Perennials for Summer Colour

Coreopsis 'Jethro Tull'

The best perennials for summer colour, in my opinion, have to be Rudbeckias, Echinaceas and Coreopsis.  If you are partial to daisy-like flowers in warm sunset colours and bright yellows then you’ll be pleased to know that we have a huge selection at Cultivate right now, fresh off the truck.

Rudbeckia fulgida, often referred to as Black Eyed Susan, has the best yellow flowers, I think.  Perfect partners with ornamental grasses or massed in a sunny border, Rudbeckias demand attention from midsummer and will flower straight into fall.  Goldsturm is one of the favourites but shorter varieties such as ‘Little Goldstar’ and ‘Little Henry’ deserve a spot in the front of the garden bed or in a container.

Rudbeckia hirta is a shorter-lived species than Rudbeckia fulgida (a true perennial), and are often treated as an annual but worth trying as the flowers are spectacular.  Varieties include ‘Tiger Eye Gold’ (which sold out quickly last week so we got in more), ‘Cherry Brandy’ with its large cherry red flowers and ‘Denver Daisy’ with bright yellow blooms containing a dark red ring at the centre.

While Echinacea purpurea (Purple Coneflower) has been popular for years as an easy to grow, really hardy perennial, hybridizers have been having a hay day developing new varieties and colour combinations for us gardeners to ooh and ahhh over.   The names alone are enough to make you want to create space in your garden for one or two new additions.  ‘Hot Papaya’, ‘Meringue’, ‘PowWow Wildberry’ and ‘Raspberry Truffle’ all sound delicious and promise long lasting colour in oranges, yellows and pinks.

If you want something a little airier then go with Coreopsis.  Forming a loose mound covered in flowers, Coreopsis is a long blooming perennial that does really well towards the front of the border or in poor, sandy or rocky soils.  Coreopsis ‘Zagreb’ is a popular straight yellow but there are so many new varieties that I just want to try them all.

‘Cosmic Eye’ is eye catching with a burgundy ring and a gold centre while ‘Sienna Sunset’ stopped me in my tracks this week with its masses of warm peach coloured flowers.  If you’re not into yellows and oranges then you can find Coreopsis in shades of pink with ‘Dreamcatcher’ or white with purple patches such as ‘Star Cluster’.

Because of the many flowers covering this perennial at any given time deadheading can be a bit tedious so a shearing of the plant when there are more spent flowers than fresh can be an easier way to promote additional blooms.  Or, if you’re like me and enjoy an opportunity to sit still and let your mind wander then you can pass some quiet time snipping off each dead flower.

All of these plants do best in full sun and well-drained soil.  The more sun the better, I find, as the colours tend to be more vivid and the plant sturdier.  They’re very forgiving on the type of soil they’re planted in but top dressing each spring with Sea Soil or other organic compost will help keep them happy.  Cut off the spent blooms to encourage more otherwise the plant will go into survival mode and put all of its energy into producing seed heads however, at the end of the season leave the last of the flowers on to provide food for the birds.

Rudbeckias, Echinaceas and Coreopsis not only add superb mid to late summer colour to the garden but also are butterfly magnets and while nothing is deer proof unless made of concrete, I’ve found these plants to be generally deer resistant in my garden so far.  Once in a while I’ll find they’ve been nibbled on early in the season but a quick spray of Bobbex usually helps with that.

If you find that your garden is sorely lacking in colour at this time of year come down to Cultivate where we have lots of fresh ideas and fresh colour to keep your garden looking lovely all year round.

Shirley Eppler

July 2013