Gardening: Get fired up

HOT STUFF: Heleniums are one of the most vivid flowers of summer.
HOT STUFF: Heleniums are one of the most vivid flowers of summer.
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Some like it hot – from Californian poppies to red hot pokers, marigolds to African daisies, cannas to crocosmia, red and orange are the colours that help make a summer seem a million miles away from a dismal British winter.

Perennials with fire are becoming increasingly popular.

Just one or two can transform a bed or border; packed together, they can transform a garden.

And if there’s little room to grow, containers can become movable feasts of in-your-eye colour.

For real heat, a blazing, vibrancy you’ll never forget, heleniums are among the easiest to grow and longest-flowering.

Bees love them, using the flowers’ domed centres as landing pads from which to scour for nectar.

To keep heleniums under control, cut them back to about 30cm (1ft) tall in 
May. This not only reduces their final height but will also delay flowering by a week or two.

To propagate, divide established clumps every two or three years in spring.

Dividing in autumn isn’t such a good idea as the small plants produced tend to die during the winter.

And any gardener wanting more fire need not look far – montbretia is an old favourite whose sword-shaped leaves are topped by arching sprays of vivid orange-red blooms.

Want something even taller and more brilliant? Then go for crocosmia, best shown off as a herbaceous star when it is given the space to allow it to bask in the sun and produce its wonderful sword-shaped leaves and vibrant blooms.

One of the most striking is the vivid red ‘Lucifer’ which has proved so popular that it’s now probably the most grown variety of all. A stunner.

Still not warm enough?

Then plant Kniphofia triangularis, a red-hot poker that packs a punch with spikes of blazing red blooms on top of short(ish) narrow leaves.

Summer has never had it so good, and when the early trail-blazers have finished their flowering, it’s time for the likes of bergamot to make an entrance.

Monarda ‘Squaw’ produces clusters of spider-like red blooms and has the added attraction of aromatic foliage. Bees go wild for this plant.

Then there are roses, lilies, potentillas, primulas and a wonderful array of dahlias to welcome late summer.

Pride of place should go to ‘Bishop of Llandaff’, a paeony-flowered dahlia, 
a truly wonderful plant for the late 
border.

Get planting for a heatwave.

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