Show stoppers: Alan Titchmarsh on growing summer perennials | Garden | Life & Style

For a great summer garden to relax in and enjoy, you need a quality, low-maintenance design packed with plenty of features and facilities. But the full effect relies on the plants.

I like to create a balance between real troupers, such as annuals and roses that are guaranteed to bloom their socks off all season and glamour girls that introduce a series of spectacular, short-term highlights.

Colour, scent and wow factor are what the summer garden is about.

Ultimate summer perennials

Delphiniums

These are elegant perennials topped with spires of star-shaped flowers in Oxford or Cambridge blue, white or mauve in June and July. 

They need looking after, as slugs and snails love them, and serious staking is needed to stop the stems bending. But delphiniums offer a great indulgence. They grow 5ft or 6ft (1½ metre) tall in well-drained, rich soil and a sheltered, sunny spot.

Lilies

For big, glamorous flowers between June and September, go for these hardy bulbs which are left in the ground and treated like perennials.

Some are heavily scented – pure Edwardian flower garden – and a well-drained, humus-rich soil is vital. Many lilies need lime-free ground and look out for slugs, snails and bright, red lily beetles.

My favourites include tiger lily (Lilium tigrinum) with its reflexed orange flowers and black spots, and Madonna lily (Lilium candidum) which has large, white trumpet flowers. They like neutral or slightly chalky soil.

Agapanthus

This is an exotic-looking, fat-rooted plant with strappy leaves and huge, globular heads of blue trumpet flowers. Headbourne hybrids are the most reliable variety for our climate, flowering from July to September. 

They need a warm, sheltered, sunny spot, look good in large containers and are also pest-free. 

Sedum spectabile

Several improved varieties of this classic ice plant are now available.The large, flattish flowers in various shades of pink attract hordes of butterflies in late summer and early autumn. 

Especially stunning is…

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