A couple of questions we get with considerable regularity at the nursery are “What are some good summer blooming perennials ” or better yet “What perennials will give me color and interest all season long?”. Happily, the list of available plants that meet the requirements is growing all the time and a number of them even fall into that wonderful category of low maintenance. So for fun I thought I’d work up an “A through Z” of plants that fit this description. Boy did I ever set myself up, just try and find a readily available, summer blooming hardy perennial whose name begins with the letter “Q”, I dare ya. Seeing as this is a large undertaking, it will be broken up into small sections with a new set of letters coming up each week.
Alstroemeria (The Peruvian Lilies): These are the long lasting cut flowers of florist’s arrangements that bring us incredibly wonderful sunset colors in the garden. Cold Hardy to 10 degrees F. or a little less, these hybrids generally start blooming around the first part of June and if they’re dead-headed they will bloom non-stop well into October. There is one form in our garden, Alstroemeria `Butterscotch’, that generally blooms well into November. The Alstroemerias do need full sun and when established do like a good watering about once every two weeks in the summer months. Make sure you get only the hybrid forms as the species tend to spread and can be a real pain to eradicate. Incidentally, dead heading in this case involves pulling the spent bloom spike out of the ground which causes the plant roots to generate more flowering stocks, who knew?
Begonia grandis ssp. evansiana: Yep, here it is, a hardy begonia (minus 10 degrees F.) that brings that wonderful green red ribbed foliage into our shade gardens. The plant emerges late in the spring but once it gets going it easily reaches 2 feet high by about a 1.5 feet wide. Although the foliage is the main show, the light pink flowers bloom most of the summer and are a welcome surprise in the late summer shade garden. The plant appreciates moist rich soil and an absence of slugs and snails.
Campanula `Birch Hybrid’ (Bell Flower): It seems to me there are nearly a `jillion’ good campanulas in the world and for me to single one out as a favorite is likely to be asking for trouble but I probably never had good sense about such things anyway. For starters, Campanula `Birch Hybrid’ is a very versatile plant in the garden. It blooms (Blue) beautifully, dutifully and continually from about mid-June to frost and will do it in sun or part shade. I actually have it growing in one spot where it gets only about four hours of sun late in the day and although it sprawls a bit, it is dynamite in combination with the Japanese Painted Fern (Aythrium nipponicum pictum) and “Black Mondo” grass (Ophiopogon planiscapus `Nigrescens’).
Diascias (Twinspur): Most of the country treats these incredibly floriferous imports from South Africa as annuals. Happily, most of them are really hardy (15 degrees F.) for us when they get the conditions they like. So, what do they like? Full sun, well drained soil and an occasional watering in the summer, if you amend the soil when you plant them, Diascias will go for several years blooming like crazy. Don’t over fertilize! The hardiest of the lot in my experience are Diascia vigilis (Medium pink), Diascia `Emma’ (Pink Red & vigorous), and Diascia `Hector’s Hardy’ (Bright dark pink). With our mild winter this year, Diascia `Emma’ just started blooming in our gardens and should continue pretty well toward the end of October or until first frost. Although the majority of the Diascia forms available have flowers that are some shade of pink, there are now lavender, apricot, red (still has a lot of pink in it), and a couple of white flowered forms which haven’t proved particularly hardy. Oh did I mention that they’re great for container plantings, too?
Check back in later as I continue working my way towards Z