Horticulturally speaking, July and August are the two months that separate “the men from the boys.” The game is on…insects, drought, blights, mites, and a plethora of other pests and 4-legged critters.
When I look at our garden border in July, I’m rarely dissapointed with my decision to choose some native perennials for the summer flower show. Clearly, there are lots of new flower varieties on market, but the old mainstays are solid plants. Here are a few we depend upon for hardiness/heat tolerance : Goldsturm rudbeckia, garden phlox, crocosmia, Oriental lily (Stargazer), daylily ‘Stella d’ora’ , Texas star hibiscus, hosta (for flowers and variegated foliage), coralbells, nippon daisy (a late-blooming shasta daisy, liatris, Brazilian blue sage and my favorite- purple coneflowers. The biggest problem this year was an early outbreak of powdery mildew on the phlox….I depended on pruning to deal with the fungus, a real mistake this season! One mildew resistant zinnia, also a dwarf, is the Cherry and Apricot Profusion selections….though annuals, they work well in the front of a perennial border in the spot we once reserved for monkeygrass.
In the fall I plan to add a few special plants that petered out in the perennial border—namely, Mongolian aster, ginger lily, dwarf cana, elephant ears and Mexican sage (for fall blooms). I discovered the Japanese mums over the last decade and look forward to the color they provide in October.
Grooming perennial flowers is not that challenging; you must be willinging to lopp them back occasionally, mulch and toss them a little 10-20-20 periodically to keep them growing. It’s hard to pass up the season to take cuttings on mums and other perennials. Four-inch tip cuttings root easily in a mixture of equal parts perlite and peat moss or vermiculite. The daylilies can be separated now to share or increase your collection.
If you share garden flowers with a friend, by all means keep the plants labelled correctly. Cultivar names are lost over time; hopefully we can remember the flower color, and that’s a drawback when you want to locate a specific variety at the nursery. We all do this….so my trick is to make notes in a gardening book or journal that I plan on keeping. My personal copy of The NC Gardener’s Guide has lots of cultivar names written into the page margins and provides me with a ready resource for a plant search.
Happy Summer gardening!