"Late Bloomers for the Border," by the Whistling Gardener

Beautiful Big Baskets!  Photo courtesy of Sunnyside Nursery.
Beautiful Big Baskets! Photo courtesy of Sunnyside Nursery.

This weekly column is being reproduced with the permission of Steve Smith, The Whistling Gardener, and owner of Sunnyside Nursery in Marysville.

As we move from late August into early September it is not unusual to have our borders start to look a little tired. Part of this is due to us slacking off on the watering and deadheading, and part of it is due to the fact that most of us shop in the spring and early summer only buying what we see in bloom. Sadly, the fall bloomers get ignored and consequently don’t get planted into our gardens.

The good news is that most garden centers have a great supply of late bloomers and it is a perfectly good time to incorporate them into our gardens. Here are some that caught my eye the other day from our perennial tables.

Guara — This North American native blooms from late spring until fall with one-inch flowers that look like butterflies, hence the name “Whirling Butterflies.” Most selections have light pink to white flowers, but if you prefer a darker pink and darker foliage then consider Passionate Blush, Pink Lady, or Pink Cloud. All Guaras thrive in full sun and need good drainage, once established they are very drought tolerant. They also attract butterflies and hummingbirds and make good cut flowers. This is a rock solid perennial for our northwest gardens, just make sure it doesn’t stay too wet during the winter.

Coreopsis — Known as tickseed, this perennial traditionally only came in a gold daisy-like flower, but recent breeding has created color choices from the full spectrum of the rainbow (well, almost). Like Guara, Coreopsis is drought tolerant, long blooming and attracts butterflies and hummingbirds. You can easily shear it back after the first flush of color and it will repeat bloom later in the summer. Two varieties that caught my eye were Red Satin, with its deep red flowers and fine foliage, and Mercury Rising, which boasts velvety red flowers. Both varieties get around 18 inches tall and all Coreopsis are deer resistant, which is a bonus for many gardeners.

Helenium — Helen’s flower or Sneezeweed, as it is also called, is a bullet proof perennial that blooms late in the summer with a range of warm colors, from yellow to orange to red, depending on the variety. Most selections get three to four feet tall and are reliable bloomers, when placed in full sun and good drainage. Feuersiegel is a real showstopper. The name translates to “fiery lightning bolt,” a fitting description of the flower. Again, deer resistance is a bonus.

Rudbeckia — Little Henry is a really unique form of the good old Black-eyed Susan. The flowers are “spoon shaped,” which means they are very narrow (like the handle of a spoon) and then flare out at the last minute (like the business end of the spoon). This makes for an eye-catching look in the garden and a fun addition to a flower arrangement. Rudbeckias have the same needs as all of the plants I have mentioned here. They like good drainage, full sun, attract pollinators and are deer resistant.

Asters — I would be remiss not to mention fall blooming asters, also known as Michaelmas Daisies. They come in all the cool colors of blue, white, purple, and pink and can be as short as twelve inches or as tall as four to five feet. My favorite is “Monch” which has the largest blue flowers of the group with three inch blooms.

If your garden needs a little fall pick-me-up, try a few of these easy to grow perennials. You won’t be disappointed.

We will have a free class on Fall Containers, Saturday, September 2, 2017, at 10:00 am.

Take care,

Steve Smith is the owner of Sunnyside Nursery in Marysville, WA, and can be reached

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