Saturday, August 11, 2007

What's In Bloom?

Gardening with perennials can be a little problematic as most perennials have a limited bloom time, usually 4-6 weeks. Some, like the salvias, can be cut back to force a second, later blooming, but most perennials get one shot, then that's it til next year. To get color all season in the perennial bed requires a large enough space to plant different plants with different bloom times to keep the color going. Local author, Pam Duthie, has written several books on perennial gardening for continuous bloom.

Late summer brings with it more blooms but with more subtle colors. Gone are the vibrant colors of spring and early summer, with a few exceptions. Now we move to mauves and purples. And the grasses are now beginning to show their blooms as well.

The other afternoon while I was working in the perennial lot I took some pictures of what was blooming. Late summer is the time for the hardy hibiscus to bloom. This is a plant that is slow to come out of dormancy in spring. After we potted them up last spring, they looked just like sticks for the longest time. But it was worth the wait, because their dinner plate-sized blooms are gorgeous.

Echinceas, or coneflowers, are also blooming. Plant breeders have developed quite a number of different varieties since the major breakthrough with the Orange Meadowbright of a few years ago. These also appear to be hardier than the original Meadowbright, as well. One of the newer varieties has a "mophead" flower.

Eupatorium, or Joe-Pye Weed is a great plant for fall with the added benefit of being attractive to butterflys. There are varieties available that have either green or dark purple leaves, and while most varieties are tall, "Phantom" is one that is shorter at 12"-24". The flowers range from wine red to pink/red.

To add a little pop to the garden this time of year, consider either the rudbekias, Black Eyed Susans, or the Gallardia, with its yellow and orange flowers.

There are several different varieties available suitable for our area, differing mostly in size. The variety "Herbstsonne" can get 4' to 9' tall, while the popular "Goldsturm" is a more manageble 24"-30".
Gallardia, or Blanket Flower, has orange and red flowers. Some varieties have a daisy like flower, while "Fanfare" has a daisy like flower with tubular petals. The plants range in size between 12" to 24"-30" depending on the variety. The newest introduction is "Oranges and Lemons," which has a more subtle orange color.
Staff member Kim Hartmann spent last week at the Perennial Plant Association meetings in Ohio. I am sure she brought back many great ideas for our perennial offerings for next year. Be sure to stop in and ask her how the meetings were.

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