Don’t let the hot summer keep you from a beautiful flower garden

Published 12:03am Sunday, August 4, 2013

The hot summer hasn’t kept my garden from showcasing beautiful flowers, thanks to some outstanding perennial plants I added to my landscape last fall and spring.

A little planning produced this flower power. I look for easy care plants with attractive foliage, low watering and other maintenance needs to carry my garden through the heat of summer. It starts with careful plant selection such as perennials — plants that flower, die back and then burst back into lovely display year after year.

Some perennials thrive in sun and heat; others favor shade. They come in many sizes and types — including groundcovers, medium growers for borders or containers and tall plants that work as focal points or back of bed displays.

Popular perennials include daylilies, coneflowers, lantana and yarrow. And there are many, many more choices. New versions of old favorites, bred for vigor, repeat flowering, disease resistance and moderate water needs, are available now in many nurseries and garden centers.

Horticultural greats Dan Heims, president of Terra Nova Nurseries, and Nicholas Staddon, director of New Plants for Monrovia Nurseries, scour the world for outstanding plants. For decades, these two horticultural giants have shared their plant passion and expertise with the gardening public. Their companies have bred or introduced exciting, garden-worthy new varieties. These plants thrive in heat, needing only a modest amount of water or fertilizer after young plants are established in the garden.

Here are their top picks:

4Peruvian lilies (Alstroemeria) — Dual purpose, in landscapes and long-lived cut flowers. But older versions tend to grow tall and floppy. Monrovia’s Little Princess series stays demure and downright showy in garden beds or containers. “Letizia” has deep red flowers with yellow throats. “Diana” has warm yellow flowers with soft orange stripes. Creamy-yellow 2-inch flowers of “Fabiana” have soft yellow throats and green leaves with narrow white margins.

4Lily of the Nile (Agapanthus) — Popular for decades, new varieties are garden showpieces. Dark blue “Graskop” or vivid blue “Baby Pete” are nearly sterile, compact flowering machines. Expect months of blooms from these new dwarf varieties that display their beauty in landscapes or large containers.

4Rockrose (Cistus) — A must-have for dry areas of gardens and especially poor soil. A breakthrough is “McGuire’s Gold” with consistently brilliant gold foliage, accented by two months of constantly blooming white flowers with yellow centers.

4Coneflowers (Echinacea) — Have undergone amazing transformations since their humble origins as species native to prairies and Southern states. Heims and his breeding crew have spent years developing flowers with brilliant colors and forms. “Mac and Cheese,” “Tomato Soup,” “Hot Lava,” “Merlot,” “Secret Romance” and “Cranberry Cupcake” are some of the exciting varieties offering months of blooms that attract butterflies and hummingbirds.

4Blanket Flowers (Gaillardia) — “Blooming fools” is how Staddon describes these vividly colorful plants related to sunflowers. The common name refers to flowers’ resemblance to brightly patterned blankets made by Native Americans. Very drought tolerant, “Sun Devil,” “Sun Flare,” “Commotion” and “Amber Wheels” bloom from early summer through fall.

4Coral Bells (Heuchera) — Shady spots deserve color splashes and these foliage and flowering plants fit the bill. Terra Nova has led the way transforming these North American natives into compact plants with showy foliage and flowers that provide color in shady spots most of the year. Choose from varieties with fascinating foliage of silver, maroon, wine, chartreuse, orange or combinations. Add flowers and you have stunning focal points for overlooked shady areas.

4Torchflowers (Kniphofia) — Love heat and long days. These plants produce spikes of upright, brightly-colored, red-to-orange flowers. Hence the common names of “torch” and “red hot poker.” Dwarf varieties like “Fire Dance,” “Papaya Popsicle,” “Creamsicle” and “Orange Vanilla Popsicle” are great for small spaces or containers. Hummingbirds love them, too.

For more information, see www.monrovia.com or www.terranovanurseries.com.

For the August gardening calendar, see page 3C.

 

Karen Dardick is an Adams County Master Gardener.