Top 25 plants to grow in summer

Val Bourne
Best plants for summer-time - including the paeonia lactiflora - GAP Photos

Summer is the only time you can host barbecues in the garden and say "Oh, it's really nothing" when your friends compliment you on your gorgeous borders. Internally, of course, you'll be glowing like a geranium with pride. 

It's the season where the weather turns warmer, sunlight levels are at their highest, and blooms pop with colour in response. Yellows, pale pinks and azure blues mix with impressive foliage at that time of year.

But with so many potential shrubs to plant for summer time, we can get garden FOMO. Whether you are new to gardening or just want a change from planting the same seeds every year, this is Val Bourne's shortlist of the 25 best plants to take prime position in your garden this summer.  

1. Allium 'Purple Sensation' (Allium hollandicum)

May-flowering allium with truly purple globular heads, forms a strong vertical and best follow-up act for tulips. Easy (Optimum height: 1m/3ft).

2. Rose 'Goldfinch'

Almost-thornless rambler, flowers once a year with clusters of apricot fading to clotted cream. Fence, wall or pergola (4m/13ft).

3. Carthusian Pink (Dianthus carthusianorum)

More a stylish sweet William than a pink, with willowy stems crowned by dark pointed buds that open in sequence to reveal fringed magenta flowers. Sun (40cm/16in).

4. Catmint 'Six Hills Giant' (Nepeta)

Credit: Martin Pope

A simple catmint, but the sea of blue billows through the garden like a wave. Cut back to encourage more. Sun (90cm/3ft).

5. Mexican fleabane (Erigeron karvinskianus)

Self-seeder for steps, cracks and crevices, produces a tiny blush-pink and white daisies from spring to November. Easy (20cm/8in).

6. Masterwort (Astrantia major 'Roma')

Exceptionally long flowering season; the candy-pink petals surrounding the brighter pink pincushion have tasteful green tips. Part sun, moist soil (60cm/2ft).

7. Oriental poppy 'Karine' (Papaver orientale)

This shallow-cupped, pale pink oriental poppy has a beetroot centre to each smallish flower. Sun, good drainage (70cm/28in).

8. Rose 'Madame Alfred Carrière'

Blush-white, noisette climber that repeats until late in the year. Olive-green foliage, thrives on north-facing walls. Good soil (5m/16ft).

9. Clematis 'Perle d'Azur'

Credit: Andrew Crowley

Rounded azure-blue flowers set against mid-green foliage from late summer until early autumn. Cut back hard in spring. Protect roots from full sun (3m/10ft).

10. Milky bellflower 'Prichard's Variety' (Campanula lactiflora)

Purple-blue bells held on dark stems, willing to repeat if deadheaded. Sun or part sun (75cm/30in).

11. Marguerite Daisy 'Susanna Mitchell' (Anthemis)

Sheer flower power, with masses of lax pale yellow daisies floating above silver filigree foliage. Sun (45cm/18in).

12. Penstemon 'Andenken an Friedrich Hahn' (syn. 'Garnet')

The most enduring penstemon, with spires of wine-red flowers for months. Drought-resistant and great with silvers. Full sun, good drainage (90cm/3ft).

13. Geranium Rozanne ('Gerwat')

A wide sprawler with white-eyed, soft blue saucers from May until late, plus good mottled foliage. Sun or part sun (60cm/2ft).

14. Peony 'Festiva Maxima' (Paeonia lactiflora)

Credit: J S Sira/GAP Photos

Full and fragrant with creamy white double flowers subtly splashed in rose red - perfect among pink, magenta and deep purple roses. Good soil (1m/3ft).

15. Geranium Patricia ('Brempat')

Black-eyed, magenta-pink geranium with abundant flower power. Weave among blue veronicas. Sun or part sun (75cm/30in).

16. Shrubby hare's ear (Bupleurum fruticosum)

A shrubby umbellifera covered with flat heads of lime-green flowers and evergreen leaves. Well-drained soil and some sun (2.5m/8ft).

17. Miss Willmott's ghost (Eryngium giganteum)

This biennial sea holly dazzles like no other with its branching framework of silvered stems, jagged bracts and thimbles. Sun (90cm/3ft).

18. Buddleia 'Pink Delight'

A recent discovery, this compact, fragrant butterfly bush has pink flowers and silver foliage. Sun or part sun (1.75m/6ft).

19. Golden oats (Stipa gigantea)

An atmospheric oat grass that creates a shimmering golden fountain in summer sun every time it trembles. Sun, good drainage (2m/3ft).

20. Foxglove 'Sutton's Apricot' (Digitalis purpurea)

Foxgloves

Spires are essential and this apricot biennial foxglove will reach up to heaven. Good against stone. Semi-shade (1.6m/5ft).

21. Clematis 'Purpurea Plena Elegans'

This dusky magenta clematis with Elizabethan provenance produces double flowers in late summer. Prune hard in spring. Good soil (3m/10ft).

22. Clematis 'Etoile Violette'

Gappy purple flowers with golden stamens. Classy follow-up to once-only roses. Prune hard in spring. Good soil (4m/13ft).

23. Lavender 'Imperial Gem' (Lavandula angustifolia)

A chunky, deep purple English lavender with silver foliage, suitable for hedging. Trim hard in August. Full sun, good drainage (60cm/2ft).

24. Macedonian scabious (Knautia macedonica)

This branching wine-red scabious insists on throwing out more button flowers all summer long, adding vibrant summer highlights. Drought-tolerant (80cm/30in).

25. Rose 'Buff Beauty'

Large hybrid musk rose with graceful, arching branches covered in fragrant, soft apricot blooms. Bronze foliage. Accommodating (2m/6ft).

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