A week or two back I wrote about delphiniums which came back for a second burst of flowers long after their main flush in June. The last couple of times I was taking a look at the Wisley flower trials I also noticed some other perennials looking good late in the season.
The Kniphofia trial has been a difficult one to assess because these pokers flower over such a very long season - some are at their peak in late spring, some in mid autumn.
In September and October Kniphofia rooperi (above, click to enlarge) has been spectacular. You can see from the picture how vivid it is and how few other kniphofias there are flowering in the background. This is a splendid plant for autumn colour and because this form in the trials, sent to the trial by the Hampshire nursery MacGregor's Plants for Shade, was so good it was decided that it needed its own cultivar name. As yet, we don't know what that will be. But this plant was certainly better than the variety ‘Torchlight' growing alongside.
The other poker at its peak late in the season was K. caulescens, and in particular the form loosely known as "from John May". This is very different from many pokers in that not only are its spikes at their best in the autumn, but its impressive foliage is a valuable feature for many months.
Its leaves are relatively broad and noticeably greyish in colour, sometimes they look rather like the leaves of leeks, and can be very dramatic. You can see them in the background in the picture. And it turns out that his plant is unusual in another way: in South Africa, where it grows wild, it's seen in large colonies in bogs - far wetter conditions than we normally associate with kniphofias.
Both these late flowering pokers look to be well on their way to gaining the Award of Garden Merit and will bring a little fiery style late in the season.