Perennials Span the Seasons

Choose outstanding and unusual perennials for late summer and early fall gardening.

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After battling too much rain, not enough rain, heat, chill, insects, diseases and general attrition, it's hard to think about how to make the August garden look good, much less plan for fall. In September, one has to stifle the impulse to run to the local garden center and load up on pansies, mums, kales and cabbages. This only leads to a bad case of pansiosa and mumitus, and doesn't cure what ails a tired garden. What you need are some bold and beautiful perennials to perk up the last of summer and the beginning of fall. Some of these bloom now, while the rest are something you can look forward to.

Branched Bugbane

Cimicfuga ramosa, 'Hillside Black Beauty'
With lacy, dark purple foliage and fluffy, fragrant white plumes in late summer to early fall, this 3- to 4-foot beauty is a totally awesome plant for the shade garden. It holds its beautiful purple leaves only in light to medium shade. You can grow this plant in a sunnier location if you have very moisture-retentive soil, but be prepared for the leaves to start turning green. USDA Zones 3 to 7.

Selected Daylilies

Certain Hemerocallis hybrids
Most daylilies are midseason bloomers and that makes the late bloomers special. Here are some late daylilies that I wouldn't go without:

'Heirloom Heaven.' This one is hot red with a yellow eye on a 2-foot stem. The shorter varieties of daylilies are good for holding a bank.

'Autumn Minaret.' This beauty blooms over a long period in the late season. A beautiful, tall daylily for the back of the border, this is a cheerful golden yellow that tops in at four to six feet.

'The Jury Is Out.' A spidery-shaped yellow daylily, this one has a high bud count and good branching. At three feet tall, that equates to lots of blooms.

Stonecrop or Sedum

Everyone loves 'Autumn Joy,' but the flower heads get so heavy when in full bloom that the plant develops a bad case of the sprawls. If you cut back in June you will have shorter, well-branched plants with a slightly smaller flower head. If you can't remember to cut back, try 'Autumn Fire,' a knockoff lookalike. The big difference is this one manages to stand up straight. The buds are whitish-pink, turning to a darker pink as they open, and they mature to a bronzy red. This is a plant you can leave in the garden for winter interest. Just cut dried stalks in spring. Sedums are very easy to grow: They grow in full sun, average soil and are very heat and drought tolerant. The leaves are succulent, which is why it withstands hot, dry weather so well. Hardy in USDA Zones 3 to 8. Sedums are great combined with ornamental grasses.

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