, topped with slender spikes of tiny lipped flowers which attract bees and butterflies. ‘May Night’, about 20 in., ‘East Friesland’, 1-4 ft., both rather more compact and later, and `Lubeca’, 2 ½ ft., are all good varieties, long-lived, hardy and easy in any well-drained soil, easily increased by division or by basal cuttings in spring. S. haematodes is best grown from seed. In some gardens it will survive for years, while in others it may live for three or four years only. It is a showy plant, 3 ft. tall., with open branching spikes of light lavender blue in June and July.

Scabiosa (scabious)

S. caucasica is a firm favourite, splendid for cutting. The flowers are in shades of blue and violet and there are also good white varieties, all about 2 ft. tall, flowering from June to September. Scabious dislike wet, especially in winter and survive longest in well-drained alkaline soils. The open saucer-shaped flowers on wiry stems need to be cut or dead headed to encourage long flowering. They are best planted or divided in spring, but can also be raised from seed. S. graminifolia, 10 in. makes a compact mound of silvery, grassy leaves and gives a long succession of rounded pincushion heads of light lavender blue, from June to September; the variety ‘Pincushion’ has soft pink flower heads 1 in. across.

Sedum (butterfly or ice plant)

The taller herbaceous sedums include such well-established favourites as S. spectabihs, 1 – 1 ½ ft. tall, with wide heads densely packed with glistening pink flowers in late summer. The varieties ‘Brilliant’, ‘Carmen’ and ‘Meteor’ do not differ greatly from one another. ‘Autumn Joy’, 2 ft., is a sturdy plant with heads up to 12-15 in. across, opening light pink in September, changing slowly to salmon-rose. S. heterodontum, 9-12 in., is another easy, somewhat fleshy-rooted, compact plant with fuzzy heads of a burnt orange colour and bluish foliage. The yellow-flowered S. rhodiola, the rose root sedum, is of a similar dwarf bushy habit. Plants are easily divided.


These graceful, spike-forming plants have mallow-like flowers in shades of pink to rosy-red between June and September. They are easy to grow in full sun with good drainage, and can be divided in spring. ‘Mrs Alderson’, `Wm. Smith’ and ‘Rev. Page Roberts’, to 4 ft., and ‘Puck’, 2 ½ ft., have light pink flowers. Deeper shades are ‘Rose Queen’, ‘Wensleydale’ and ‘Croftway Red’, all 3-4 ft. After flowering the spikes should be cut back to promote new basal growth.

Solidago (golden rod)

Many solidagos are far too tall and invasive and any that grow over 4 ft. tall should be omitted. ‘Mimosa’ will reach 4 ft., but the compact plants do not seed about after the handsome yellow plumes have finished in September.

Those growing less than 4 ft. are worth having; the colour range varies from the deep yellow of ‘Golden Mosa’, ‘Golden Shower’ or ‘Golden Falls’ to the lighter shades of `Lemore’ and ‘Leslie’. All grow to 2 ½ – 3 ft. and flower between July and September. ‘Peter Pan’, 3 ft., is earlier and has horizontal branches to the crested plume; ‘Crown of Rays’, 2 ft., is very bushy in habit, while ‘Cloth of Gold’, 18 in., has a vigorous outward spread. The neatest growing dwarfs are the miniatures, ‘Queenie’ and ‘Golden Thumb’, which form bright, almost golden-leaved bushes 9-12 in. high, flowering from August to October. These better solidagos are best planted or divided in spring.


S. lanata (donkey’s ears), with its felted silvery leaves, is an easily grown mat-forming plant, bearing thin spikes of small pink flowers in June and July. It is a good ground cover plant in quite dry positions; there is a non-flowering variety ‘Silver Carpet’. S. macrantha, 2 ½ ft., is a charming plant with short spikes of rosy, purple-lipped flowers in June and July. S. spicata rosea has 2 ft. deep pink spikes, and in the variety densiflorum the flowers are closely packed on 15 in. stems. This is a showy plant, as is the sturdier 20 in. variety rohusta. All these stachys are easily divided in spring or autumn.

