A fellow gardener and I were talking today about how there is often a slump in the middle of the summer where there isn’t much blooming. There’s no problem in the spring and early summer because so many perennials, bushes and trees get there blooming periods over early, but somewhere around now (end of July), the garden can look very lush but not very colourful. I noticed this for many years in my own garden and finally decided to take some steps to improve the situation.
As I look out into the Tranquil Garden today, the plants in full bloom are coneflowers (aka echinacea), bee balm (aka monarda), black-eyed susans (rudbeckia), roses, lilies, day lilies, phlox, and hosta. The Joe-Pye weed I planted last year is almost blooming and I can’t wait to see whether it attracts butterflies and bees as it is supposed to. Coneflowers, although a bit prosaic, are very dependable for filling in spaces, and are available in many colours. I have pink ones and burnt orange ones in my garden. Black-eyed susans are also very common but have the same advantages as the coneflowers and I love their cheerful yellow colour. Phlox can make a wonderful show, so despite its tendency to suffer from powdery mildew, it’s worth having in the garden. Read the label for one that is resistant to disease. I can’t say enough about my lovely red bee balm, which I fell in love with years ago in a friend’s garden. Linda was generous enough to share it with me and now it’s a mainstay of the garden for at least a month in mid-summer.
Another way to minimize the mid-summer slump is to think about foliage shape, colour and texture when buying (or adopting) plants. Many of the more interesting plants for foliage don’t necessarily have great flowers (heuchera for example), and are often shade plants, but if you look you can find some for sunny areas as well. My sister, Nora, introduced me to heuchera. I was calling it ‘coral bells’ and thought it only came in one colour, green with tiny pink flowers. I’m grateful to her for showing me a glimpse of the choice that exists! I now have at least six different varieties of heuchera.
It’s not too late to add some of these mid-season bloomers to your garden for next year. If a friend is dividing their perennials this fall, get in there with a spade and take some home! Many perennials need to be divided once in awhile for their health and to keep them from spreading too far, so you’ll be doing your friend a favour.