By Steve Boehme
Midsummer is a time of year when flower gardens can look their absolute best. Nature’s most colorful flowers reach their peak during the hot months of August.
Since most gardeners buy flowers during the spring, it’s easy to miss this showy period because spring-flowering perennials are finished blooming by now. For summer color you need perennials that don’t start blooming until July.
If you plant a lot of annual bedding plants like petunias and marigolds, they can make up for a lackluster perennial garden during summer.
We recommend mixing annual flowers with perennials because their bloom season is longer. However, there is a trend toward perennials since they come back year after year, making it easier to have a showy garden without the work and expense of planting lots of annuals every spring.
Our favorite summer perennials take a few years to get really established, but once they really get going they will fill your garden with showy blooms all by themselves. Perennials like Shasta Daisy, Coneflower, Black-eyed Susan, Liatris, Crocosmia, and Daylilies are rugged and dependable, tolerate hot dry weather and get bigger every year. There are dozens of other, lesser-known perennials that can make your garden interesting and unusual during the summer months. Cardinal Flower (Lobelia), Catmint, perennial Salvia, yellow Tickseed (Coreopsis “Zagreb”), Sedum, and perennial Dianthus look really good right now. You’ll never notice any of them if you do your plant shopping in May, because they’re just pots of green foliage at that time of year.
We have quite a few varieties of stonecrop (sedum) that are loaded with buds, about to put on their late summer show. This family of plants is incredibly drought-tolerant, attracts butterflies in droves, and thrives in so-so soils. Sedums have succulent foliage that always looks fresh, in colors ranging from light blue-green to deep purple. Dried sedum blooms are perfect for flower arranging.
Another favorite is the turtlehead (chelone), which has bright pink snapdragon-like blooms in late summer. Hummingbirds live turtleheads, which like part sun and moist places like stream banks and the edge of woods. They form dense clumps, choking out weeds in soggy, heavy soils where other perennials struggle.
When we plant perennial gardens we make sure to include plants from all six seasons of bloom: early and late spring, early and late summer, and early and late fall. The showiest gardens have “succession of bloom”, a fancy way of saying that as some flowers fade others take over. Each season of bloom can be balanced with complimentary colors, contrasting foliage, and interesting textures. The out-of-season plants provide a neutral background, or you can simply trim them away if they’re finished for the year.
Now is the time to browse your favorite garden center and see mid-summer perennials at their peak. You’ll be surprised at the variety of colors and effects you can add to your landscape. If you buy plants in large containers (one gallon or larger) they will be impressive right away, with minimal watering once they get established. Our favorites are perennials that tolerate heavy mulching, because these plants are almost maintenance free in future years.
Steve Boehme is the owner of GoodSeed Nursery & Landscape, located at 9736 Tri-County Highway, near Winchester, Ohio. To e-mail your landscaping questions click “Contact Us” from their website at www.goodseedfarm.com or call (937) 587-7021.