There is one little cheat’s trick that will instantly revive a tired September garden: Go out and edge the lawn, if you have one, and then take hand fork and loosen the soil at the very front of your borders and winkle out any young weed seedlings or wisps of stray grass that have wandered in there. I have just been grubbing around outside myself (I have been writing books this summer rather than gardening, and things have got away from me a bit) and the transformation is amazing. Coupled with a bit of snipping and tweaking here and there, and the garden will stagger on quite attractively for another month before the big Clear Up starts in earnest in October.
I am often asked how you make a garden ‘last’ longer – most people are very good at planting spring bulbs and high-summer show-off plants, but fail to leave room for flowers that look their best in August and September. If its blowsy colour you are after make space next year for a generous clump of lovely lofty, pleated daisies with ferny foliage – Cosmos bipinnatus – the tall ones not the boring dumpy ones called ‘Sonata’. You can grow them from seed in individual pots on a windowsill – but don’t sow them till May since they germinate quickly. They will flower in profusion from late July until the frosts. Many perennials cut back in July put on an extra show in late summer, and my Hybrid Musk roses (‘Penelope’ and ‘Buff Beauty’) are now coming back into flower, too. Still looking quite smart in my borders is a hunky, late flowering Phlox (P. paniculata ‘David’), a blue Aster frikatii ‘Monch’ and a huge white single Shasta daisy (Leucanthemum maximum). Other asters – ‘Little Carlow’ and ‘Harrington Pink’ will show up in a few week’s time, and all the while deep yellow, black-eyed Rudbeckia ‘Goldsturm’ glows on and on.