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The Late Summer Garden: GBBD, August 2010

August 15, 2010
Rudbeckia nitida 'Herbstsonne' (photo credit: Jean Potuchek) Compared with the floral bounty of June and July, blooms are sparse in the late summer garden. Summer has begun to turn the corner into fall here, and gold-tinged foliage and ripening seed heads dominate the view. To enjoy flowers at this time of year, I don’t step back and look at the garden as a whole; rather, I get up close and savor each bloom individually.

The summer daylily season is pretty much over; the last bud of ‘Orange Bounty’ opened this morning. But the rebloomer ‘Happy Returns’ has begun to bloom again after a few weeks rest and a yellow-orange daylily (below), one of the first to bloom in my garden each July, sent up a new flower scape and surprised me with this burst of color.


Surprise reblooming of yellow-orange daylily (photo credit: Jean Potuchek)


Phlox paniculata 'David' (photo credit: Jean Potuchek) The most glorious flower in the late summer garden may well be Phlox paniculata. ‘Blue Paradise’ is just about finished blooming, but ‘David’ is just at the height of its bloom. In the back garden, the phlox are accompanied by the blues and pinks of Platycodon grandiflora, the deep blue-violet of Aconitum henryi ‘Sparks,’ and by the strong yellows of Heliopsis helianthoides and Rudbeckia nitida ‘Herbstsonne.’

Platycodon grandiflora 'Fuji Pink' (photo credit: Jean Potuchek)
Aconitum henryi Sparks (photo credit: Jean Potuchek)
Platycodon grandiflora 'Fuji Blue' (photo credit: Jean Potuchek)

Flowers on Rudbeckia nitida 'Herbstsonne' (photo credit: Jean Potuchek) In the fence border, Rudbeckia Herbstsonne is looking pretty ragged, both because it grew like a tall, awkward adolescent this year and because the goldfinches have been methodically stripping the petals from the fading flowers and extracting the seeds from the ripe cones. The same plant bloomed later in the blue and yellow border, however, and there its fresh green and yellow reminds me why I love this flower so much.

Liatris is another flower that is emblematic of late summer. The intense purple-pink buttons of Liatris aspera are calling attention to themselves in the deck border, while in the circular bed, the flowers of Liatris spicata ‘Floristan White’ have bloomed down to the bottom of their inflorescences.

liatris aspera (photo credit: Jean Potuchek) Liatris spicata 'Floristan White' (photo credit: Jean Potuchek)

We have had an unusually warm, dry summer in Maine, and some flowers that would normally bloom continuously have slowed down or stopped. Among the hardy geraniums, the endressii types have put out big clumps of new foliage, but the only flowers are a few pink ones. Almost all the tradescantia have gone dormant; the exception is ‘Osprey,’ which is still going strong in the fence border.

Single bloom on Linum perenne (photo credit: Jean Potuchek) This one little flower of Linum perenne gets the award for staying power; this plant must like warm, dry conditions, because it has been blooming continuously since early May!

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day is hosted on the 15th of each month by Carol at May Dreams Gardens. Visit her blog to see what is blooming this month in gardens all over the world.

23 Comments leave one →
  1. August 15, 2010 7:51 pm

    Jean, your garden looks lovely. You are correct in that many plants have slowed down with the heat we have had. My Blue Paradise is ready for a third bloom cycle with deadheading but David this year was a disappointment at least for me. My daughter’s David is still going strong, so I guess it depends on the conditions.


    • August 18, 2010 8:15 pm

      Thanks, Eileen. I love the color of Blue Paradise (does yours change color with temperature changes?), but it has never done very well for me. This year I moved it to a new spot, and it seems to be much happier in that location.

  2. August 15, 2010 7:52 pm

    Your photos are lovely, Jean, as always. I enjoy the colors of your late summer garden. The nights have begun to cool in southern CT as well, and we all hope the forecast for rain this week comes through. It has been unusually hot and dry here too, but I expected this mid to late summer weather after the rainy spring we had.

  3. August 15, 2010 10:13 pm

    It looks like high summer there. Even if things have slowed down you’ve got some plants that seem content with what the season has to offer. Your entire post looks like a yellow/blue-purple border this month.

    You’d asked about my Oenothera elata, and whether it extended across the country to your area. The USDA maps show elata’s range to end at the midwest, but it seems like your species si really similar.

  4. August 15, 2010 10:27 pm

    Beautiful selection, Jean. It’s been a tough summer for our garden, as well, with the heat and lack of rain. Our tomatoes decided to stop setting fruit when it got up around a hundred in July, and just stuck there for a while. We may have a chance for a late-season rebound now… crossing our fingers.

