While I miss the blooms of spring and early summer, it’s nice to see some color hanging on through summer heat. Many plants bloom once and are done, but the ones that keep going truly stand out. The concept of long-blooming perennials and shrubs are now on the forefront of plant breeders, and new options are appearing increasingly available as the years roll on. These new options last longer and can even be easier to grow. Some varieties don't even require dead-heading (cutting spent blooms). The following are a few of my favorites from my garden to yours.
Lo and Behold Blue Chip Butterfly Bush - The top of my list features this newer butterfly bush - as it is such a low maintenance and compact shrub that does well in my small Lowell Highlands yard. It also provides wonderful conical blue flowers from early summer until a hard frost. This one has been in my yard for a few years now, and I am always happy to see the first flower buds appear. It is also very forgiving and will keep blooming without the need to be deadheaded. Another advantage is that it’s a dwarf variety, growing only about 3’ tall and maybe 4’ wide at most. Finally, it not only attracts butterflies but hummingbirds and hummingbird moths as well. Recently it has become available in purple, white, and lilac.
Knautia Macedonica - This perennial is always a constant bloomer in my garden. I saw its first blooms in early May, much earlier than usual. Knautia has magenta pin-cushion flowers that wave on slim stalks in the breeze. I have seen it grow larger each year and take over a small corner of my garden. It has a tendency to seed itself, so if you are looking for a perennial capable of taking over a large or problem area, this one is for you. Recently it is available in a variegated form called “Thunder and Lightning”. It will provide color all season long, and if I recall correctly I was still picking flowers from it just before the rare Halloween snowstorm last year.
Knockout Rose Series - There is a reason why they are called Knockouts. They provide stunning color from early summer straight until fall, and can produce an abundance of blooms with little maintenance or dead-heading. They're great for mass plantings, but one will suffice as it does in my garden. It was also bred to be resistant to Black Spot - a disease that affects many roses. There are many colors available beyond standard pink and red, as well as the Double Knockout which has full double flowers. Sunny Knockout is a yellow budding flower that opens to pale yellow fading to white. Rainbow Knockout is a coral-pink flower with a vibrant yellow center. If you have heard roses are hard to care for, you will find Knockout Roses very easy to grow!
Obviously there are many other summer re-blooming plants, but I thought I would cite the ones I've personally had success with. Color adds so much beauty in the landscape and having that color for many months has always put a smile on my face. It also gives me an excuse to relax in the garden and clip spent flowers while enjoying the company of the birds and butterflies. Plant one of these plants in your garden and I assure you will enjoy their lengthy show of color!