The late late show: Sarah Raven reveals that August isn't just for hacking back mature growth

It's a hot old day when we stop in at the Waterlily House at Kew Gardens, where the gardener is pushing a barrow load of prunings and deadheaded blooms. "How many days' worth is that?" I wonder aloud. "Two or three," she smiles in reply. "Everything grows so fast at this time of year."

Though many plants slow down as the days begin to shorten, the August garden is all about this cutting back of mature growth. As needy as a teenager, it requires reining in, training up and copious feeding. And just like the parent of teenagers, gardeners can find themselves longing to look after babies: young things, simple, clean and new.

Fortunately, just as I was feeling all wistful about the time of year, Sarah Raven's new catalogue plopped on to my doormat with a pleasing reminder that late-summer gardening doesn't have to be all chopping and hacking. Don't imagine, she says, that you can sow seeds only in spring; 2011's late-summer-sown annuals will be stronger in 2012 than those sown so far, and will bloom earlier.

Her suggestions for annuals to sow now are extremely tasteful: to begin with, there's the delicious Cerinthe major 'Purpurascens', or honeywort. It's one of the best plants ever: a bit like a euphorbia foliage-wise, but with deep inky-blue flowers, below spectacular bracts the colour of the sea on a stormy day. They do require a tiny bit of expertise: the seeds have a hard coating, and it's a good idea to soak them in some tepid water overnight before sowing them into flower pots on a sheltered window sill. (Though they seem to happily self-seed once established, despite their lack of expertise in soaking themselves.)

Another corker Sarah Raven offers is Euphorbia oblongata, one of the very loveliest euphorbias. Once in full growth it can be cut for flower-arranging or left to add a brilliant limey tint to the flower bed. They need to have the flowers removed to keep producing blooms, and if picked, could flower for months. Best grown in a kind of dappled shade – not under a tree, but where it'll have some direct sun for an hour or two a day.

But there's one essential annual plant missing from Raven's list, as far as I'm concerned. Aquilegia was known as "Granny's bonnets" when I was little, though I can't imagine many grannies have a bonnet these days. A hoodie, maybe. Anyway, these are lovely plants, with a perky way of popping up in spring, straight-necked and prim, with pretty blue and pink flowers. Thompson & Morgan sells a wonderful selection of deep colours, "Crown Jewels Mixed", £2.99 for 20 seeds (thompson-morgan.com). These need to be sown on the surface of damp compost. Use small pots topped with a freezer bag held on with a rubber band to keep moisture in till they germinate. It can take a few months – but they're worth it.

Sarah Raven's annuals can be ordered from sarahraven.com or from the catalogue

Seeds to sow in summer

1. Nigella Damascena 'Oxford Blue'

You might think sexy chef, but these are star-like, deep midnight blue gems. Scatter a packet and you're sure to have flowers in spring. 200 seeds, £1.49, thompson-morgan.com

2. Opium Poppy 'Peony Flowered Mixed'

Horribly gaudy on the packet, but the reality is beautiful, big, blowsy flowers with cool pale green foliage. Again, you can scatter them where they will flower. 1,500 seeds, 69p, thompson-morgan.com

3. Cornflower 'Blue Diadem'

The most summery blue, you can cut a handful or leave it to blaze colour into the garden. 200 seeds, £2.19, thompson-morgan.com

Discover more property articles at Homes and Property
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
video
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Up my street: The residents of the elegant Moray Place in Edinburgh's Georgian New Town
tvBBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past
Arts and Entertainment
Southern charm: Nicolas Cage and Tye Sheridan in ‘Joe’
filmReview: Actor delivers astonishing performance in low budget drama
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
film
Extras
indybest
News
Albus Dumbledore, the headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry has been the teaching profession's favourite teacher
education
Sport
Luis Suarez looks towards the crowd during the 2-1 victory over England
sport
Life and Style
Cheesecake frozen yoghurt by Constance and Mathilde Lorenzi
food + drinkThink outside the cool box for this summer’s frozen treats
News
John Barrowman kisses his male “bride” at a mock Gretna Green during the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony
peopleBarrowman's opening ceremony message to Commonwealth countries where he would be sent to prison for being gay
Sport
Sir Bradley Wiggins removes his silver medal after the podium ceremony for the men’s 4,000m team pursuit in Glasgow yesterday
Commonwealth games Disappointment for Sir Bradley in team pursuit final as England are forced to settle for silver
Sport
Alistair Brownlee (right) celebrates with his gold medal after winning the men’s triathlon alongside brother Jonny (left), who got silver
England's Jodie Stimpson won the women’s triathlon in the morning
Property search
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

SQL Report Analyst (SSRS, CA, SQL 2012)

£30000 - £38500 Per Annum + 25 days holiday, pension, subsidised restaurant: C...

Application Support Analyst (SQL, Incident Management, SLAs)

£34000 - £37000 Per Annum + excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Lt...

Embedded Software / Firmware Engineer

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Pension, Holiday, Flexi-time: Progressive Recruitm...

Developer - WinForms, C#

£280 - £320 per day: Progressive Recruitment: C#, WinForms, Desktop Developmen...

Day In a Page

Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform