Sustainable gardening: 5 tips to grow exquisite summer flowers
There are so many beautiful flowers that can grace your UK garden in the summer. But where do you start? And how do you avoid the ‘fast fashion’ trend of just buying whatever looks good in the garden centre?
From summer flowering bulbs to reliable shrubs, check out our suggestions to create a season of blooms in June, July and August.
5. Sun worshipper or giving shade?
Just like people, summer flowers thrive if they’re in the right place. If you’ve been to a party where you felt out of place, you probably didn’t stick around long. But plants don’t have the option to uproot themselves. Literally. So it’s up to us plant parents to pick the right spot!
Get your bearings
South-facing spots enjoy sunshine most of the day. Whereas north-facing areas are in the shade. East-facing beds get morning sunshine. And west-facing locations watch the sun go down in the summer.
Here are some suggestions for different locations:
Top summer flowering plants for sun-bathed areas – south and west
- Agapanthus – they come from South Africa, so love heat.
- Bearded irises – these are the ultimate sunworshippers from the Med and the Middle East.
- Lavender – ah, the waft of lavender on a warm summer’s day! Plant different varieties for flowers all summer long.
- Pelargoniums – often mistakenly called ‘geraniums’. But we mean the red, pink or yellow flowers you see in terracotta pots in the Mediterranean.
- Verbena – in shades of purple, pink, white and even red, these flowers can last into the autumn.
Exquisite summer flowers plants for early rising east-facing areas
- Astilbe – have a boggy area? These frothy flowers love a little shade!
- Honeysuckle – for stunning flowers, scent and the buzz of pollinators, this climber is a fantastic choice.
- Impatiens aka Busy Lizzies – also good in full sun.
- Meconopsis aka the blue Himalayan poppy – notoriously tricky to grow, but stunning if you manage it! You’ll need a moist, acidic soil.
- Nicotiana sylvestris – this woodland tobacco plant variety prefers partial shade.
Best summer flowers for shady spots – north
- Begonias – great in shade or sun, these cute flowers bring a welcome pop of colour.
- Dicentras or ‘bleeding hearts’ – some are just around in late spring and early summer. Others will bloom throughout the summer.
- Forget-me-nots – for rivers of blue flowers between your spring bulbs, you really can’t beat the humble forget-me-not.
- Fuschias – these tropical-looking blooms thrive in sheltered spots.
- Hostas – yes, they’re known for their green leaves, but they also produce a flower spike of white, pink or lilac flowers in the summer.
4. Success through succession
Don’t worry, this is nothing to do with the fiendish Roy family of Succession! Instead it’s about planning what will flower in the summer months of June, July and August.
Head to your gallery
The weather can speed up or slow down when summer flowers bloom. And every garden has its own microclimate.
However if you’ve been gardening a while, you’ve no doubt snapped a fair few photos. So take a minute to scroll through your phone’s gallery, and note the date when certain flowers were in bloom. You can then start planning how they can ‘pass the baton’ between each other.
Succession planting example
One of our Coco and Coir team members plants the following ‘recipe’ for a rota of tall plants blooming all summer long. As one flower species fades, the next one is waiting in the wings to take centre stage:
- Alliums – flowering in May and June
- Foxgloves – for colour in mid-June
- Agapanthus – flower July/August
- Asters – start flowering late August and into September
Want to see a famous example of succession planting? The garden at Great Dixter in Sussex, UK is the ultimate masterclass!
3. Boomerang flowers
Want flowers that keep coming back? For truly sustainable summer gardening, it makes sense to opt for plants that last. Look out for these terms:
Annuals: mean that the plant flowers just once, then dies. Poppies are a good example of an annual. If you scatter their seeds, they may return, but a hard winter might stop the cycle.
Perennials: a perennial plant repeat flowers at least three or four years in a row, and sometimes forever. Think roses or hydrangeas.
Bi-perennials: such as native foxgloves spend a year growing, and then flower the year after that, before dying back completely.
There are lots of perennial summer plants out there. Here’s a round-up of some blooming good ones:
- Perennial summer flowers
- Achillea aka yarrow – provides the perfect landing pads for pollinators. It will die back to bare earth in the winter, so don’t plant over it!
- Echinacea – or cone flower – yep, it’s not just an anti-inflammatory immune buster in the health food aisle.
- Eryngiums or sea holly – for a modern twist on a cottage garden look, add these spiky blue stars.
- Scabious – these pin-cushion shaped flowers are beloved by bees. Just pick a perennial variety.
Perennial summer flowering bulbs
We say ‘bulb’, you say what? Daffodil? Tulip? But there are so many beautiful summer bulbs you can plant, which will come back year after year:
- Allium – best known for purple pom pom effect, they also come in blues and whites. Mix up the varieties to get a longer flush of colour.
- Crocosmia – once established, this will come back year after year.
- Dahlia – gorgeous but they can rot in the winter, so either dig them up and store somewhere dry. Or try apply lots of mulch to protect them from winter frost and snow.
- Gladiolus – if the Chelsea Flower Show is anything to go by, these are coming back into fashion. But if you’re not ready for the full ‘Dame Edna’ effect, there are mini-gladiola varieties too!
- Sparaxis aka Harlequin Flower – if you’re in a sheltered spot, these bright star-shaped flowers really stand out.
Pro tip: after a bulb has flowered, don’t be tempted to tidy back the foliage. The leaves and even the stalk are soaking up the sun. This gets converted into energy to fuel next year’s flowers growing inside the bulb.
2. Nothing seedy about the next generation
Buying young plants and seedlings may be convenient. But it means you’re paying someone else to raise the plants. There’s also the plastic involved, as well as the carbon footprint of transporting the plants to you.
If you want to stretch your gardening boundaries, why not try growing plants from seed? You don’t even have to buy seeds in packets. There are lots of Seed Swap events across the UK. Google your area or check out the list on Garden Organic.
1. Tender loving care
In hot summers, it’s a good idea to mulch your plants after a good watering. This keeps moisture in, leading to healthier and larger plants.
Our peat-free mulch is much loved by plants and hated by slugs and snails! Made from coconut coir husks, it enriches the soil as it slowly degrades.
Tips from our online advice library
On the lookout for more tips and hints? Our blogs are packed with advice:
Show off your summer blooms!
Have any piccies of your garden’s summer flowers? Do post your pictures and tag @cocoandcoir on Instagram. We’ll credit you for any images we use and you’ll also be in with a chance to win some Coco & Coir goodies for your sustainable garden.