Keep It Interesting

Question: I’m noticing that there are several periods between spring and late fall when there’s just not much going on in my perennial garden. I’m starting to look for plants that will bloom during those times, but finding ones that are the right size, bloom the right color and match my site conditions is making my head spin. Is there an easy solution?

Answer: Absolutely—here are three solutions from which to choose. And they aren’t mutually exclusive—you could try two, or all three!

1. Incorporate annuals. Many annuals bloom from early summer right up to the first frost. Plant long-flowering annuals among your perennials to provide consistent bloom. To cut maintenance, look for “self-cleaning” varieties that do not require deadheading.

2. Speaking of deadheading—do it to your perennials. Many perennials will offer a prolonged bloom period if flowers are removed as they start to fade. The plant’s goal is to create seed. By removing the spent flowers, you redirect the plant’s energy to make more new flowers rather than set seed.

3. Choose perennials with interesting foliage. “Interesting” might apply to the texture, size or color of the leaves. By making sure your garden includes a mix of different-looking foliage, you’ll eliminate those periods when it looks like a blanket of green. Colored foliage is particularly useful in this strategy. A few examples of perennials grown mainly for their eye-catching foliage: hosta, coralbells (Heuchera cvs.), ornamental grasses, piqsqueak (Bergenia cordifolia) and ornamental rhubarbs (Rheum and Gunnera spp.).

A final tip—be a little wary of “reblooming” perennials, which are said to bloom in spring or early summer and then again later in the season, particularly if sheared back after the first bloom. Just keep in mind that for many, the second bloom is more sparse than the first. It will make a nice addition to the late summer garden, but don’t rely on the plant to offer the same amount of interest that it does in spring.

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6 thoughts on “Keep It Interesting

  1. You can also visit local public gardens during your gap time and see what they might have in bloom at that time. Or visit your garden center at that time for the same reason.

  2. Our summers are now so HOT, I rely more on plants in pots to fill the gaps where bedded plants have stopped producing. You can get inexpensive colorful pots or simple plastic pots and change out annuals as they bloom out, or move them around. Also, have fun with non-blooming plants with great color folage — coleus, persian shield, sedum, or veggies and herbs. Pots let you change the scenery as you need to.

  3. Great suggestions. Another way to add summer color is to incorporate dayliles. I have added 30+ throughout my sunny areas and have been able to select some from early, mid and late bloomin varieties thanks to a local lily farm we have called Lilies of the Field. So I have extended color and not just for the month of July.
    I also let my Black Eyed Susans go to seed last fall to feed the birds and they are adding great fall color with new plants this year, just be cautious with them, had way to many seedlings this year but was able to share them.

  4. I think several of the BEST Drought resistant and neglected resistant plant for color are Ice plants, Moss Rose and Periwinkle. I have hanging pots of these that just keep on blooming!

  5. All of your suggestions are great, and I try to use all of them. My problem is keeping them all growing and looking fresh in high 90’s heat and little rain. Watering never seems to do as well as rain.

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