While we would all ideally have gardens that look their best in every season, the reality is often far from that ideal. Few of us in the world have the time to devote to our gardens, and the hard truth is that the planning and work that goes into gardening means that we often only get one season where we sit down. You can enjoy the fruits of your labor.
As executive editor Danielle Sherry explains, “Winter is for planning. It’s when you really don’t want to be outside and when your time is better spent planning an attack to make your garden the best it can be. Spring is the time for work, when the bulk of your cleaning, planting, and projects are done. Fall is also a work period and is usually when you are Can revisit things you didn’t do in the spring.
After all that preparation and planning, you want to make sure your summer garden is at its peak when it’s finally too warm to work hard. To help ensure your summer garden really shines, area experts share their favorite perennials for this peak season. Find picks for the Southwest below, and be sure to check out more great summer picks in Pick Season Combos.
1. ‘Pink cloud’ blonde
Name: Gora Lindheimer ‘pink cloud’
Size: 2 to 3 feet tall and wide
Conditions: full sun; Well-drained soil
Local Range: Louisiana, Texas, Mexico
‘Pink Cloud’ White brings a light, airy feel to any garden or container with its cheery flowers that bloom from late spring through fall. The pink flowers stand tall above the red-green foliage. I’ve started to incorporate this wonderful plant into my designs a lot to create the feeling of a dancing wildflower meadow. This perennial tolerates high heat and humidity and is perfect for microclimates near a stone wall or driveway in full sun. Once established, it only needs occasional extra watering. Best of all, it attracts beneficial insects and pollinators, including butterflies and hummingbirds.
2. Mexican Hat
Name: Ratibeda columnifera
Size: 1 to 3 feet tall and 1 to 1½ feet wide
Conditions: full sun; Dry to medium, well-drained soil
Local Range: North America
The magic of this plant is that it works well.
In a natural design or a more formal garden. Sometimes called the “straight prairie cone flower,” the Mexican cap has petals that can be all yellow or mahogany red. It blooms from mid-summer to fall and looks great during the hottest part of the year. This plant simply does not tolerate dry summers. It prioritizes them and empowers them like a champion. Flowers are attractive to butterflies and bees. This beauty is one of the easiest wildflowers to grow from seed and will thrive even in a small container. It makes an excellent cut flower for arrangements and also dries well.
3. Wild Blue Flax
Name: Linum lewisii
Size: 1 to 2 feet tall and 1½ to 2 feet wide
Conditions: full sun to partial shade; Dry, well-drained soil
Local Range: Western North America
This plant is an overlooked gem of the West. Drooping panicles of bright blue to violet-blue flowers appear at the tips of green stems. Vibrant blue looks great against the earthy tones of a southwestern landscape. Wild Blue Sun reaches its flowering peak during June and July, but I have seen it continue to bloom as late as September. The flowers open in the morning and usually close by noon. While the blooms usually only last one day, this plant is such a stunning flower that you won’t notice. Preferring dry conditions, it is drought tolerant and often overlooked by rabbits and deer. Although it can be grown in partial shade and alkaline soil, it does best in full sun and acidic soil.
4. Coral Canyon® Twinspur
Name: Diascia integerrima ‘P009S’
Size: 1 to 1½ feet tall and 1½ to 2 feet wide
Conditions: full sun to partial shade; Well-drained soil
Local Range: South Africa
This perennial originally caught my eye because it blooms all summer until frost. Its salmon pink flowers are held on finely textured stems with bright green foliage. This award-winning plant attracts multitudes of beneficial flying insects including butterflies as well as hawk moths. It thrives in containers, rock gardens and streetscapes and is very heat tolerant. It is also highly tolerant of wind and poor soil. Coral Canyon® twinspur prefers loamy or sandy soils and has moderate to low water requirements. A trim is needed after winter to look perfect for summer. Deer browse through this plant, so keep that in mind when choosing a location for it. It tolerates clay and rocky soil as long as there is good drainage. Water regularly during long dry periods for best flowering.
Mark Broughton, APLD, owns and operates Living Water Irrigation and Landscape in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Photo: Courtesy of High Country Gardens