Both the garden and the gardener can begin to look a bit limp in the heat of summer. Late winter has its burst of snapdragons and in early spring the Lady Banks roses perfume the air. But come the warmer days, what’s the garden to do? Include plants that keep up appearances no matter what the temperature and then take your iced tea out to the veranda and relax.
Heat tolerant roses mean that their lush look and enticing fragrance can be had over many months. ‘Julia Child’, a repeat-flowering floribunda named after the famous chef, blooms with full golden flowers that carry scents of licorice. Floribundas produce many flowers per stem and can create a mountain of bloom – in this case for at least five months. Only 3 ½ feet high and wide – on the small side for a rose and that makes it perfect in the garden or in a pot.
Sweet little polyantha rose ‘The Fairy’ offers generous sprays of small, double pink flowers that carry on and on. Its delicate look belies its tough nature – it can stand up to heat. Many guidelines say that ‘The Fairy’ grows up to 3 feet high and 4 feet wide, but don’t be surprised if you see it leaning up against the side of a crab apple tree trunk. It’s more scrambler than shrub, which means it will come up with new and unexpected plant combinations, as one branch wanders over here near a purple-leaved smoke bush and another stem insinuates itself into the middle of a bluebeard shrub.
Perennials come back to bloom year after year – and these do it despite the heat. The warm red-with-yellow edges to blanket flower (Gaillardia) make it look as if it’s soaking up the sun, and the daisy shapes are made for summer. Threadleaf giant hyssop (Agastache rupestris) loves to bake, but needs a well-drained spot. Its narrow orange flowers have a touch of purple and attract hummingbirds.
It isn’t all flowers – the sky-blue blooms of bluestar (Amsonia hubrectii) finish by May, but its feathery foliage adds a cool, wispy tone to any garden through the summer. In fall, it turns golden – sort of like having your own miniature wheat field.
Fill a big hole in the garden with Hibiscus ‘Lord Baltimore’. It grows to 5 feet high and wide and looks like a round shrub, but it’s a perennial that should be cut back to about 2 feet in winter. The scarlet flowers come on all summer long.
Yarrow (Achillea) fires up for summer, too – especially if the spent flowers are cut back. The 4-inch-wide, flat-topped clusters of tiny blooms attract beneficial insects. Colors such as ‘Paprika’ and ‘Terra Cotta’ seem to defy wilting summer heat.
A host of annuals can stand up to high temperatures and keep their cool. Spider flower (Cleome) creates a stately stand of stems rising to 5 feet. The white or pink flowers tolerate heat, and they do it with grace. Whiskery stamen shoot out of the flowers (so, not really spiders). Butterflies love it. It’s a self-seeder. Don’t you love plants that take care of themselves?
Cypress vine (Ipomoea quamoclit) makes quick shade in the summer – growing up to 25 feet long – so plant it beside the porch. It will also provide a summerful of narrow scarlet flowers that are loved by hummingbirds, offering you shade and a good show at the same time.
Don’t fret over the summer garden – create a landscape that can be enjoyed no matter the temperature.
Marty Wingate is a regular contributor to Country Gardens and leads gardening tours throughout England, Scotland, Ireland, France and North America. She’s the author of THE GARDEN PLOT: An Alibi Mystery, on sale now. Find more gardening tips from Marty on Romance at Random here or visit her website.