After the bright colors of the short-lived annuals have disappeared from the garden, the faithful perennials remain, ready to bloom again next year and add continuity to your garden. Here are a few suggestions for reliable plants that will remain with you for years to come.
The bright yellow blooms of coreopsis will attract butterflies and bees if they are around. This year, I have seen few of either in my garden, but I keep hoping.
Coreopsis is a large genus with many forms and sizes and may range in height from tall, upright plants to ground-creeping varieties, all producing attractive yellow flowers. Also known as tickweed, it will reseed, but the new shoots look much like weeds in their early stages and I am afraid I generally have pulled them out before it dawns on me I have just lost a whole generation. So, be careful. Deadhead for continuing bloom and you will have flowers all summer.
Leucanthemum are the familiar, old-fashioned Shasta daisies that are easy to grow and whose white flower heads grace the garden from June to September. They are tough and reliable and mix well with coreopsis.
Midsummer is a good time to plant these because the soil is warm and induces root action. Those planted now will get well established and have an early start in the spring, with strong root systems able to survive dry summer conditions.
Russian sage, or perovskia, is a great plant in the right place. It will grow up to 6 feet high and 4 feet or so across and is not inclined to stay neatly in place. It will spread by roots, with new shoots coming up every summer.
Having said this, it is a lovely plant with cloudy, lavender-colored flowers for most of the summer. The sage scent attracts bees and butterflies.
I had it on both sides of my front porch for years, but took it out last fall and put some well-behaved ornamental grasses there instead. It was out of control and still does not want to give up, but I do miss the beneficial insects. I still have some sage growing behind the garage, where it can spread at will.
Stoke's aster is a lovely plant that started as a meadow flower and has been improved through breeding to become a more docile garden plant. The flowers are blue, lavender or purple and generally bloom from July until frost.
The more formal name is stokesia, and there are several varieties. It can be divided in the spring and, like Shasta daisies, is good to plant in the fall.
If you need a tall accent plant, macleaya or plume poppy is a good choice. It grows tall and the large leaves provide welcome shade. The flowers are tiny and insignificant, but once established, you will have a plant for life.
Just to show I am not prejudiced, there is one flower I heartily dislike, although most people like it. Kniphofia, otherwise known as tritoma or red-hot poker, is a hardy, sometimes evergreen, plant that has long, sword-shaped leaves and showy spikes of orange and red tubular flowers that bloom in early fall. It is an attention-getter, with the bright colored spikes sometimes reaching 4 feet high in well-drained, sunny spots.
Now is the time to look for these perennials and others in garden centers where they are growing too big for their pots and probably will be on sale.
Janet Del Turco is a local gardener and a graduate of the Ohio State University Master Gardener program. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.