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The long hot days of summer are here but there is still time to make them bearable by sowing some plants that flower to bring the gentle touch of nature to your garden, terrace or balcony.

Top of the shopping list should be mesmerising sunflowers in dazzling shades of sunshine yellow, cool lemon, burnt orange, crimson and even luscious chocolate tones. Sunflowers can be dwarf, medium, tall or gigantic, the latter towering well over three metres in height. Seeds should be sown about an inch deep; sunflowers are quite at home in the poorest of soils although they do enjoy a regular drink of water.

Summer is not complete without lots of zany zinnias in hot pinks, brilliant oranges, glowing reds, golden yellows and even refreshingly cool greens. Dwarf varieties are perfectly at home in pots and nipping out their central growing shoot, as soon as the plants are established, will encourage them to bush out and smother themselves in stunning bloom. Tall varieties are most at home in the garden itself and make a beautiful contrast when grown in front of leafy shrubs. Sow seeds just under the soil surface and keep lightly watered.

Common cosmos with their dainty daisy-like flowers in shades of white, pink and red, merrily dance and flutter in the slightest breeze and reach anywhere from one to three metres in height. Happy in poor soil, seeds should be scattered on the surface, raked in and kept slightly moist. The orange cosmo, a slightly smaller cousin, is more drought tolerant but equally delightful.

Other colourful flowers that bloom in the summer and can be grown in pots include the rather thirsty balsam, weird looking cockscomb amaranthus, exuberant gaillardia, dainty coreopsis and far more ‘ordinary’ calliopsis and the slightly sprawling, multicoloured portulaca.

— Zahrah Nasir

First published in the Adbuzzzz Section of The DAWN National Weekend Advertiser on May 22, 2011.