As we head into late summer in the garden we begin to see a slow transition. Gone are the dewy daffodils, the misty meadows, the bright spring show of giddy annuals. Arriving is the dry earth, the baking sun and the crowded garden where annuals get pushed out and perennials take center stage. If your petunias are petering out or your geraniums have been dead-headed one too many times, do not despair! There are plenty of flowers just now starting their show. They have been biding their time, growing, waiting, soaking up fertilizer and sun, giving us this end of the summer encore. Radiant blossoms are waiting in the August garden and here are a few!
Rudbeckia or Black-Eyed Susan is the bright golden daisy that blooms late summer into fall. The flowers are clear yellow to orange and attract birds, butterflies and beneficial insects, which are extremely useful in keeping pests down in the garden. They grow best in full sun and reach a height of 1-3 feet. A happy flower!
Hydrangea Paniculata or PeeGee Hydrangea forms cone-shaped flower clusters which begin white and fade to pink over time. This hydrangea blooms on new growth each year so it is easily pruned and shaped. Cutting it back will not stop flowers from forming the following year, which may be the case with big-leaf hydrangeas. Most of the varieties sold locally form a large shrub which prefer regular water and full sun to part shade. One of my favorites is Vanilla Strawberry, which turns a pretty, pretty pink!
Hardy Fuchsias are fabulous flowering machines. I keep looking at mine wondering how such a small plant can produce so many flower buds…they just keep on coming from late spring until the first frost. Unlike the annual fuchsia of hanging basket fame, these varieties can grow in our Pacific Northwest zone 8 soil, in partly shaded sites. The pendulous blossoms of pink, white, magenta and red are hummingbird magnets. This shrub grows 1-3 feet, but don’t cut it back until spring for reliable re-growth.
Pennisetum or Purple Fountain Grass is starting to bloom, finally! It reminds me of a saying I once heard about grasses. ‘First they sleep, then they creep and finally they leap!’ The one I planted this spring seemed to be frozen in time for two months. I saw very little growth. And then suddenly, it’s growing and gorgeous! This annual grass only lasts one season in our climate, but it’s worth the wait for the beautiful shoots of purple foliage and soft seedy flower plumes that rise up from this graceful grass.
Echinacea or Purple Coneflower is another daisy-like flower in shades of purple, pink and red. The birds love the seeds and the bees love the pollen on this one. Echinacea have a long bloom season and make excellent cut flowers.
Roses, need I say more? This traditional flower with its famous fragrance and velvety petals is a garden stand-by. After the first flush in June and then a short rest, many roses are now producing an abundance of flowers again. With our dry summer weather, black spot and other fungal diseases become less of a problem and we can enjoy the tremendous variety that the rose family has to offer us, like one of my favorites, Julia Child, with its butter-yellow creamy dreamy blossom.
Make your way down to your local garden center, pick out some of your favorite summer flowers and extend the garden bloom! Which ones are your favorites?