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Unusual Summer Blooming Perennials

 

By Kerrie Badertscher,  Colorado State University Cooperative Extension, Horticulture

After the first flush of early summer blooming perennials, the garden often has a lull during the "dog days of summer". How about some new, rarely used perennials that provide color?

Many people are familiar with the perennial called Lamb's Ear, which is fuzzy gray and soft to the touch. Another member of this family is Stachys coccinea, or Scarlet Hedgenettle. It has been called the ultimate hummingbird-attracting plant. This plant is a native to southern Arizona and will bloom non-stop from midsummer on. The flowers are brilliant red spikes, speckled with white throats. Although hardy in Zones 5 to 9, with winter mulching, it is worth a try in a protected area of the Zone 4 garden. Remove or deadhead the flower spikes to encourage re-blooming.

There are several very good Agastaches on the market. Agastache is a member of the mint family and will do well in our climate and soils. Try Agastache rupestris , Sunset Hyssop which was a 1997 Plant Select® winner. (Plant Select®, a program administered by Colorado State University Cooperative Extension and Denver Botanic Gardens, each years chooses a number of varieties of plants best suited for gardens in the high plains to the intermountain region.) This plant puts on a show of orange and lavender spikes with a soft, wispy look. With a fragrance reminiscent of licorice, Sunset Hyssop gives a fresh, clean smell to the garden when its leaves are touched. It's also attractive to hummingbirds, butterflies and other pollinators.

An often over-looked plant family in many gardens is the goldenrod. This plant is often accused of causing allergies, when in fact other blooming but less conspicuous plants are probably creating the problem for allergy sufferers. For a spectacular addition try Solidago rugosa 'Fireworks' which is an appropriate name. It puts out graceful, golden-arched flowers and can be easily mixed in with other plants in the perennial border.

All of these plants are considered xeric, or water-wise plants. Even with water restrictions this year you may want to choose a few new plants that have the ability to withstand drought or lower water usage. After establishment (which does require some supplemental water), these and other xeriscape plants will thrive in summers such as the one we are having this year.

Take time to look around at neighbors who are conserving water, yet have created garden spaces that are full of color. Plants that have silvery, gray foliage or foliage with a tough or fuzzy feel can often be great choices for the low water garden.

Photo: Judy Sedbrook

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Date last revised: 01/05/2010