Growbag Blog

10 favourite perennials for July colour

How much colour can you cope with in your summer perennial beds? Do you want dependable blocks of primary colours, something a bit more subtle, or total bling (yes you’ve guessed – Caroline).

This week we’re running through some of the plants that give each of us that colour-fix in July with a few tips on how to get the best out of them. As usual there are some differences of opinion along the way…

  • 1. Me first, and in the south, there are such OODLES of gorgeous things starting to bloom, that it’s quite hard to whittle down one’s choices to three or four.  My first vote goes to catmint (Nepeta).  What an honest, easy, obliging plant this is!  I’m sure my sisters will remember the waving aromatic clouds of catmint that seeded themselves around our Mum’s rockery when we were children – always in flower and always buzzing with bees and butterflies.  
An infant Caroline in front of Mum’s colourful rockery – slightly lost in black and white so you’ll have to use your imagination!

If you want later, slightly shorter flowers, you can cut down the stems by half in late May or early June (or just cut down a few of them for a REALLY long period of flowering). They are simplicity itself to propagate by division or cuttings.  There are lots of varieties about, though I don’t think there is much to beat the old ‘Six Hills Giant’.  I’m excited to have bought a new one though – Nepeta ‘Neptune’ – on a recent visit to the fabulous Hardy’s Plant Nursery, which has flowers of a rich deep blue.  Looks promising!

Wonderful catmint ‘Six Hills Giant’ – just the perfect plant for the sun and the pollinators

2. Next, my July garden would not be the same without daylilies (Hemerocallis).  Like catmint, they have no complicated requirements – just reasonable soil in reasonable sun and moisture is their modest ask – and they can stand their own ground in a crowded border – an essential virtue round here, I can tell you.  These blingy party-girls have a range of shades to suit almost any colour-scheme, too.

Day lilies – such stars of the July border!

3. If I’m allowed only one more choice, I think it’s got to be Anthemis.  These sweet little daisies fit themselves so prettily into the gaps in a sunny border or container.  They are another candidate for the ‘Chelsea Chop’ if you don’t want them to get too leggy.

Tithonia and Anthemis
Look at how this creamy-coloured Anthemis tinctoria planted is complementing the impact of Tithonia ‘Torch’.


Yes yes, Elaine, all jolly hockey sticks, and I’m sure they’re all great plants, but let’s look at some more refined choices for gardeners who, like me, are a little more discerning.

4. For example, I am going to choose the breathtakingly beautiful evening primrose, (Oenothera stricta ‘Sulphurea’) first. It has an ephemeral flowering at dawn and dusk which is both fragile-looking and luminous. The delicate fragrant blooms open at evening, and are still there to greet me in the morning, deflating gently by midday into crumpled orange crepe paper. It’s a daily little drama, represented below and in our feature picture this week

Oenothera stricta ‘Sulphurea’
The ephemeral beauty of Oenothera stricta ‘Sulphurea’ whose petals seem to actually glow in the dark.

5. Or cast your eyes downwards for a shot of rich purple from creeping thyme. They’ll need a baking spot where they can spread themselves and you can add to your collection year on year with pinks and whites á la Jekka Macvicar.

Creeping thyme
What a glorious rich purple this creeping thyme is. I’ve forgotten it’s name but the rock rose beside it is Helianthemum ‘Ben Heckla’ (like Elaine I’m trying to sneak in a few extra mentions)

6. For a middle storey plant I love bluestar (Amsonia orientalis) with its slate blue starry flowers, slug proof and easy to grow, it spreads gently to fill a space and in good years the foliage goes buttery yellow in the autumn. Very classy.

Amsonia orientalis
Amsonia orientalis gives a very satisfactory block of blue-grey for very little effort

7. My final choice is the delightfully understated (words never uttered my either of my sisters) perennial foxglove, Digitalis parviflora. Compact spires of chocolate coloured flowers against silver edged glossy leaves. Once the main spike has finished flowering you can trim it off and shorter side spikes will appear to carry on the flowering,

Digitalis parviflora
Digitalis parviflora – a very aristocratic colour palette of chocolate brown, silver and green, perfectly setting off the colouring of the little bumbles that love to visit

Runner beans

Er, one problem with my sisters’ choices – they were dull. Catmint? Very comforting but about as colourful as a wet weekend in Wales. Don’t worry, I think you’ll find yourself nodding in agreement for the first time now that you’ve got to my bit..

