Each week of gardening season brings with it a unique combination of flower and foliage, fruit , berries, bark and seed pods to enjoy. Late summer is no exception, and personally I find it much easier to take the time to literally smell the flowers, (and cut them and arrange them and plan new combinations for next year) at this time more than any other.
Early September in the garden has such a relaxed mood as there is no rush to plant , the weeds are minimal , there is no urgency to get anything staked , sprayed or thinned, all the mistakes of this year have been made and the successes counted and noted to be repeated next year. Now on my morning walks I can spend far more time admiring the garden than making lists chores that need doing and there are certainly some stars worth admiring out there now.
Every year I buy any dahlias I see when I am out and about in the spring , I don’t care if I am at Wal-Mart, Lowes, Home Depot, or my favorite nursery as the tubers are generally bagged and healthy from anywhere and especially the ones from the big box stores are dirt cheap. I have never successfully overwintered a dahlia and used to replace my Bishop of Landoff variety via an online catalogue every year at great expense , but now don’t bother as any I find around here are usually quite pretty and some are actually unbelievably gorgeous. Check out this example that looks like the earths’ very core is glowing within it.
Its blooms are quite large and it is a taller variety so it stands out nicely when looking at the garden from the street, not bad for $4.98.For late season color, dahlias are definitely the biggest bang for your buck.
I also buy several packages of cosmos seeds and various sunflowers seeds, no great expense here either, and sow them any where there is open ground then forget about them. Germination rate ends to be poor when you take that approach, but those that do germinate and then survive the bunny vs. seedling battle are more than appreciated in September. This cool cosmos has tubular petals that look almost as if they are made of two layers with the top one being placed on inside out. It speaks to my careless attitude toward dressing like a girl and I l-o-v-e it.
I was never interested in growing helenium autumnale , or sneezeweed, until a few years ago, I can’t tell you why, it was an undefined dislike, but after adding a few here and there, and being continually WOWED by their sheer numbers of flowers and ability to make ever pollinator we have dizzy with delight, now I can’t get enough of them. They will grow to about 5 feet and need staking unless you cut them back (like you do with mums) before July 4th to keep them more compact. Then stand back and watch the fireworks, this plants rocks ! The yellow is the straight species, the red is ‘Helena Red Shades’.
And last ,but certainly not least, is this annual salvia called ‘Wendy’s Wish’. The plant has me almost at a loss for superlatives to describe it. I bought several on a whim at Lowes when we went one day to look at kitchen stuff. It was early May and they were in quart pots and in full bloom. I planted them in a whiskey barrel container out back and in an area I struggle to fill every year near a birdbath located in the most visible of all my gardens from the house .Nothing I have ever planted there looks good enough season long for my liking, so it gets ripped out and replaced often. Not this year. This salvia is gorgeous, its’ long bloom stalks packed with dark pink flowers that hang from even darker bracts that are stunning enough to be the center of attention themselves.
Through a very wet and cold spring , through a long hot dry July, and into these lovely first weeks of cooler weather, this plant has not even for one second flagged, looked ratty or even been out of bloom. I have not touched it at all. Not once. Not to prune, water, or take a bug off. I have instead stared open mouthed at it as it surpassed all of my expectations AND proven to be the biggest hummingbird magnet in the garden ( which is saying a lot given its’ competition). It’s only downfall? It is the single most un-photogenic flower I have ever come across. No shot I have attempted does it justice it even remotely captures the delicate nature of the flower stalk dancing in every teeny tiny breeze, and those deep colored flowers are not only perfect but are usually adorned with a hummingbird or two for effect
I would be remiss if I left out the backbones of the garden .The shrubbery planted here all get best supporting actor nods in late summer with so many hydrangeas in full blousy bloom and the Rose of Sharons, drift roses, caryopteris, potentillas, all doing their thing, and berries starting to appear on many viburnums,the red osier dogwoods, callicarpas, snowberries, and hollies, the stage is beautifully set to let the garden stars shine.
Who are the stars in your late summer garden?