Thalictrurn (meadow rue)

Without exception thalictrums do best in rich soils and dislike drought. They all have pretty, tiny leaves. T. minus (syn. T. adiantifohum) is the easiest, but its 21- ft. sprays of buff-green flowers are by no means showy. T. angustifaium has the fuzzy yellow flower heads on strong 6 ft. stems from June to August, as does T. glaucum, 5 ft., with lien yellow fluffy heads and blue-grey leaves. The earliest to flower is T. aquilegifehum, 3-4 ft., with bluish-grey foliage on strong branched stems which carry fluffy flower heads in shades of mauve and purple in early June – there is a desirable pure white variety. T. dipterocarpum makes a much smaller rootstock but,makes a vast amount of top growth. This consists of small-leaved, much-branched 6 ft. stems which need support. It bears mauve-blue flowers from early July to September. ‘Hewitt’s Double’ is less vigorous and not so tall and needs rich moist soil to give of its best. Most species may be divided in spring.

Tradescantia (trinity flower, spiderwort)

T. virginiana has rushy leaves and stems up to 2 ft. carrying clustered heads of 3-petalled flowers up to 1 in. across in bright colours from June to August. Named varieties are available in white, light blue, mid and deep-blue as well as purple and magenta, and smaller flowered doubles exist as well. By August they may be looking tatty, and are best cut back. They grow in an ordinary soil in sunny or partially shady situations.

Trollius (globe flower)

Though not for hot dry positions, these can add much to the garden scene in early summer. The vital period when plants need moisture is after flowering and for the rest of the summer. Mulching with peat helps greadSr and cuts down the need for watering. The ‘globe’ effect appears just before the buds open. T. europaeus superbus, 2 ft., is a reliable light yellow – ‘Canary Bird’ is paler and larger flowered. `Goldquelle’ has large mid-yellow flowers, while ‘Orange Princess’ and ‘Fire-globe’ are deeper yellow shades. The 3 ft. T. ledehouri is distinctive. The petals open to reveal an upstanding crest of stamens of egg yolk colour. It flowers in June and July.

Verbascum (mullein)

Although some of the brightest of these are not fully perennial or long-lived, a collection of perennials needs such spike-forming plants to break up uniformity. The most reliable have the stoutest rootstocks, thick and fleshy or tap rooted. V. chairii (syn. V. vernak) is a good yellow. It has strong spikes 4-5 ft., which flower from June onwards. V. thapsilarme (syn. V. densiflorum), 4 ft., has similar -yellow flowers. `Gainsborough’, 3 ft., is a lighter yellow with woolly-grey foliage, but dislikes winter wet. The bushy 2 ft. ‘Golden Bush’ is distinctive, reliable and long flowering. ‘Pink Domino’, 3 ft., has deep rose flowers. Verbascums do not need rich soil and do best in sandy or stony soil with perfect drainage to enable them to survive the winter. Increase named varieties from root cuttings in early spring.

Veronica (speedwell)

This genus provides several good, easily grown plants. The varieties of V. tencrium are all blue and make a bright display in June and July. They include ‘Shirley Blue’, 1 ft., ‘Crater Lake Blue’, 15 in., ‘Royal Blue’, 18 in., ‘Blue Fountain’, 2 ft., all of mounded or bushy growth topped with short spikes. t..,gentianoides, 2 ft., light blue, is at its best in May. Spikes come from mat-forming plants. 1 spicata, 2 ft., bright blue, is also mat-forming, flowering in June and July. I. .cpicata incana, 15 in., has silver-grey leaves and violet-purple spikes. In the free-flowering ‘Sarabande’, the leaves are less silvery, as in the taller and less tidy ‘Wendy’. Pretty pink-flowered 18 in. varieties are ‘Barcarolle’ and ‘Minuet’. Evahata, 4 ft., light blue, is late flowering and sometimes needs support. This does not apply to the 4 ft. pale blue I. virginica, but both this and its pale pink variety rosea are soon oVer. By far the most attractive is the 5 ft. white-flowered tabu which flowers in August and September.

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