These garden beauties thrive in summer heat and bloom nearly nonstop into fall
– May 20, 2009
Few plants can brighten a tired corner like these tough perennials. They thrive through summer and bloom nearly nonstop into fall if you keep the spent flowers picked. Full article
Starting in June, you'll find the plants at nurseries, usually in 1-gallon cans (though the best selection of dahlias is available in spring, when you can plant them from tubers).
These daisylike flowers are available in lavender, pink, or white. Three varieties we like: A. cordifolius 'Cape Cod' (Sunset climate zones 1-10, 14-21), A. c. 'Little Carlow' (zones 1-10, 14-21), and A. novi-belgii 'Melody' (zones 1-24).
Photo by Norm Plate
2 of9Photo by Norm Plate
Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta)
Black-eyed Susan is a tried-and-true favorite of the perennial garden, well-loved for its deep, butterscotch-yellow ray flowers radiating from dark chocolate centers. Grown in full sun, plants reach 3 to 4 feet tall and 1 ½ feet wide. Though the yellow and black flower form (pictured) is a classic, we love these newer varieties: 'Cherokee Sunset' for its amber-brown blooms and fuzzy button-nosed centers; 'Caramel Mixed' for its softer autumn colors and rounded form; and 'Cherry Brandy' for its dark red rays and black centers. Rudbeckias can be found at pretty much any nursery or garden center, or can be grown from seed with ease.
Thomas J. Story
3 of9Thomas J. Story
Coreopsis (C. grandiflora)
Fluffy, golden yellow blooms atop tall stems. 'Sunray' is a dense, compact selection with double and semidouble flowers. Zones 2-24, H1, H2.
Bold blooms in a range of vibrant colors grow from tuberous roots. We planted pink and coral decorative dahlias and a red-and-yellow, cactus-flowered variety. Provide light shade in hot areas. Zones 1-24.
Purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea)
Daisy flowers of rosy purple with knobby orange-brown centers, which resemble small beehives, atop clumps of bristly oblong leaves. Grows to 4 feet tall. Zones A2, A3, 1-24.
Gaura (G. lindheimeri)
White flowers cluster like butterflies atop tall spikes on these airy 2½- to 4-foot-tall plants. Selected forms include 'Siskiyou Pink' (to 2 feet tall), with rose-pink flowers and 'Whirling Butterflies' (to 3 feet tall), with white flowers.
Feathery, rose-colored plumes fade to beige atop clumps of reddish brown foliage. Grown as an annual in cold climates, it is especially pretty beside gloriosa daisies or purple coneflower. Zones 8-24.
Photo by Thomas J. Story
8 of9Photo by Thomas J. Story
'Moonshine' yarrow (Achillea x 'Moonshine')
One of the most carefree and generous bloomers, and a classic perennial to plant in the fall, yarrow has tight clusters of deep yellow flowers on 2-foot tall gray-green plants; leaves are feathery and fragrant, one of our favorite combinations. It does well in full sun but can take a little dappled shade, and loves a well-drained soil, especially if the soil is poor (we have it growing in a tight soil next to a red maple, where it's thriving). Here it's paired it with blue flowered catmint; both plants make lovely additions to a homegrown herbal tea.
Photo by Marion Brenner
9 of9Photo by Marion Brenner
Beardtongue (Penstemon gloxinioides)
These bushy plants are fairly short lived, but to make up for it, they produce lots of trumpet-shaped blooms over a long period. Deep purple ‘Midnight’ and scarlet ‘Firebird’ are standouts for their vivid, south-of-the-border colors. Pink and white ‘Appleblossom’ looks fresh and springlike. These drought-tolerant hummingbird favorites are practically made for rock gardens; pair them with thornless prickly pear (Opuntia ellisiana) and a red-flowering rock rose (we like Helianthemum 'Fire Dragon') on rocky, well-drained soils with full sun.