Woo the sweethearts of summer

Unusual weather derails some plants, but many others just love heat and sun

In The Garden

July 28, 2002|By Ann Egerton | Ann Egerton,Special to the Sun

The mild winter, drought and early summer heat have confused the garden -- as well as the gardener. Black-eyed Susans bloomed in June, crape myrtles were resplendent by early July, and chrysanthemum buds are opening now. At times like these, you need flowers -- perennials and annuals -- you can count on, ones that won't be outwitted by the weather.

Carrie Engel, plant department manager at Valley View Farms, a Cockeysville garden center, hasn't given up on perennials for the season. Many -- including scabiosa, dianthus (Dianthus deltoides), echinacea, many coreopsis varieties, heliopsis and Russian sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia) -- continue blooming for several months.

The latter two are drought tolerant, and more than 3 feet tall. Yellow yarrow (Achillea filipendulina) is also tall, while the pink and magenta varieties are shorter. One aster, Aster x frikartii 'Monch', which can be 3 feet tall, blooms from June until frost.

It's essential to deadhead your perennials often. This, Engel says, "will make them flower again instead of going to seed."

Add some more annuals to the garden, and you'll have continued color until frost, despite the early summer. Reliable and sun-loving annuals are the ones we might remember from grandmother's garden, such as vinca (at the top of Engel's list), cosmos, marigolds, lantana, snapdragons and zinnias.

Impatiens and torenia bloom well in the shade, while wax begonias like both. A bonus of lantana is that deer hate it. A surprising discovery at Southern States, because I'd only seen it as a cut flower, was statice (Limonium sinuatum) which is popular and long-lasting in arrangements. Gomphrena globosa (globe amaranth), another annual sold there, likes the heat and, like statice, dries well.

Many gardeners enjoy cleome, also called spider flower, an annual that usually blooms in August and September. Cleome can be more than 3 feet tall, with stately white, pink and white, or lavender and white flowers. It then develops rather nasty thorns and long, spider-legged-looking pods that explode with seeds in the fall. The following year you'll probably have cleome all over the place, and your neighbor might too. It is charming, but remember, it's forever.

Leo Hastings, owner of Tannenhof Nursery in Hampstead, says that several shrubs bloom for a long time in the summer. "Pinch your spirea back, especially 'Little Princess' and 'Magic Carpet' [both pink], and they'll continue to bloom," he says.

He adds that glossy abelia, which has small white or pink scented flowers, and buddleia, also called butterfly bush, has white, purple or pink flowers, grow quickly. They all bloom better if cut back regularly.

Hastings suggests that another way to have color in the late summer and fall garden is with evergreens, including conifers. "For instance, the dwarf nandina 'Firepower' has lime green leaves that turn red after the frost," he says. "Dwarf burning bush [Euonymus alatus 'Compactus'] has scarlet leaves in the fall."

Bring on the sun

Suggested Annuals

Vinca (Catharanthus)



Wax begonia


Hybrid petunia



Blue Fan Flower (Scaevola)


Suggested Perennials


Russian sage (Perovskia)

Yarrow (Achillea)



Aster (Aster x frikartii 'Monch')

Dianthus 'Zing Rose'

Local sources

Valley View Farms

11035 York Road

Cockeysville, MD 21030-2000



Southern States Cooperative Service

10015 York Road

Cockeysville, MD 21030



Tannenhof Nursery

4409 Mount Carmel Road

Hampstead, MD 21074


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