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Kip Anderson
Gardener Kip Anderson

August: How to Keep Your Perennials Blooming

Sad to see your flowering borders fade as the summer ends? Have no fear, late-season bloomers are here.
by Kip Anderson

There's nothing quite as disappointing as a perennial border that quits halfway through the summer, and for this reason we've loaded ours with plants noted for their late-season bloom. This is not to say that the July show of color was any the less impressive: Filipendula rubra 'Venusta,' Chrysanthemum 'Becky,' Phlox paniculata 'David' and 'Katherine,' Stokesia 'Bluestone,' Coreopsis 'Golden Gain,' Penstemon mexicale x 'Red Rocks,' Allium tanguticum 'Summer Beauty,' Veronica 'Sunny Border Blue,' Callirhoe involucrata, Salvia forskeohlei, Dianthus amurensis 'Siberian Blues,' and many varieties of Campanula were some of the midsummer standouts, and I highly recommend every one of them. In fact, many of them will continue to bloom through August.

So far, so good. However, we feel that it's a bit early for the show to end. August is when the grand finale begins, and September is truly one of the most pyrotechnic months in our perennial border.

If we had to choose just one plant to carry us into the fall, that plant might be Boltonia asteroides 'Snowbank.' A mature clump will produce thousands of one-inch white daisy-like flowers on sturdy upright stems, and we would not think of doing without it.

Two New England asters (Aster novae-angliae) we admire are the hot pink 'Alma Potschke' and the dwarf 'Purple Dome.' For a strong dose of sky blue we like the tall Aster laevis 'Bluebird' and the bushy Aster oblongifolius 'October Skies.' Let's not forget Aster lateriflorus, with smaller but even more numerous flowers, which create a cloud-like effect — cultivars such as 'Lady in Black' and 'Horizontalis.'

Goldenrod provides a bold yellow contrast to the blues and purples of the asters. Solidago 'Golden Fleece' is short enough for the front of the border, and 'Fireworks' stands tall in the very back.

There is perhaps no flower more exquisite than the pure white Anemone 'Honorine Jobert.' We are also fond of the rugged colonizer with pink blooms, Anemone tomentosa 'Robustissima.'

Two perennials that are among the latest to show their colors in our garden (October!) are Chrysanthemum 'Sheffield' (pastel copper) and 'Venus' (palest pink). These are not your ordinary garden mums; they are long-stemmed, and spread to form large colonies.

No modern-day perennial border would be complete without ornamental grasses. We use three varieties of Miscanthus sinensis: 'Morning Light,' 'Adagio' and 'Cosmopolitan.' They flower very late and do not provide a shock of color; rather, the colors are tawny and subtle, with a feathery texture.

I've saved the best for last: Geranium 'Rozanne.' These large, mound-forming plants bear a profusion of mid-blue one-inch flowers continuously from late June until the middle of October. You can't beat that. 'Rozanne' may well be the perennial plant of the century.

Kip Anderson has been the Victory Garden's head gardener for over 20 years.

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Published August 31, 2007