As we near the middle of August and round the corner to the dreaded ‘Back to School’ time of the year (it still sends shivers up my spine and has me google searching for therapists), the search also begins for plants and flowers to perk up a tired looking landscape.
While plant breeders, nurseries and collectors are always looking for the new kid on the block, some plants have just proven to be amazingly reliable, dependable, and above all beautiful. With that said, I will also share with you some of my favourite varieties of these plants.
Tall strap-like green foliage arches to reveal deep red, summer blooming flowers. But oh what flowers. Quite unlike any other, these resemble some sort of colour butterfly or avian critter. A classic plant for a classic garden. Can be grown from bulbs or from smaller plants. ‘They are low maintenance and come back year after year. Best grown in full sun in moist, but well drained soils. They are hardy to zone 5.
We actually believe that there is a conspiracy to take over the world using echinaceas – just kidding, really... Plant breeders have run amok hybridizing these gorgeous summer blooming perennials. While the classic Echinacea purpurea is pink flowering, dozens of different shades are available now. These range from orange and red to deep pink, carmine and even white or yellow. No matter which colour and variety you choose – mass them. Plant 5-7 in one spot for great effect – its stunning! Echinaceas are best grown in full sun in well drained soil.
'Hidcote Blue' Lavender
Lavandula angustifolia 'Hidcote Blue'
Lavender is a hardy perennial ideal suited to warmer, drier climates, yet it tolerates many different conditions including ours. It even thrives in coastal, seaside locations. In late spring and summer, the plant is covered with lavender-purple flower spikes that emit an incredible fragrance. If the flowers are dried, they can also be used in flower arrangements. Best grown in full sun. ‘Hidcote Blue’ grows to 16 inches high and 24 inches wide and is hardy in zones 5-9. Prune lavender twice a year for best appearance. Once after flowering in August & September, and the second time after the winter.
Black Eyed Susan
Other than Echinacea, no other plant says mid-to-late summer than Black Eyed Susan. Also known as Rudbeckias, these classic perennials are bright, cheery and eye catching. The classic varieties are tall and yellow flowered with dark center. Newer varieties like ‘Little Goldstar’ are shorter with similar colouring. Other varieties come in a fall shades including all combinations of yellow, orange or red. They are best grown in full sun in moist, but well drained soils. ‘Little Goldstar’ grows to 16 inches in height and 14-20 inches across. Hardy in zones 3-8
Stella d'Oro Daylily
Hemerocallis 'Stella d'Oro'
Sensational award winning selection that blooms with heavy clusters of 2.5 inch yellow flowers. Reblooms freely into early fall. Easy to grow and low care perennial. Drought tolerant once established and extremely winter hardy. Forms a neat tidy clump of strap or grass-like foliage reaching 1-2 ft tall and wide. Best grown in full to part sun in moist, but well drained soil.
Plant these, then close your eyes are smell the fragrance – its amazing. In our opinion, no other plant in your garden is as fragrant as this one. Large white, pink and red flowers appear on tall spikes in the summer. Just watch out for the brightly coloured pollen – it will stain your clothes. Some people actually cut off the pollen for this reason. Lilies are typically available as bulbs in either the fall or spring or as ready-to-go plants in the summer. Enjoy and plant them now for next year.
'Dark Knight' Bluebeard
Caryopteris x clanodensis 'Dark Knight'
This summer blooming perennial is actually a woody shrub. Bluebeard is usually cut back each spring to 6 inches in height and treated more like a perennial. Plants form a bushy, upright mound of bright-green leaves and the fragrant dark-blue flowers form on new wood in the late summer and fall. Also offers a nice yellow fall foliage colour. Extremely attractive to butterflies. Best grown in sunny locations with excellent drainage. Will grow 2-3ft tall and wide.
Monarda - Bee Balm
Monarda is a traditional favourite for the perennial border. This selection 'Jacob Cline' features bright scarlet red flowers arranged in large shaggy heads. Foliage is delightfully fragrant and significantly more resistant to powdery mildew than most older varieties. Excellent for cutting as well as attractive butterflies and hummingbirds. Best grown in full to part sun in moist, but well drained soils. Grows 3-4 ft in height and a slightly smaller spread. Hardy in Zones 3-9. Another great variety is the pinky-coloured ‘Coral Reef’
Jade Frost Sea Holly
Eryngium planum ‘Jade Frost’
Violet blue globes of pincushion-like flowers appear on blue-green leaves with white margins. Bloom time is typically May through July. Flowers rise above the foliage offering the garden shades of blue, silver and similar metallic tones. ‘Jade Frost’ is a shorter variety reaching only 18-12 inches in height and up to 14 inches across. Great in borders and can also be used as a cut flower. Incredibly photo-genic. Best grown in full sun in fertile, well drained soils. Feed regularly but do not over-water.
'Echo Rojo' Red Hot Poker
Kniphofia uvaria ‘Echo Rojo’
Red Hot Pokers are a favourite plant of mine for hot, dry areas. They need little care or water except for a pruning in early spring to remove all the winter crud.
‘Echo Rojo’ is a great variety as a result of its deep orange to red hot flower spikes that reach 2-3ft in height. It is also a repeat-bloomer, offering flowers from May through August. Grass-like foliage adds further interest. Best grown in full sun and well drained soils. Will reach 18-24 inches in height.
Sedum - Stonecrop
These unbelievably tough and drought hardy perennials should be in every low maintenance garden. Fleshy succulent foliage is topped with either pink, red or white flowers in late summer. Extremely attractive to bees, this good looking plant comes back every year and rarely needs watering. Typically grows 1-2ft tall and wide. The classic variety was ‘Autumn Joy’ but today it is somewhat neglected as newer varieties have appeared on the market. Names include ‘Autumn Fire’, ‘Neon’, and my current favourite ‘Munstead Dark Red’. Also available is the taller growing ‘Frosty Morn’
'Snowcap' Shasta Daisy
Leucanthemum x superbum ‘Snowcap’
Last but not least on our list is the Shasta Daisy. This is the flower that every child learned to draw in school. Masses of flowers with white petals and yellow centers will fill your garden every summer. Reliable and hardy, daisies will even thrive in seaside conditions. ‘Snowcap’ is a smaller variety growing 6-12 inches in height and 12-18 inches across. Best grown in full to part sun.
Our selection of perennials is always changing so call ahead to confirm availability of specific varieties. If you have any questions, call or visit Art's Nursery in person, we look forward to seeing you!