As we celebrate Earth Day, I thought it might be nice to dream about warmer temperatures. Seems like spring will never get here!
As we eagerly await the bountiful blooms of spring, color is starting to pop up here and there in the form of spring blooming bulbs such as Daffodils, Tulips, Hyacinth and more. I often hear about how gardens are gorgeous in the spring, but then seem to wilt in the heat of the summer. If you find your garden looking a little dogged in the dog days of summer, here are some sure-fire perennials that stand up to the heat and bloom right through to frost!
Spring seems to be easy for most gardeners, but somehow along the way, we seem to get lost when it comes to summer. Many of our clients have second homes along the shoreline where they spend time only during the summer months, so there is a high demand for summer color. In working on another design for a summer garden, I decided to compile a list of some of my favorite, go-to summer bloomer. These plants will churn out blooms for weeks on end during the summer, and in many cases, will bloom right up until we have a hard frost. You'll have enough to fill vases or bring as a hostess gift and have plenty still left in your garden to enjoy when you're outside.
Perennial Hibiscus (H. moscheutos) is a great perennial if you have
the space. Huge, tropical looking blooms in colors of red, pink, white, or sometimes even a combination of those shades, color the summer garden with delight. They do require some space though. The blooms can be as much as a foot across on sturdy stems that can grow from 2-6 feet high depending on the variety you have. A standout garden performer that blooms from late spring until frost.
Coneflower (Echinacea) is a garden lovers dream. Coneflower has a variety that's sure to please everyone. Ranging in size from 15” to up to just over 3' with just as many colors and petal varieties as you can dream up. Echinaceas range in color from soft pastel colors such as pink, white ,and green, to hotter varieties such as red, orange, and yellow. For those of you who can't decide, there are even those that aim to please both, such as Rainbow Marcella which starts out with pink petals that transition to a warm orange. These American Natives start blooming in early summer and bloom straight through to a hard frost. What's even better, is the birds love their seeds in the fall, and the spent flower heads can add interesting texture in the winter garden.
Lavender (Lavendula) is an interesting perennial. It's almost a cross between a shrub and a perennial. It has a woody stem that doesn't die back in the fall. Lavender is an outstanding selection due to it's drought tolerance. Fragrant waves of spiky lpurple flowers, lavender is well known for it's perfume-like scent. The flowers of lavender aren't the only fragrant part of this plant. The leaves have their own soft aroma similar to vanilla with just a hint of spice. Lavender makes fragrant bouquets, it's great for drying, and certain varieties can also be used for culinary purposes. The leaves remain throughout the winter and take on an ethereal quality. A great, almost care-free perennial for any season.
Sea Holly (Eryngium) is in my opinion, a very under-utilized, little known perennial. This is another plant that is fairly drought tolerant. This dramatic plant is a great choice if you're looking to add some texture and contrast to your perennial beds. This plant has a resemblance to a thistle, but the blue flowers blend in a more with the spiky blue-green leaves which are often streaked with silver. Although it looks fierce, the sea holly is not as prickly as it appears. The Alpine Sea Holly is the smallest member of the family, reaching about 18”-24”.
Shasta Daisy (Leucanthemum) is a long blooming, critter resistant power perennial. Strong, sturdy stems hold up cheerful flowers that bloom for a long period of time. Profuse bloomers, Shasta Daisy is easy to care for and comes in a wide variety bloom types. Blooms are typically white, except in the case of 'Banana Cream'. This variety has lemony-yellow flowers that brighten to a creamy yellow-white. This is another favorite of mine and will bloom straight through the fall.
Perennial Sunflower (Helianthus) is another exceptional flower that has loads of variety so this is another perennial that aims to please just about anyone. This perennial boasts good sized flowers in an array of sunny colors. Some helianthus have really interesting foliage. The variety 'Lorraine Sunshine' has variegated foliage. Yellow-white leaves with deep green veining. 'Summer Nights' has deep green-burgundy foliage. Both varieties have yellow flowers with an orange center.
Blanket Flower (Gaillardia) started off as a native wildflower out west, and over the years was cultivated to become the flower we know today. Tough as nails and long blooming, this is a knockout in the perennial garden. In shades of red, yellow and a combination of the two. Daisy shaped flowers with red or yellow centers perched atop sturdy stems, this is a great plant for pollinators. It's one of my favorites specifically because I often see bumblebees sleeping in them in the quiet, early morning hours.
Tick Seed (Coreopsis) is as easy as it gets. No muss, no fuss. This outstanding perennial is drought and disease resistant. This is another native beauty that comes in as many varieties as one can dream up. Ranging in flower colors such as yellow, red, white, pink, and various combinations, they make great cut flowers as well as attracting birds and butterflies to your yard. All you need to grow coreopsis is some sun, and then just sit back and watch the show all season long!
Salvia (Salvia) is another easy to grow, super long blooming perennial. Spikes of deep blue sit high atop coarsely textured green foliage. Popular for attracting pollinators, salvia is a staple of many of my gardens. The more you dead-head your salvia, the more profuse it will bloom. Salvia also comes in white or pink. This is a fairly easy perennial to grow and doesn't require a lot of water. They often do need a little support as the flowers can get floppy. Even if you don't tie them, the flowers will still face up. A great selection for cut flowers!
While there are many other perennials that are strong performers, these are definitely among my favorite.