After the long, hot, dry weather we experienced recently, even a little rain is welcome, and the accompanying cool temperature is a tiny help to all our garden plants. As many annuals struggle during these challenging conditions, a few perennials can give our gardens a much needed boost immediately and then carry on well into fall. The added benefit with perennials is that they will return next year and will continue to thrive for many years, adding a richness to our summer gardens and transitioning them into fall. Some perennials perform far better during hot spells than others. So here is my top ten list of the best performers that we can plant right now and enjoy year after year.
My number one choice are the magnificent rudbeckias that you see in full bloom now in so many gardens. The most well-known variety, R. ‘Goldsturm’, is the standard bearer that will bloom until late September. A newer variety I really like is R. ‘Early Bird Gold’. It blooms about ten days earlier and carries on until the end of the season. A shorter version, R. ‘Little Gold Star’, has smaller blooms and is quite at home in containers and smaller spaces. These are summer and fall showstoppers that no sunny garden should be without.
Coreopsis has to be number two on my list, especially many of the new varieties. Two of the best for long and continuous blooms are the lacy foliaged, short yellow variety C. ‘Zagreb’ and the slightly taller creamy yellow C. ‘Moonbeam’. Both are simply amazing in terms of colour, all weather tolerance and continuous performance until October. Some interesting reds, like C. ‘Red Satin’ and C. ‘Cruizin Main Street’, have been recently introduced. They match the yellows for adding new richness to our summer and fall gardens.
No other perennial geraniums perform like the famous G. ‘Rozanne’. It has a low-spreading habit and can be kept more compact with a little pruning. This blue flowered jewel blooms from June until we run out of fall weather. Blue is a hard colour to find in gardens, so that’s another bonus.
Sedums are another mainstay of August and September gardens. Their strong upright blooms add a fresh autumn look. Their flowers now come in a wide range of colours, but the old-fashioned pink S. ‘Autumn Joy‘ is still pretty amazing. New varieties have lime, yellow or rose coloured flowers and have a range of interesting foliage from black and burgundy to a nice pinky grey. Being succulent-like, their drought resistance is outstanding, making them welcome summer companions.
Achillea is the sleeper of all perennials. The new ‘Seduction Series’ is great because it’s basil branching and a repeat bloomer for continuous summer and fall colour. I like ‘Strawberry Seduction’ because of its beautiful red blooms that add not only colour, but also texture to any garden combination. It’s great used in containers too.
Remember the ‘red hot poker plants’, well they’ve not only had a name change to kniphofia, but also a repeat blooming change as well. Their thin spiky foliage looks amazing combined with grasses, and their blooms of yellow, white, orange and bi-colours keep producing until fall. The ‘Popsicle Series’ is one of the best and wow! do they perform. Having quite a different look, they earn gold stars all around.
Heleniums are the first true fall-coloured perennials with those red, orange and bicolour small flowers that herald late summer. There’s a new shorty now called H. ‘Short Stuff’ that grows only 12” high and blooms a long time in places heleniums could not grow before. It’s a superstar!
Other superstars are the many varieties of agastaches, such as ‘Blue Boa‘, Summer Glow‘ and ‘Raspberry Summer’. All are bee favourites. They need a little pruning to keep them in shape, but they bounce back within a few days with massive blooms.
I love the many varieties of gaillardia because of their wide selection of desert colours: the yellows, oranges, reds and bi-colours. The newer ‘Arizona Series’ is, however, more compact, and it thrives in both sun and drought. Its uniquely beautiful large flowers, with serrated petals, look very desert-like.
The last of the summer perennials that I truly admire are the Japanese anemones. Talk about fresh new colours. Their many shades of pinks and whites are refreshingly cool looking. They will tolerate the sun, but morning sun and afternoon shade is best for these perennials that bloom till November. Most varieties are taller, growing up to .5 metres, but two new compact series called ‘Cinderella’ and ‘Pocahontas’ grow about 30cm tall, and they are very prolific.
To refresh and renew your summer garden, these perennials will work overtime on your behalf to get back that colour your garden deserves after such a challenging year, and they will do it again year after year. So let’s get planting again