Helen's monthly choice - July

By now the garden should be looking rather smart so my advice would be to sit back and enjoy it while the weather lasts. Having said that, there are always little jobs that will need doing, but deadheading flowers that are past their best, tying in wayward climbers, pulling out the occasional weed and general primping and preening can all be done with a cool drink within easy reach. The plants will need plenty of these too, so make sure they don’t go thirsty.

Lavandula angustifolia 'Hidcote'

Lavandula angustifolia 'Hidcote'

It flowers prolifically right up until the end of summer and beneficial insects (especially bees) will find it irresistible. It is perfect for hot sunny spots, and once established will become quite tolerant of drought. Pot it up to add colour to a sunny patio, or plant it densely to create a low-growing, flowering hedge. It can also be clipped to form relatively neat balls.

Knautia macedonica

You can add bobbing buttons of intense plum to naturalised planting schemes and meadows (as well as more formal designs) with this drought-tolerant perennial. It sits beautifully alongside strong purples and blues, as well as acting as a vital accent to grasses, especially as they turn biscuit shades. It is long-flowering, highly attractive to butterflies, and self-seeds freely once it has become established.

Astrantia 'Roma' (PBR)

Astrantias have become garden staples in recent years. Traditionally a cottage garden favourite, they are often featured at the Chelsea Flower Show where their button-like blooms add interest to many different planting styles. They make first-rate cut flowers, and are noted for their long flowering season - if you continue to deadhead them regularly, they will usually keep coming well into autumn.

Erigeron karvinskianus

Perfect for softening the edges of a sunny border, it forms a low maintenance, long flowering mound of colour throughout summer. Tolerant of a wide range of conditions including coastal gardens, it prefers a spot in full sun with freely draining soil that holds some moisture in summer. The dainty looking flowers belie the fact that this is a tough little plant that practically thrives on neglect - it will actually flower best when not fed too heavily. It’s reliable, long-flowering and much-underrated.

Penstemon 'Sour Grapes'

An excellent investment, it can flower for ages, particularly if deadheaded regularly. The first blooms usually emerge in midsummer, but it is not unusual for them still to be appearing well into autumn - long after most plants have started dying back. The flowers are a great colour too, as they are so easy to mix. It’s a cracking plant that is easy to grow.