8. Argyranthemum – OMG, shopping for these is like going through Dulux colour swatches. If you remember to dead-head them they just go on and on and on. They do get a bit leggy after the first year but cuttings are, I’m told, as easy as falling off a log (gulp!).

This is Elaine looking smug about how easy argyranthemum cuttings are……………

I admit I may have over-blinged this year with ‘pink halo’. It IS a bit Kim Kardashian  x Love Island and it won’t come as a surprise to my snooty sisters that it’s now half price (Sarah Raven), but trust me – argyanthemums are the business for long-lasting summer colour.

Argyranthemum ‘Pink Halo’ – ooft that’s colour alright!

9. Alstromeria ‘Indian Summer’ – I don’t have enough hyperboles to describe these. Chocolately coloured foliage reaches a good height (2-3 feet) before giving way to exotic orange and red blooms in early summer and they simply don’t stop until late autumn (or until you’ve utterly refused to BBQ one more damned sausage – whichever happens last.)

Alstromera ‘Indian summer’ – resilient, dependable and vibrant. If only my siblings were similar…

10. Echinacea  – Now I thought they were a little tricky to grow but when I spotted this belter a couple of years ago I had to have it – guess what? Easy. (NB keep the slugs off them when they pop through each year. To be fair, Elaine’s tip in our newsletter this weekend worked a treat for me). The range of colours has exploded in recent years and with names like ‘Sunseeker’s Rainbow’ and ‘Delicious Candy’ I think we can have them to ourselves – I can’t see old my dear old ‘hinge and bracket’ sisters getting down with these new kids on the block!

My Echinacea’s name ‘Cheyenne Spirit’ – prompted silent pursed lips from Laura – but what a colour!

OK so those are our top 10 – what would be in yours?

PS: Wasn’t I a simply adorable baby?

NB Louises plant of the moment has several different shades of colour in each pretty flower. Click on the box below to find out what it is.

More NB: If you’re not already a subscriber and you’d like a bit more gardening chitchat from the3growbags, please type your email address here and we’ll send you a new post every Saturday morning.

By the3growbags

We're three sisters who love gardening, plants and even the science of horticulture but we're not all experts. We'd love everyone even remotely interested in their gardens to be part of our blogsite.

7 replies on “10 favourite perennials for July colour”

Oh – you three battle-axes … behave! I loved most of your choices but, put them ALL together in a large(ish) garden, WOW! Enjoy your summer, girls. And Caroline, that photo of you was beautiful but the one of you as a baby – s w o o n
he he he x

Oh Scott you’re so encouraging! Caroline here and although modesty almost forbids me, you could be onto something. I think my adorable looks as a baby (which continue to this day of course) have always been a source of jealousy for Laura and Elaine. It explains a lot! Wishing you, also, the most marvellous summer Scott and thank you for all the support you give us X

Echinacea Cheyenne Spirit!!! Wow…Wow what a colour and fabulous capture too….I do use Phlox and Monarda for splashes of colour and Heleniums and of course Rudbeckia good old faithfuls….
Such a pretty baby !

Angela it’s the adorable baby here, Caroline, (my sisters keep asking ‘what happened? it all went downhill after toddler-hood!) I’m so pleased you liked my ‘Cheyenne Spirit’ It’s a belter isn’t it! You’re so right about heleniums and rudbeckias – nothing says ‘high summer’ better than these superstars. I wish I had some to look forward to in my new garden – next year for sure. Thank you so much for your comments and very best wishes to you as always X

I have creeping thyme that looks identical to yours, Laura. It seeds itself everywhere, even in the most unlikely places and is beloved by the bees. I bought it from Billy C., our mutual friend, many years ago. It was named simply as Thymus prostratus. I love the Alstroemeria ‘Indian Summer’. It is about to flower, a donation from my kind neighbour, Colin. Loved the photo of you Caroline, I agree, you were a lovely baby. I confess that I can’t see any rocks if it was taken in front of your mum’s Rock Garden! Hope you are all keeping well.

Sally how lovely to see your comment pop up. Caroline here so you know only too well that the innocent beauty of my babyhood soon evaporated (probably through defending myself against my siblings!). It’s good to hear of your experiences of some of the plants we mentioned last week. I also have creeping thyme and of course that alstroemeria (so pleased you have a lovely neighbour), but both are newly planted in my Highland garden and haven’t flowered yet this year. I’ve been thinking of you this summer – has the Caley Horticultural Society trip to Norfolk passed? Im so envious – I’d have LOVED to join. Best wishes to you x

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