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by High Country Gardens

Allium Millenium, Callirhoe involucrata, Salvia pachyphylla
Allium Millenium and Callirhoe involucrata brighten the landscape with Salvia pachyphylla as a neutral backdrop.

So many gardens are planted with a predominance of spring blooming perennials. So by the time mid-summer comes around, many landscapes are looking quite green; lots of foliage and not many flowers. In fact, during July and August, it's a good idea to take some walks through your landscape and identify parts of it that could use some summer flowers to brighten it up.

Here is my short list of favorite summer blooming perennials, ornamental grasses, and groundcovers:


(some lesser known varieties that need to be more widely planted)

  • Millennium Ornamental Onion (Allium 'Millennium') — One of the very best summer blooming perennials, this tough-as-nails beauty comes into flower in July-August with big 3 inch diameter flower heads. The glossy green grassy foliage is very attractive too. Not to be confused with the June blooming Allium that are planted as bulbs in the fall.
  • Blazing Star (Liatris) — Fabulous for attracting butterflies with their long fluffy spikes of pink or rose-pink flowers, Liatris are carefree growers with deep roots. Liatris punctata is best for drier parts of the country. Its roots have been documented to penetrate the soil to a depth of 14 feet!
  • Fame Flower (Phemeranthus) — My favorite succulent wildflower, the large quarter sized magenta flowers open in the afternoon. It's a treat to see a big patch in bloom when you get home from work.
  • Native Sage (Salvia greggi and hybrids) — 'Ultra Violet', 'Furman's Red', and 'Raspberry Delight' are just a few of the wonderfully long blooming native sages. If you like hummingbirds, plant these beauties to attract them in huge numbers.
  • French hybrid Lavender (Lavandula intermedia) — The English lavender have finished blooming, but the French hybrids are just getting started by July. 'Gros Bleu' is the most colorful and most cold hardy of the many French hybrids I've grown over the years. The flowers are much darker in color and the plant more compact than 'Provence', the best known of this group.
  • Ornamental Oregano (Origanum) — Not the culinary types; these gorgeous perennials are not well known, but they are some of our showiest perennials. 'Amethyst Falls' is fantastic with loads of cascading flowers nice for containers and in the ground.
  • Agastache Ava, Salvia reptans
    Agastache Ava, in the foreground, stands out against the blue of Salvia reptans.
  • Hummingbird Mint (Agastache) — There are no showier perennials than the Hummingbird Mints. Very aromatic flowers and foliage are a nice complement to the long,colorful flower spikes that bloom in colors of orange, pink, blue and lavender-blue. Grow them where there is lots of sun in a well drained, infertile soil for best results.
  • Groundcovers

  • Poppy Mallow (Callirhoe) — Big magenta cupped flowers like a ground hugging hollyhock, Poppy Mallow blooms all summer and attracts loads of butterflies and bumblebees. Tough and long lived. A great re-seeder to naturalize in your landscape.
  • Magenta Iceplant (Delosperma 'Blut') — The best, most cold hardy, longest blooming of the Delosperma, 'Blut' has deep magenta colored flowers and nice evergreen foliage that turns purple in the winter.
  • Hardy Plumbago (Ceratostigma plumbaginoides) — Deep blue flowers in August and burgundy-red fall foliage are like no other perennial. Easy-to-grow, Hardy Plumbago grows in full sun or full shade. Amazing!
  • Max Frei Soapwort (Saponaria lempergii 'Max Frei') — A sadly overlooked soapwort that blooms in July and August with thousands of huge quarter sized pink flowers. It lives for many, many years when happy and is excellent to plant around the bases of taller perennials like Echinacea, Solidago and Lavender. Plant it and you'll be amazed.
  • Ornamental Grasses

  • Blonde Ambition Blue Grama Grass (Bouteloua gracilis 'Blonde Ambition') — Unique and eye catching, this native ornamental grass selection is unlike any grass you've grown before. Flag-like flowers / seed heads hold on the plant through winter for months of garden interest.
  • Undaunted Ruby Muhly (Muhlenbergia reverchonii) — Outstanding pink misty plumes cover the plant in late summer. One of our showiest cold hardy native ornamental grasses!
  • Mountain Mist Grass (Blepharoneuron tricholepis) — a wonderful Western native species that thrives in sunny, dry sites where the misty bronze seed heads catch the low angled morning and afternoon sunlight. I first saw this beautiful grass growing on west facing slopes in the mountains of northern NM and was smitten. Fantastic!
  • Windbreaker Giant Sacaton Grass (Sporobolus wrightii 'Windbreaker') — The giant of our native grasses, 'Windbreaker' was specifically breed for its huge size. The 7-8 ft. tall flower spikes bloom in shades of pink, bronze and blonde. A great specimen or hedge plant.
  • Text and Photos by David Salman.

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