Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Prairie Pizzazz; Perennials Perfect for Late-Blooming Borders

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Prairie Pizzazz; Perennials Perfect for Late-Blooming Borders

Article excerpt

Byline: Pattie Barron

AT THIS time of year, prairie perennials, planted in drifts, are what make a late summer border look sensational, taking it through to autumn with plenty of pizzazz.

It's not hard to emulate the prairie look if you have a large garden, but if your patch is small, restrict yourself to just a few plant varieties, or the prairie look will become the dolly mixture look.

One of the great features of this kind of planting long-stemmed flowering perennials in rich, fiery shades teamed with swishy ornamental grasses is the varied shapes and textures of the flowers themselves, such as the bobbly heads of sanguisorba, the large, flat discs of achillea and the fuzzy spikes of red-hot pokers.

Plant these contrasting silhouettes cheek by jowl and you get the most special of effects. Monarda Squaw, for instance, has the showiest of tufted, bright scarlet flowers, a bit like a cockatoo, and makes a great foil for the flat flowerheads of rusty-orange Terracotta, which has the bonus of very pretty fern-like foliage.

Like many prairie perennials, both of these plants form attractive seedheads, so don't cut them back until early spring.

If you've never grown grasses, add a Stipa tenussima into the mix and you will see what all the fuss is about silken, fluffy plumes that billow in the wind and shimmer with golden glints in the late-summer sun. All you need do is cut it right back in early spring.

Kniphofia Royal Standard is the classic red-hot poker in shades of red and yellow, but you could also plant a subtler-coloured, shorter kniphofia, such as Tetbury Torch, tinted a luscious apricot yellow. Both of these would complement the daisy-like flowers of velvety red Helenium Moerheim Beauty or my favourite, pure yellow Helenium Butterpat, with raised, golden-brown centres.

Prairie perennials will attract masses of bees and butterflies, but you could add to the busy buzzing by planting Sanguisorba officinalis Red Thunder, because the deep red, bobbly flowers atop the tall, slim stems resemble permanently hovering insects. …

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