FOR MANY, summer is the season to enjoy the garden, to pause and relax after the hard, dizzying work of spring. On a good, clear day, one might be coaxed to a little mowing to create a spot for a blanket or a deckchair. And why not? The past months have not been easy. We all deserve a moment to just sit and think of nothing for a while.
But then, of course, there is that special, summer-hardy breed that sees summer as just another season for sowing. If you happen to be one of that breed, then you might want to try planting a few flowers this year. We need to grow food for our bodies, yes, but we also need a season to grow food for the soul, don’t we?
The flowers of late summer and autumn are particularly gorgeous, after all. They are also long-lasting, perennial, and repeat-flowering.
Planting Flowers for a Late Summer Matinee
You will likely be off to a tardy start, with seed deliveries hobbled by record-smashing demand in many places. That means some of those back-of-packet instructions – which might call for starting seeds indoors weeks ahead of transplanting – might not be possible.
Still, there is something uniquely gratifying about a summer garden in full bloom – and that alone makes the extra work worth your while.
Below are seven flowering plants that will bring rich color to your garden just as those of your neighbors are slipping into autumnal decline.
The aster is hardy, insistent, and generous with its blooms. Most of the world’s 250 or so species of aster are native to America. They range in color from immaculate white through the shades of lavender down to the royal purple of the big, bobbing New England asters. Sow them directly in the ground and they will bloom within 85 days. They are a lovely addition to any summer garden, including yours.
Few flowers are as cheerful as this garden classic. Marigolds are perfect for potted terrace planting. They are quite pollution resistant. If you want something tall, elegant, and prominent, marigolds can give you that, as well. There are stately varieties that reach three feet or more in height. Marigolds are a must for the well-planned summer garden. They require abundant sunshine, produce lovely blooms, and ask for little in the way of maintenance.
The zinnia is another summer garden denizen that requires no pampering. The plant is as tough as its flowers are delicate. Give it sunlight, some space to grow, and a start, and it will practically take care of itself. The plant will respond to care and cultivation, of course, but makes few demands otherwise. Grow some early this summer and with half a chance, a bed of zinnias will brighten your late summer garden as few other flowers can.
If you intend to plant just one flower this summer, you should at least consider growing phlox. You should have no problem in selecting. There are so many kinds of phlox, it is easy to choose one sort to satisfy whatever particulars you might have. Phlox will provide you with gorgeous blooms well into the fall, too, with flowers surviving temperatures down to -6°C.
To Vincent Van Gogh, the difference between an empty corner and the poetry of still life came down to a vase filled with just a few of these. People have been growing sunflowers for thousands of years. In fact, to many folks, the sunflower is not just a plant but a kind of emblem for summer, nature, and innocence. They are easy to grow, will thrive in summertime heat and, depending on the variety, can bloom in as little as 53 days.
The summer gardener who is content to plant a mixed packet of nasturtium seeds in a sunny patch is missing many of the pleasures offered by this fascinating plant family. There are varieties that propose a wide selection in size, color, growth habit, and foliage for the summer garden. All of them are equally lovely and all can be directly sown in the garden. After germination, most varieties will bloom within 35 to 52 days.
While you might find them growing in carparks, cracks in the pavement, and backyards everywhere, but verbenas hold a special place in the gardener’s heart. And why should it not? The plants can introduce structure, add height without causing too much of a distraction, encourage pollinators, and flower well into autumn. Their blooms are, of course, as precious and spectacular as summer itself.
Flowers for a Summer Matinee
While some may see summer as a time to put away the gardening tools, doing so will mean missing out on a spectacular late season matinee. With proper varieties, your summer garden can look just as brilliant and lively as your spring garden this year. The color of late summer blooms leans toward the hot end of the spectrum, making it particularly easy to start a blaze of blossoms in your borders and planting beds.
Granted, working the soil may have its unpleasant moments this time of year, given the heat. The rewards, however, will be well worth your labors.