Some days, the best part of a football game is the half-time show.
So too, the garden.
This weekend marks the half way mark through the gardening season. For many of us, the best is yet to come.
If you missed the colour and fragrance of early season, the peonies, lilacs and crab apples, no worries. There is plenty more where that came from. And there is lots of time to enjoy the “second half”. With the bonus of cooler nights and butterflies to beat the band, we would argue that this is the best time of year not to take a vacation, as you will risk missing the real action.
Here are our top perennial flowering picks for August through October performance:
Turtle Head. Cherone corsuta. Watching the pink flowering panicles push their way through the top of a sturdy upright green plant is like watching a turtle’s head slowly emerge from its shell. The flowers stick around for weeks, well in to early fall, attracting bees and hummingbirds as they show off. 60 cm tall. Sun.
Indian Feather. Gaura. A fine border plant that frequently garners questions and comments from visitors to Mark’s garden. Standing about 70 cm tall, the long flowering stems of Gaura feature a string of fine, pink or purple flowerets that bow as you walk past. Sun to part sun.
Plaintain Lily. Hosta. An extensive family of over 9,000 varieties. Shade and part sun loving, they are best known for their stunning foliage.
Some varieties produce a tall spike of flowers that are equally showy and attractive to hummingbirds in August and September. Our favourite varieties include:
Island Breeze. Gold/green foliage, 30 cm tall.
Fragrant Blue. Blue on blue foliage. And you didn’t think of hosta for fragrance did you? 50 cm tall.
Praying Hands. Green on cream foliage. 45 cm tall. The Hosta of the Year in 2011. Yes, there is a big competition each year for this position.
Ligularia. The Rocket. Well named, as they spike skyward and announce the second half of the season with a flare. Bright yellow flowers on tall stems about a meter and a half high. Add some drama to your garden with Ligularia. Part sun, damp soil is best.
Heliopsis. A “daisy-like” flower that stands about a metre tall. Perfect for those spaces in your garden where you want a splash of colour without it dominating your yard. Blooms August through September. Sun. 2 metres tall.
Fall Asters. The “New England” aster is generally available in a stunning blue or magenta flowering plant. It is native to eastern Canada, in spite of its name, and it is very winter hardy. Plant now, while in bud and enjoy the blossoms for four to six weeks. Sun.
Black Eyed Susan. Rudbeckia hirta. Looking for a minimal maintenance flowering plant that attracts butterflies (each flower is a great “helicopter” pad) and comes back year after year? Mark’s garden is dominated with these come late summer and he loves them.
You will want to dig back the roots each year after a couple of seasons in your garden as it does move aggressively through the soil. Grows to 2 ½ meters high. Sun.
Japanese Anenome. Here is a gorgeous flowering plant that stands about hip-high, or a meter, and produces masses of large, creamy white buttercup shaped flowers.
One plant will fill a substantial space in your garden as they grow about a meter and a half wide.
This is another ‘spreading’ perennial that will root elsewhere, so don’t hesitate to dig it out and give away the young plants or move them around your garden each spring.
Your options for late summer colour are not limited to our favourites. Look for these popular winter hardy perennials and plan to plant soon. Mid-summer planting makes perfect sense if you keep new plants adequately watered.
Mark Cullen is an expert gardener, author, broadcaster, tree advocate and Member of the Order of Canada. His son Ben is a fourth-generation urban gardener and graduate of University of Guelph and Dalhousie University in Halifax. Follow them at markcullen.com, @markcullengardening, on Facebook and bi-weekly on Global TV’s National Morning Show.