    It looks to me like your flowers have survived the heat wave with beauty and grace. The color of the monkshood is just riveting!

  5. August 15, 2010 10:45 pm

    Lovely blooms Jean. You are growing some of my old favorites. It has been very dry and hot here too and I am seeing trees turning or just leaves dying along the hillsides. Beautifully illustrated and written post.

  6. August 15, 2010 11:33 pm

    Hot and dry summers are a familiar experience here in my part of the world as well … and it’s amazing to see just what plants withstands these conditions. You still have some lovely blooms happening in your garden despite the horrible summer … loved the daylily that popped up and that stunning white Phlox! I so enjoyed all your photos … just lovely.

    • August 18, 2010 8:30 pm

      I should clarify that it hasn’t been so much hot here as dry. While our average temperatures have been above average for months, we haven’t had any serious heat waves — no high temperatures above 100F and only a few days up in the nineties. It’s more that our overnight lows, which are typically in the fifties in summer, have been warmer than normal.

      Bernie, you would laugh at what people consider hot here. Honest, if it gets above 85 F, people think they are going to die from heat exhaustion.

      Joene, Dry has been the real issue here. Unlike points to our south, we did not have an extra rainy spring, and all those snow storms that dumped feet of snow on the mid-Atlantic states this past winter went out to sea to our south. All this means that we entered this unusually dry summer without the usual cushion of winter spring melt in the water table. I think we’re still living off the surplus water from all the rain last summer, but that’s not going to last forever. Since mid-August to mid-October are usually the driest months here, the meteorologists are starting to sound worried.

      James, we’re definitely past the lushness of high summer, but I love all those yellows (combined with both whites and blue/purples) in the August garden. Thanks for the information on the Oenothera; I think mine is a biennis that just forgot to read the part in the book that says they only grow to be 5′ tall!

      Meredith, I’ve been enjoying the color of the monkshood, too. I planted three different varieties of Aconitum in this part of the garden 6-7 years ago, and they have done nothing. This year, I evicted one of them and threatened the other two with a similar fate (I often find that is an effective strategy for getting plants to shape up); this one really rose to the occasion.

      Carol, I haven’t seen trees turning yet here (although we often do at this time of year), but everything is starting to look very stressed; I’m afraid the leaves might just turn brown and fall off without any dazzling display of fall color.

  7. gardeningasylum permalink
    August 16, 2010 5:33 am

    Hi Jean, that Herbstsonne is delightful in your garden, ragged or not! So interesting that the liatris is long gone in Connecticut – it starts just as the roses are finishing their first flush here…

  8. August 16, 2010 6:27 am

    Jean, You’re so right that enjoying the August garden means focusing on the individual blooms not the entire garden. My garden has made it’s turn to fall too but I think that’s the drought talking not the calendar. You’re garden looks lovely, thanks for sharing your photos.

  9. August 16, 2010 7:21 am

    Hello Jean, I hope you get some relief from the dry weather soon. It is hard to imagine it sitting here on a very wet wintery evening!
    You have quite a few flowers that I am yet to learn about, but your beautiful photos of them are very inspiring!

  10. August 16, 2010 10:32 am

    Hello Jean

    To have little goldfinches in the garden must be wonderful – I’m trying to encourage them in but even though I have beautiful niger seed here they won’t cross the road into my garden. I really like Herbstonne so maybe I need to grow that variety in my garden.

    Despite your heat wave weather you still have some lovely blooms in the garden.

    • August 18, 2010 8:40 pm

      Cyndy, LOL, I didn’t photograph the ragged-looking Herbstsonne; I turned my back to it and photographed the better looking one in the blue and yellow border!

      Rosie, I agree that it’s worth having it look a bit ragged to enjoy all the goldfinches in the garden; they love these cones. I used to describe the color of this flower as “lemon yellow,” but after seeing the way the male goldfinch just disappeared against these flowers, I’ve decided the correct color description is “goldfinch yellow.”

      Debbie, Maine weather usually takes a turn toward fall in late August, so we’re only a week or two early by the calendar. But I agree that the drought has hurried things along. Many flowers in my garden (like some of the hardy geraniums) that would normally be reblooming at this time simply have not put out new flowers.

      Heidi, They promised us rain last Monday, but it didn’t really materialize. We did get some showers during the night, but it wasn’t enough to really get down deep into the roots of the plants. What we need is one good day of good, soaking non-stop rain, but there’s none in sight. I’ve decided to give all my flower beds a good watering this week.

