As the summer winds down so do many gardeners. The heat and resultant plant die back of late summer suggests the waning days of garden enjoyment, Your energy and enthusiasm present at the beginning of the season may be spent. Succumbing to this “late season garden malaise” often times can result in missing options that can keep your garden a vibrant, enriching sensory experience through mid Fall. There are a number of stellar plant performers that can sustain garden interest during the mid august heat right through the cool down here in the north country.
Several shrubs, serving as the anchor to your gardens can offer powerful visuals and even late season fragrance. The Rose of Sharon, available in white, red, pink, blue and purple makes a bold statement . But be sure to give this upright shrub amble growing space as it becomes quite tall and can take over a good 6 foot wide area. The beautiful hibiscus blooms give a sense of a southern garden charm here in the Northeast. Tree-form Rose of Sharon are becoming popular options for smaller scale areas…but you will pay a premium for these. Looking for late season fragrance? Try planting the Summersweet shrub. It’s tapered white blooms give off a powerful sweet fragrance you would think only available in spring blossoms. My absolute favorite this time of year is the Hydrangea. They are available in a variety of blossoms, intensity of fragrances, colors and leaf textures.
Powerful late season perennials include tall phlox, Russian sage and sedum varieties. Each of these can blend into your color palette and find a home in your back, middle or front border. They also attract a number of pollinators. So as a bonus you can enjoy these graceful garden visitors as the season winds down.
Two rather under used annuals that can be late season assets are the marigold and sunflower. Sunflowers now come in a variety of colors and sizes. They provide a bold, almost whimsical accent to a garden. The seeds not only feed the birds, but allow you an opportunity to collect and reuse them for next season’s planting. I always choose a smattering of marigolds in my annual displays. Their scent tends to ward off hungry wildlife. and with adequate watering, marigolds perform well during the late season heat. With vigilant deadheading throughout the season, these can easily be incorporated into your fall displays as they do tolerate light frost better than many other annuals. You can also store the dried heads as seeds for next season.
Lastly, I like to make a bold upright statement in my garden beds, so I use the Tropical Hibiscus tree. The braided varieties are especially interesting with their contrasting blooms. These will survive until the danger of frost. I routinely dig these up and winter over indoors. It will go into a dormant period and begin leafing out late winter/early spring. I then transplant back to my gardens for another season.
As you begin to take stock of your 2015 garden, consider these late season performers. they may be a welcome addition to sustain your garden’s appeal next year . As always keeping gardens sensible and sustainable!