Great August Alternatives

August can be the most spectacular time of the year with the typical herbaceous border at its best while tender perennials and bedding plants are well on their way to their peak. Yet, woodland gardens, bog gardens, shady areas and many other less typical situations can be quite tricky to get right in midsummer. There are some more unusual plants though that can make August an interesting time of the year in these areas too. It‘s also good to try something different, there are so many exciting plants out there that may not be on everyone’s ‘radar’.

Hibiscus trionum

This mid to late summer annual is a bit of a discovery for us at Aberglasney and has been a visitor favourite. Generally as long as it has some sun it seems to do fine in any conditions. The large white flowers with dark centres are quite spectacular and there is little else like it. We sow seeds in March and plant out in June and mix it into herbaceous borders that are in need of a little more colour. What is particularly handy is that you can collect the seeds from the plants and use them again. Hibiscus trionum also works in pots and planters.

  • Height = 70cm
  • Spread = 50cm
  • Position/Aspect = any sunny
  • Soil = any free draining
  • Pest and diseases = slugs on small plants but not a serious problem
  • Style = herbaceous, cottage, tropical, potted, planters, rock garden

Anaphalis triplinervis

We have grown this plant for a long time and it is something of an unsung hero in the garden. It is one of the easiest plants to grow but also one of the best behaved. The wonderful silver foliage is set off by masses of creamy white flowers from July to November. The flowers are excellent for drying but also last well on the plant. We find this plant extra useful as it is one of the few silver leaved plants that cope with wet ground. Some clumps that we grow have been there for fifteen years and have received little or no attention other than the usual autumn cut back.

  • Height = 50cm
  • Spread = 50cm
  • Position/Aspect = Dry shade to sunny spots and everything in between
  • Soil = any except water logged
  • Pest and diseases = no problems
  • Style = herb border, cutting garden, herbaceous border, cottage garden, rock garden

Astilbe chinensis var taquetii

This plant is similar in appearance to the common Astilbe but much more vigorous and definitely not for a small spot or the faint hearted. Although it’s a thug it can be really useful, the mauve plums last from July to November and look fantastic. It makes superb ground cover and the foliage is nicely divided. It is useful as ground cover under shrubs too or to fill boggy ground but definitely not for a small border. We use it between Gunnera and large trees and shrubs to completely cover the ground. In the autumn you can even cut it back with a strimmer and it does it no harm at all.

  • Height = 1m
  • Spread = 2-5m (it spreads quickly)
  • Position/Aspect = Sun or shade in the wet or for a less vigorous plant grow in dry conditions
  • Soil = Any
  • Pest and diseases = No problems
  • Style = Woodland, low maintenance, bog garden, shrub border, mixed border or to fill awkward pieces of ground that are not gardened