Zinnias are back in fashion and there are many new cultivars and hybrids. Some arc tall, others small and neat. They have single, double and even cactus-type flowers in colours you’ll find in a Persian carpet. Height: 15-90cm.
GROWING TIPS: Plant them in full sun. They’ll tolerate dry periods and heat. Don’t plant them too close together to reduce possible outbreaks of mildew. Deadhead regularly.
PROPAGATION: Grow them from seed.
MAKE THE MOST OF THEM: In borders and flower beds: use the smaller cultivars as edging or in containers and window boxes.
GOOD COMPANIONS: Agastache, sunflowers, cosmos, penstemon and bedding dahlias.
This dainty, indigenous spreading perennial, with its abundant upright spikes of orchid-like flowers, has many cultivars and now comes in colours like strawberry, coral, apricot and red. Height: 35em.
GROWING TIPS: A sunny position in well-drained, fertile soil is best. Deadhead to stimulate reflowering, removing only the flower heads. Don’t overwater during hot spells in summer.
PROPAGATION: Buy pot-grown plants from the nursery.
MAKE THE MOST OF THEM: As a filler in garden beds and in rockeries (they love growing tucked in between rocks), in window boxes, hanging baskets and containers.
GOOD COMPANIONS: Verbena, ivy-leafed pelargoniums, sun-tolerant coleus and portulaca.
Helenium autumnale(Common Sneezeweed)
There’s nothing common about these stunning, free-flowering herbaceous perennials. They’re covered in brilliant red, yellow, orange, gold and bronze flowers for 8-12 weeks from late summer into autumn. They make good cut flowers. Height: 1 – 1.3m.
GROWING TIPS: Plant them in full sun in rich well-drained but most earth; they want a regular supply of water. They’re freeze-tolerant, bushy, compact plants that don’t need support. Deadhead consistently and cut them back in February or January change flowering.
PROPAGATION: Grow them from seed or division in spring and autumn.
MAKE THE MOST OF THEM: Ideal for autumn borders, they add colour to meadow and cottage gardens, wild grass gardens and naturalised areas or in seasonally damp places.
GOOD COMPANIONS: Phygelius spp. (river bells) and Lobelia cardinalis which have an upright growth habit. Grey Juncus edge for a foliage contrast, heuchera, for their colourful leaves, and ornamental grasses.
The mix of colours of these compact, shrubby chilli bushes is simply glorious and adds a totally new dimension to autumn planting combinations. “Although edible, they’re grown mainly as an ornamental. I’ve tasted one and would say it’s slightly hotter than a jalapeino,” says Grant Muller of Seeds for Africa.
GROWING TIPS: Plant them in full sun in fertile well-composted soil. They tolerate high temperatures, but they’re tender, so treat them as an annual in frost zones.
PROPAGATION: They grow quickly and easily from seed.
MAKE THE MOST OF THEM: In pots, window boxes and containers on a sunny patio or as a feature plant in a rockery or in the border of a flower bed.
GOOD COMPANIONS: Strawflowers, portulaca and torenia, Bidens ‘Yellow’ groundcover, cosmos and the Osteospermum Flower Power series.
The flowers of the new cultivars are held both in size and form and come in shades of yellow, orange, red, pink and cream. The prominent cones in the centre of each flower make a welcome addition to the winter garden. Height: 60cm.
GROWING TIPS: Coneflowers love sun, but will tolerate some shade and like well-drained, but water-retentive soil. They’re frost hardy and can take periodic dry spells. Don’t overfeed and keep them well mulched. Although deadheading prolongs flowering, leave some flowers on the plants in late autumn to produce seed heads for winter interest.
PROPAGATION: From seed: don’t cover, just press into the soil. Dividing clusters have a rejuvenating effect.
MAKE THE MOST OF THEM: Use bold clumps to make a statement in beds and herbaceous borders. They also look good in Mediterranean landscapes, meadow, grass and wild gardens, especially with ornamental grasses.
GOOD COMPANIONS: Team coneflowers with flat-topped achilleas, tall goldenrod, the new dig Alexis hybrids, vetbascums, late-summer annuals like petunias, bold daylilies in complementary colours and foliage plants like Nandina Domestica ‘Pygmaea’.