Gardeners can now grow a huge range of perennials. Here are five of the best classic perennials for summer, all recipients of the Award of Garden Merit. Few garden styles are as romantic and welcoming as the English cottage garden. To create this look, you'll need to choose plants that grow through and around each other, as though they have been growing together for years. Although the overall effect is one of casual abandon, English cottage gardens require careful curtain if you don't want to end up with chaos. Here are some top picks for achieving an English garden look.
Perennial salvias come in a wide variety of styles, but the short and prolific summer flowering types such as 'Amethyst' are easy and invaluable. The stems branch out well from the base and the long spikes of the flowers open from June, keep on coming until October and retain their purple colouring even after the individual florets have dropped. Prolific in any sunny place with well-drained fertile soil. 60cm (2ft).
More than 60 years old and still growing strong, its colour - vivid carmine with a darker eye – and its reliability ensure it still holds its own alongside the many other varieties that have been introduced since. Shorter than many and may not need support. Happy in any fertile soil and best in a little shade, though happy in full sun as long as the soil never dries out completely. 60cm (2ft)
Oriental poppies come both in brash, vivid colours and delicate pastel shades, and the soft pink of 'Karine', enlivened by a rather variable reddish basal zone, is a lovely May/June partner for tall bearded irises. Best with discreet support to prevent rain knocking them over, the foliage turns ragged after flowering but Cosmos planted nearby will expand out to hide it. Happy in sun and in most good soils. 60-70cm (24-28in)
Shasta daisies were once little more than monster versions of the roadside ox-eye daisies, but 'Aglaia' is emblematic of a more intriguing style. Its impressively frilly flowers have each slender petal prettily dissected at the tip. They open from June to September on relatively neat and bushy plants. Happy in full sun and any reasonable soil, usually needs discreet support. 50cm (20in).
Impressive vertical spikes of golden orange flowers from May to July, becoming brighter and then yellow as they age, and are held on harmoniously coppery green stems. The flower heads look a little disorganised but are bright and prolific. Happiest in deep, rich soil in full sun, and with good winter drainage. Named after the Bees Nursery, which financed the plant-hunting trips of George Forrest and Frank Kingdon-Ward. 75-120cm (30-48in).