Temperatures have dropped, the days shortened, the light is mellow. Smoke fills the air as gardens and allotments become alive with the crackle of bonfires. Joanna Cruddas suggests the best plants to create a ‘fire’ garden.
Lamb’s Ears, Marigolds and Santolina
Image: Lamb's Ears
Clumps of soft, silver-leafed Stachys (Lamb’s Ears) and aromatic Santolina at the front of a border represent ash ideally.
They are also both evergreen and a perfect front for a bright border.
Gaillardia (Blanket Flower) offers a blaze of long-stalked yellow, orange or red daisy-like heads.
Flowering from early summer to late autumn, they make attractive cut flowers for the house.
Clumps of ornamental grasses create movement in any garden. Include Carex ‘testacea’ with its arching leaves and brown flower spikes.
Stipa grasses come in many varieties. Their graceful, slender leaves and golden flower heads are a perfect companion to Rudbeckia and Echinacea.
Can’t decide which to plant? Try long-flowering Echibeckia, a cross between the two with rich yellow, red and orange blooms.
Image: Dahlia Fire Pot via Fine Art America
Dahlia ‘Fire Pot” is a fairly new variety with a blend of pink and orange petals fading to yellow/gold in the centre of the flower.
This is an undeniably showy plant, and at around 3ft tall, it makes a fine plant for the centre of a border. If leaving in the ground all year, cover the tubers with several inches of straw or manure to protect from frost in winter.
Kniphofia (Red Hot Poker) ‘Ember Glow’ is relatively compact but lights up a garden with bright orange heads in late summer and autumn.
‘Rooperi’ is a taller, impressive variety suitable for further back in the border. These plants come from South Africa and are not completely hardy. Tie up the leaves in winter to protect from heavy frost.
Slugs and snails like to shelter under kniphofia and feed off the nectar it drips. Forewarned is forearmed!
Annuals are excellent fillers for gaps in a garden. Sunflowers are a must for height and picking. The ‘Russian Giant’ may grow to 10ft and the ‘Mongolian Giant’ to 14ft. They are naturals for the back of a border.
‘Helios Flame’ is eye-catching at around 5ft. Dwarf and bushy ‘Solar Flash’ is early flowering and makes an impressive container plant, producing gold and bronze flowers with chocolate centres.
All sunflowers are good cutting flowers.
Ring of fire
Helenium (Sneezeweed) can be annuals, biennials or perennials. They are clump-forming and produce abundant flowers in fiery colours over a long period.
‘Indianersommer’ is ideal for autumn flowering. ‘Ring of Fire’ is a natural for the fire garden.
Crocosmia comes in many shades and has graceful arching stems that sway in the wind. They look particularly good amongst ornamental grasses.
The orange florets of ‘Fire King’ mature to flaming red in high summer and are long lasting in a flower arrangement.
Schizostylis (Kaffir Lily) plants are adaptable and can be grown in drifts, but are also suitable as a single display in large containers.
Their orange-red and salmon pink flowers should keep the fire garden burning bright from late summer until it dies down at the end of the year.
Joanna Cruddas lives in London and gardens at her plot in Fulham Palace Meadows Allotments, on her balcony, and in her window boxes. She is the author of The Three-Year Allotment Notebook with photographs by Edwina Sassoon.