As summer wanes, many gardens are barren of anything but annuals for color.
In the spring buying frenzy perennials in bloom take our eye and our dollar, but the party does not have to end now or for months to come.
The perennials that have been waiting in the wings for their time to shine, despite the heat and drought, are no shrinking violets, but robust, sometimes gigantic stars. In alphabetical order, let me introduce the cast:
—Aconitum [monkshood] Blue purple flowers on tall three-foot spikes, start in late August. They resent dry conditions, but like shade. All parts are poisonous if eaten, but not usually a concern.
—Agastache [anise hyssop] Blue-purple flowers on three-foot spikes with green or golden licorice smelling leaves start to bloom in August in the sun. Don’t deadhead until way past blooming is done, as they look pretty again, especially for dried arranging. Short lived, they self sow, but are not a nuisance.
—Alcea [hollyhock] Pastels, red and darkest purple flowers on six-foot spires in full sun from late July on. Self sow with abandon, with much cross breeding leading to new colors. A short lived plant, but once happy, you will never be without. Tie stalks to each other so they won’t flop. Rust fungus is a problem; always cleaning up the leaves in fall in crucial.
—Allium senescens [German garlic] There are a few in this lavender, ball shaped onion family. A.s. glaucum, the lovely twisted onion, has the same blue grey leaves of the taller scenescens, but they are curled and only eight inches, while the other is 24 inches. Look for garlic chives in pure white at 30 inches. They alone will self sow everywhere, so do deadhead early. Full sun for all. When cut, the onion smell dissipates quickly.
—Anemone japonica and A. tomentosa ‘Robutissima’ [Japanese Anemone] These tall wind flowers are fast growing and quite invasive, but in the right semi-shaded setting, they’re beautiful. The latter bloom in August in dusty rose, while the former sometimes get caught by early frost and are white, pink and rose on three-foot stems.