On your marks: The summer Olympians of the plant world are under starter's orders

 

The Tour de France is over and the Olympics finally under way, so now we can spend the next three weeks gasping, 'She ran it how fast? HOW FAST?' and doing some mental arithmetic about the 20 minutes later we'd have finished.

And the Olympians of the human race have leafy counterparts: an elite group of plants so much bigger, stronger and more spectacular than all others that it's hard to believe they actually arise from the same basic genetic material.

Flowering right now, Crocosmia "Lucifer" makes a scorching display every year; and even in this most disappointing of summers, it is lighting the whole garden on its own. I saw a wonderful stand of it at Heathrow the other day, a blaze of orange across the greyest of skies. "Lucifer" has satanic powers of growth: it's about 1ft taller than other crocosmia and spreads through flower beds with an insouciance suggestive of either terrifying, medal-winning levels of self-belief or behind-the-scenes drug-taking.

Another titan of the August garden is agapanthus, which lifts strong, vivid-blue heads on unfeasibly tall stems to give England a touch of wild Africa. All agapanthus are great garden plants, but just occasionally you meet one that actually makes you stop and stare. And wonder when they last had a randomised blood-doping test. You need to pick exactly the right variety for that jaw-dropping effect, though: try "Northern Star" for a blue giant, "Snow Cloud" for a white.

Red-hot pokers are another sure-fire gong winner, though you need to give them room for a five-star performance, because their strappy leaves do spread out a bit. The bog-standard red-hot poker comes in a violent Tequila Sunrise cocktail-coloured combo of orange bleeding into yellow, but they are more likely to incur gawping if you pick a non-traditional shade. The acid-yellow of "Bees Lemon", and the cycling-vest tones of "Green Jade" are both to be highly recommended. Both trevenacross nurseries.co.uk and burncoose.co.uk have excellent lists for all these plants.

Behind the main contenders should be huge teams working away in support of dramatic spectacle, contributing their own bright colours and sturdy foliage to earn enough points to stay in the game. Setting off August firework colours is simple when you have softer blues to work with, and ceratostigma is a great choice, its substantial mound of foliage studded all late summer with china-blue flowers (£9.99, crocus.co.uk).

Some of the finest of the support plants, though, are the softer lime-green euphorbias, such as E.palustris. This works all summer with anything even slightly orange- or red-toned to produce an internationally recognised level of zing. And E.griffithii "Fireglow" contributes a level of second-tier magic which can only leave you asking, in a Chris Froome-ish way, "Should this plant actually be the leader of the team?" Maybe next year…

Podium placers

Hedychium gardnerianum

A stunning skyscraper of lemon-yellow tiers complete with Norman Foster-ish detailing. Can grow 6ft tall without the use of any performance-aiding substances. Allegedly. £9.95, palmcentre.co.uk

Canna 'Pretoria'

It's no accident that many of these showstoppers evoke South Africa's rich floral heritage, but this one hails from rainy Richmond. £19.99 for a huge plant, palmcentre.co.uk

Caryopteris

'Heavenly Blue' This beautiful, hard-working plant lays a subtle but solid base for any glory-seeking star. £8.99, crocus.co.uk

Discover more property articles at Homes and Property
Suggested Topics
Sport
Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi during Barcelona training in August
footballPete Jenson co-ghost wrote Suarez’s autobiography and reveals how desperate he's been to return
News
newsMcKamey Manor says 'there is no escape until the tour is completed'
Voices
Hunted: A stag lies dead on Jura, where David Cameron holidays and has himself stalked deer
voicesThe Scotland I know is becoming a playground for the rich
News
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Architect Frank Gehry is regarded by many as the most important architect of the modern era
arts + entsGehry has declared that 98 per cent of modern architecture is "s**t"
Money
Welcome to tinsel town: retailers such as Selfridges will be Santa's little helpers this Christmas, working hard to persuade shoppers to stock up on gifts
news
Arts and Entertainment
Soul singer Sam Smith cleared up at the Mobo awards this week
newsSam Smith’s Mobo triumph is just the latest example of a trend
News
Laurence Easeman and Russell Brand
people
Sport
Fans of Dulwich Hamlet FC at their ground Champion Hill
footballFans are rejecting the £2,000 season tickets, officious stewarding, and airline-stadium sponsorship
News
Shami Chakrabarti
people
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch has refused to deny his involvement in the upcoming new Star Wars film
filmBenedict Cumberbatch reignites Star Wars 7 rumours
Sport
football
News
news
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Business Analyst - Surrey - Permanent - Up to £50k DOE

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***ASP.NET Developer - Cheshire - £35k - Permanent***

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***Solutions Architect*** - Brighton - £40k - Permanent

£35000 - £40000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

Senior Research Fellow in Gender, Food and Resilient Communities

£47,334 - £59,058 per annum: Coventry University: The Centre for Agroecology, ...

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker