I have recently read about the novel concept of the Fifth Season. My reading around the subject has led me to clarify what is meant by this. Basically it is late summer/early autumn – a period of the greatest flowering abundance of perennials.
For me this has always been my favourite time in the garden, and I have always made an effort to make sure my gardens – be they my own or those of the people I advise and work for – reach a crescendo of beauty at this time. Developments in the past 15 to 20 years in planting styles, i.e. naturalistic or prairie -planting, the work of designers such as Piet Oudolf, and to an extent those of Dan Pearson in the UK, among others.
These have often majored on the perennials that are at their best around now. Most are of North American origin, but there are also some Asian natives too.
This style doesn’t rely on bedding out, and as a rule the plants are hardy and reliable ones.
However, for myself I tend to add an element of bedding in terms of some reliable tender perennials and annuals. Mostly because I seldom work in the larger-scale sphere of gardening. I need plants that give a prolonged display, and by adding cosmos and dahlias, with possibly tender salvias, I am able to achieve this.
There are so many gardens now in the UK done in this style. Of these I would particularly recommend the following, Knoll Gardens, in Wimborne, Dorset; various borders to be seen at RHS Wisley in Surrey; Pensthorpe in Norfolk ( recently a subject of an item on an edition of BBC Gardener’s World on BBC1 ) and Scampston Hall in N Yorks.