Dahlia: Glorious during mid-summer, dahlias sport a range of colours and flower forms including single, double, cactus, anemone and spiderlike. Larger dahlias are big garden plants and require staking to keep upright. More compact forms such as Titoki Point and Home Run form rounded plants 80cm high and are lovely in borders, pots and troughs. All are great cut flowers.
Grow it: Plant tubers in winter (after frost) to spring. Potted plants are available in spring and summer. Choose a sunny position and plant in well-drained soil. Protect taller plants from strong winds.
Bambino bougainvilleas: Small-growing ‘Bambino bougs’ flower just as prolifically as their sprawling big brothers, but are the perfect compact size for patio pots, balconies and courtyards. They grow up to 1.5m tall, so you can grow them as low hedges or trim into standards. There’s a flamboyant colour range, including deep reds, purples, white pink and coral, and some have variegated foliage.
Grow it: Bambino bougs grow best in full sun and well-drained soils. Once established, they are quite hardy and drought tolerant. Be mean with water and fertiliser and they will bloom more. Tip-prune spent flowers and trim back lightly after flowering to maintain shape.
Mandevilla: These well-behaved small climbers produce lots of tropicalstyle flowers right throughout the warmer months. With luxuriant evergreen foliage and a strong branching habit, they are ideal for covering fences but are equally happy trained on a trellis or single stake in a large pot. The versatile Sun Parasol series is made up of regular- and large-sized blooms in red, pink, crimson and white that are ideal for planting in pots or hanging baskets.
Grow it: Mandevilla love warmth and high humidity. Full sun or part shade is fine, and adequate watering especially if in pots. Prune to shape, and use liquid fertiliser monthly.
Agapanthus: This classic summer beauty, with its showy ball-shaped flowers that sit proudly above clumps of handsome strappy green foliage, looks stunning when planted en masse in garden beds, along driveways, borders or patio pots. Commonly found in blue-purple or white, they also come in different colours – check out Queen Mum, a bi-colour variety with shades of violet and white, or ‘Black Pantha’, which has striking deep purple blooms. Most aggies grow between 1-1.5m high, but if you are looking for a smaller option, consider ‘Snowflake’, which has white flowers and only grows 40cm tall.
Grow it: Plant in open sunny positions or in dappled shade and in well-drained soil. Once established, agapanthus can tolerate drought, humidity and mild frosts.
Gardenia: Fragrance is one of the great delights of a summer garden, and gardenia is the perfect option for it. Plant these bushy white flowering shrubs where they can set their fragrance adrift, near entertaining areas or entrances. Gardenias are fabulous in pots and their glossy green foliage makes them great for hedging too. There are also groundcover types and taller, larger flowered ones for picking.
Grow it: Plant in full sun to part shade in well-drained soils enriched with organic matter. Feed with a fertiliser that promotes flowering – they will love it!
Impatiens: Classic sun-loving beauties, impatiens will instantly brighten up any part of the garden. They are available in a range of bold colours, including coral, red, magenta, orange, pink, carmine and purple. If a part of your garden is constantly drenched in full sun, consider planting SunPatiens. This range of impatiens excels in full sun, producing an abundance of brilliant blooms from spring to winter. In areas that receive morning sun and afternoon shade, try the large flowering New Guinea Sonic impatiens series.
Grow it: These vigorous plants prefer fertile, well-drained soils with added organic matter. Use quality potting mix in baskets or containers. Apply liquid fertiliser fortnightly to promote flowering.
Verbena: For a long-lasting carpet of colour in vibrant red, blue, pink, purple and white, with a contrasting ‘eye’ of colour, go for verbena. They are fast growing, so are ideal for adding a quick explosion of colour to your garden. For a verbena with a difference, try Candy Cane - it has lovely large red and whitestriped flowers, and makes an eye-catching display in pots or hanging baskets.
Grow it: Plant in full sun and well-drained soil. Pinch out the old flowers regularly to encourage new blooms to grow.