  11. August 16, 2010 10:37 am

    Such a beautiful post Jean, and you’re right about the garden in somewhat of a wind down mode. It’s very interesting that both of our gardens are dominated by white/yellow/blue right now, and yet we don’t share very many plants. As we’ve discussed previously things start out pink in the early season and shift to this trio for late summer. Coincidence?…

  12. thevioletfern permalink
    August 16, 2010 4:49 pm

    Oh, I agree on herbstsonne. Love that monkshood and I haven’t see balloon flower since living in Maine – what a shame! Glad to enjoy yours.

  13. August 16, 2010 9:35 pm

    Your Rudbeckia is lovely Jean, much more delicate than some others in that genus. I’m glad ‘Happy Returns’ is still managing to blooms. Not sure I could envision your garden now without a daylily blooming!

    • August 18, 2010 8:48 pm

      Rebecca, Do you think it’s possible that we’re gardening twins separated at birth?? I will have some more pinks in the fall garden as the sedums start to bloom and if the pink geraniums and balloon flowers rebloom.

      VF, Hmm. I hadn’t associated balloon flower specifically with Maine. It’s such an easy flower to grow; I’m surprised it isn’t ubiquitous.

      Clare, Yes, I do like to have daylilies in bloom as much of the season as possible. I was delighted to see a new flower open on ‘Happy Returns’ on the same day that the last flower opened on ‘Orange Bounty’ — especially since my other rebloomers seem to have given up for the year and the late-blooming Autumn Minaret has not made any flowers. On the other hand, the very late blooming ‘Sandra Elizabeth,’ which is new to my garden this year, has lots of buds and looks like it may begin to bloom by the end of the week.

  14. August 17, 2010 5:18 pm

    It seems to me that while your garden is winding down that there is still lots of plants in bloom. I especially like your pretty white phlox.

  15. August 17, 2010 8:06 pm

    So I’m not the only one who feels fall a the garden’s gate, ready to take over. My mums are blooming, and that makes me feel like fall. Your pictures are cheerful. I read on Mr McGregor’s Garden that she hates the dead, brown spent flowers on David phlox. Do you find that a problem as well?

  16. August 17, 2010 10:57 pm

    Wow, It seems like your summer just arrived, and now it is ending! The weather remains hot here, but I am looking forward to a little cool down! You still have a lot of pretty blooms. I especially like the photo of the white liatris with the gold flower in the background.

  17. August 18, 2010 10:11 am

    Hi Jean~~ Not a particularly huge fan of yellow, your Rudbeckia could change me. I love the voluptuously oversized petals and the center looks like a fancy button. Very, very nice indeed.

    My David Phlox is also in the height of glory. It does almost too well.

    Beautiful Aconitum blossom. Yours is way ahead of mine. Last year it bloomed in late October. I thought this was its first year anomaly but now I’m beginning to think it likes dragging its heals.

    Kudos for getting your Linum to flower all summer. I must have killed mine with kindness or perhaps it was its exuberant neighbors…

    I’ll have to be on the hunt for ‘Osprey’ Tradescantia. One of my complaints about this plant was its short bloom time.

    Just beautiful, Jean. My compliments!

    • August 18, 2010 8:59 pm

      Jennifer, Yes, there is still more to come. I have sedums yet to open, and the morning glory on the garden fence is just starting to make flower buds. If I’m lucky, I’ll get a second flush of blooms on balloon flower (Platycodon) and delphinium in September. I think the difference is that the early summer and high summer gardens have flowers wherever you look, and the late summer and fall gardens have smaller islands of blooms.

      VW, I haven’t thought of the spent flowers on David as a problem — maybe because I cut many of them and bring them into the house, so they don’t get to ripen on the plants.

      Deb, LOL, the joke about seasons in Maine is that there are only two: winter and the fourth of July! That’s a bit of an exaggeration, but summer is short here; our frost-free date isn’t until the end of May, and it’s not unheard of to have the first frost of fall in late August. We all just keep our fingers crossed that tomatoes will manage to ripen and morning glories to bloom in the space in between.

      Grace, It’s nice to have you visiting again. I was surprised to look in my records and find that Linum usually blooms for 12 consecutive weeks. I don’t know why I noticed it so much more this year. I wouldn’t count on Tradescantia ‘Osprey’ having a longer bloom time than other tradescantias. This one may have done so well because it’s a new seedling just planted last fall. Osprey plants in other parts of the garden went into dormancy just like the other varieties of tradescantia did.

  18. August 20, 2010 10:37 am

    Everything looks glorious, Jean! You have so many varieties of lovely flowers.

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