Dog Days of Summer: Plants That Rock!by Brian Wheat on August 6, 2012 at 10:17 am
As the dog days of summer start to disappear in our rear view mirrors, we look at our landscapes and wonder what plants will stand out in the late summer/fall. At a time where drought and summer scorch have played havoc with our flowery friends, which ones will stand up and take on the challenge? Here are some highlights and suggestions for that late summer/early fall color that will make you smile and welcome this time of the gardening season. Most garden centers have these plants in spring, but many also have them available for fall planting.
In the perennial category:
Sedum, ‘Autumn Joy’: A beautiful Stonecrop that is dependable and adapts well. It blooms from August into November. About 2’ tall and wide. Looks great with ornamental grasses. Long blooming and attracts butterflies.
Asters, fall blooming: In shades of pink, purple, blue and white, its daisy-like blooms start opening in August and last until hard frost.
Chrysanthemums, hardy fall mums: Colorful mounds of yellow, bronze, reds and whites. Very floriferous and hardy. Pinching them back in summer will ensure a spectacular fall show. Plant in full sun and keep them well watered.
Other good choices: Chelone (Turtlehead), Joe Pye Weed, Helenium (Sneezeweed) and Solidago (Goldenrod).
Good shrub choices:
Caryopteris (Blue Mist Shrub): Dazzling blue flower clusters in August. Loved by butterflies and bees. Beautiful aromatic gray foliage contrast with blue blossoms. Loves the sun and hates wet soils. Dark Knight is a super variety at four feet by four feet.
Buddleia ( Butterfly Bush): Arching branches of purple, blue, violet, pink, yellow or white. Attracts butterflies, and fragrant flowers make a nice cut flower. Plant in full sun with moist, well-drained soil. Grows four to ten feet tall. Prune to ground each spring for best performance.
Althea (Rose of Sharon): Tropical looking hibiscus flowers on this large vase shaped hardy shrub. Colorful blooms of red, pink, orange and two toned on single or double flowers. Not fussy about soil, loves the sun. Makes a great hedge.
More excellent shrub choices: Viburniums, Burning Bush, Hydrangea, Dogwood.
My ornamental grass choice is hands down for Karl Foerster-Feather Reed Grass. A natural-looking grass clump that gently sways in the late summer breeze. Around three feet tall, loves sun and not too particular about its soil. Prune to ground in early spring and sit back and enjoy this 2001 Perennial Plant of the Year.
I’ll round out my choices with a workhorse of a vine, Virginia Creeper. Fast growing and covering green leaves with great fall red coloring. Used as groundcover or scrambler to fifty feet. Produces black/purplish fruit for birds and wildlife for winter. Can be aggressive, so keep it in check.
So sit back and enjoy the dog days of summer with a few of my favorite plants. Keeping the landscape healthy and evolving year round is not only rewarding, but good for the environment and our wildlife friends.
Do you have a favorite fall flower or plant?