Late Summer Flash in the Plants

      Late summer days in the South Sound may not always produce the hottest temperatures but they certainly bring on the garden’s hottest colors.  Yellows, oranges and reds change the calm of early summer’s pastels into blazing combinations that make the best of a well planned…

 “Triple Threat”

     One surefire way to make a big impact in the late summer’s “hot” garden is using the  “rule of three”.  Group three each of three different plants in three different colors. Most perennials and annuals are sold in larger containers this late in the summer so using these principals you can have an instant floral punch.

     Red-flowered perennials like Monarda ‘Cambridge Scarlet’ and Crocosmia “Lucifer”; yellow flowers of flat-topped Achillea “Moonshine” or feathery Goldenrod ‘Fireworks’; orange-flowered Asclepias (butterfly weed) and daisy-like Helenium make striking combinations. Mix and match and substitute. Add fiery annuals and you have a garden that does…

“Double Duty”

     Annuals bloom all summer and take up the slack of perennials that normally have shorter bloom times.

     Still using the “rule of three”, you can add bright yellow Calendula or Zinnias;-flaming red Salvia or Snapdragons and brilliant orange Coreopsis or the newly popular Tithonia. They match and extend the color and form of  “hot-colored” perennials. Add some cream or white low-to-the ground plants like Alyssum or Bacopa just to break up the “hot”.

     All of these perennials and annuals are easy to find, grow and maintain.  They can make a big impact if you want a simple bit of flash. They all survive with a minimum of summer water and can attract butterflies, bees and hummingbirds.  They also make good cut flowers. Take advantage of that. There is a reason why they are called “cut and come again” flowers. More cutting produces more flowers.

     However…sometimes easy to grow and find just isn’t as much fun as the search for the unusual and the challenge of growing something completely new.   Rarer plants are creeping into both mainstream and  specialty nurseries.  They fit perfectly in our South Sound dry late summer gardens. Get ready to learn all about the new influx of better than borderline flashes of color with…

“Hot Color, Dry Garden” by Nan Sterman

     The new-to-most-of-us Australian and South African plants are giving us a whole new reason to beef up our plant knowledge. These days they are than we ever thought possible, thanks to global warming.

      “Hot Color, Dry Garden”: Inspiring Designs and Vibrant Plants for the Waterwise Garden is a great introduction to some of these plants and how we can use them.

     Several years ago these borderline hardy plants were called “temperennials” because they came and went. Now they can be a more permanent addition. Sterman’s guidelines for what to plant starts with the facts and figures of a site including elevation and rainfall and then lists plants good for that site.

     Some of the plants listed will sound familiar like Achillea, Salvia and Yucca but the addition of Aloes, Aeonium and Echeveria can make a South Sound garden come alive with the hottest of hot colors.

     Each listed plant has all the information you’ll need, including lowest and highest tolerated temperatures and soil type.

     “Hot and Dry” is all you need to start a new gardening adventure. What once was just for the South can now be grown in the South Sound. How lucky?

Timber Press, 300 pages, 360 color photos, $24.95