Esther Schonenberg of Dutch nursery Festina Lente gives her advice on creating a long season of colour in the garden.


“Visit nurseries at different times of year,” she says. “Choose plants with a long flowering period. Plant annuals, dahlias, salvias and grasses to add interest throughout the year, and cut back early flowering plants to encourage a second flush.”

It’s a formula that brings spectacular results in the Festina Lente garden, where imposing stands of grasses – molinias, stipas and panicums – and statuesque perennialsveronicastrums, eupatoriums, Helianthus salicifolius and loosestrifes – form the backbone of the colour-themed plantings, with annuals, biennials and perennials swapped in to keep things interesting.

Once autumn-planted wallflowers have gone over in late May or early June, then eschscholzias or salvias might take their place. In August, the strong colours of dahlias and atriplex catch the eye, along with clouds of nicotiana and cosmos, with asters waiting in the wings to take over the display as they fade.

Ideas on late-summer planting combinations

Purple Haze

Similarly coloured plants of differing heights create movement. Both Veronicastrum virginicum ‘Fascination’ and Verbena bonariensis are tall and the first to catch the eye, while the mid-height, burgundy buttons of Sanguisorba ‘Beetlewings’ and pink spires of Agastache ‘Tutti-frutti’ lead the eye across the border. Lythrum salicaria ‘Morden Pink’ and the shapely leaves and pompom flowers of Ricinus communis add spikes and balls of colour.

Hot shots

This border offers a full-on sensory experience in fiery colours, including Eupatorium rugosum ‘Chocolate’, Hemerocallis ‘Burning Daylight’ , the glowing spears of Persicaria amplexicaulis ‘Firedance’ and one of Esther and Joke’s own dahlia selections, as yet unnamed . The smoky panicles of Pennisetum orientale ‘Karley Rose’ provide a softer counterpoint, and a muted backdrop, against which the neon-pink petals of Cosmos bipinnatus ‘Dazzler’ glow.


Festina Lente tuin
1st Avenue Mient 13,
2223 LG Katwijk,
the Netherlands.
Open 10 March to 13 October, Thursday to Saturday, 10am-5pm.


Natasha is a writer and editor who contributes regularly to publications including Gardens Illustrated, Elle Decoration and Country Life, among others. She also writes and produces illustrated maps and guides for garden lovers via her company, Finch Publishing.