Wonderful plants for a showy, summer garden

Kathy Henderson

Garden Columnist

The question that weighs on the mind of almost every gardener is “when does it bloom, or otherwise become a prominent show in the landscape?” Sometimes the answer to that question is dependent upon the weather - temperature of the air and soil, the amount of rainfall at specific times, the number of sunny days. It can also be the location exposure in your landscape. However, we can estimate the approximate time of its prominence.

A Cornus Kousa Dogwood in bloom. Special photo

Right now, the middle of summer is a prime time for many of the landscape plants to vie for attention in the landscape. Daylilies are showing their colors in abundance. These are one of the hardiest perennials - temperature, sunlight and water tolerant plants. Some are re-bloomers, but my favorites are those that have giant colorful blossoms and only bloom for a set period of time. I have both in my garden and enjoy them in full sun (which they prefer) and growing at the edge where they may only get direct sun about 4-6 hours a day. These are plants that multiply rapidly, so with a little care and fertilization, you will soon have a large clump of flowers that will last for many years. Some cultivars have evergreen foliage and others will die back in winter.

A wonderful plant to plant along beside the daylilies is a blue or lavender member of the Daisy Family, Stokesia laevis - Stokes Daisy. There are several cultivars of this plant including some pink and white ones. I like the ‘Blue Danube’ with my daylilies.’

While mentioning the Daisy Family, I suggest that you add some coneflowers which are in full blossom. I still like the common one, Echinacea purpurea. Look for the deep pink, red, white, dark yellow, light yellow and even orange ones. You might want to put these in your landscape. I have found coneflowers to be extremely hardy, spread well in an area and even re-seed throughout the garden. Cone-flowers are native plants that have been brought into cultivation and selections (cultivars) made when they attracted the attention of gardeners.

Shasta Daisies are also easy, hardy plants to grow in the garden. They spread into large clumps that can be divided every few years and planted elsewhere in the landscape or shared with other gardeners. I like ‘Becky’ which is also sold as ‘Ryan’s Daisy.’ It will bloom with the late blooming daylilies.

Of course, the hydrangeas take over the month of June with the colorful blue/pink/purple blossoms and come in a myriad of cultivars - much too extensive to name. I love my blue one that came out of the early ones - who knows what cultivar? It blooms very large flowers when we get a lot of rain like this year. In years of drought the blooms are plentiful, but much smaller. I have a lot of cultivars and types. There are so many hydrangeas that this plant deserves a column of its own. Just put some in your landscape!

A tree that deserves praise is my Korean, Japanese, or Chinese Dogwood, Cornus kousa. Wow! It just seems to burst with flowers in mid-June, followed by strawberry-like fruit in late July; early August. This small tree is tougher, more resistant to problems than our flowering dogwood and has beautiful fall color. I cannot recommend it highly enough for a small or large garden. Mine likes light shade, but I have seen them do very well in full sun.

Flowers are not the only showy thing in the garden; there are leaves that are also vying for attention. The silvery, furry leaves of the perennial, Lamb’s Ear (Stachys byzantina). Look for the cultivar ‘Big Ears’ for the greatest show. Be sure to plant it in well-drained soil in a sunny place for the silvery show.

The purple leaves of Oxalis (O. purpurea), Purple Heart (Tradescantia), Heucheras, are all hardy plants that give texture and color in the garden. Mix these with bright chartreuse Creeping Jenny, Hosta, Acorus, Sedge and Heucheras to mention a few.

Tree leaves can also give you color and interest in the garden. The texture and shape of the plant also creates excitement in the landscape. Japanese Maples come in a variety of shades from chartreuse to deep purple and between. Smoketree (Cotinus coggygria) ‘Royal Purple‘ and ‘Ancot‘ (a golden one) can add a lot of interest to the garden.

These are just a few of the plants that bring excitement to the summer landscape. Be sure to add a few if your landscape is lagging in color!

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