January is one of those in between months. The holidays are over and spring is still some way ahead. And it’s cold so we’re cooped up indoors for most of the time just keeping warm. While this means that we cannot go out into the garden, we can at least dream of the summer warmth that is to come and and the flowers we will enjoy at that time. I came across this article by Nick McCullough on the Garden Design Magazine website in which he shares twelve of his favorite flowering plants for the summer garden.
Yes, the motto at McCullough?s Landscape & Nursery, our family landscape design and nursery business, is ?We love the Midwest,? but we also know the realities of the weather here in central Ohio. Who can forget this past winter with around 10 days below zero? Or the typical summer days in the 90s? After almost 12 years of designing gardens, I?ve learned the hard way what plants I can rely on?not just to survive, but to actually star in the midsummer garden.
After the big glorious blast of spring bloom is over, there?s usually a rough stretch for the garden. When temperatures and humidity start climbing, I count on a dozen tried-and-true, mid- to late-season perennials and biennials that can outperform the ?latest Heuchera? or ?hottest new Echinacea.?
These classic plants come on strong in midsummer and even last into fall. Some are Midwestern natives particularly well suited to our clay soil and climate, but they will also succeed in most other Zone 5 regions, and other zones as well. Interestingly, several plants?such as Veronicastrum virginicum ?Fascination?, are American prairie natives that were developed in Europe, then made popular by the naturalistic design movement and such designers as Piet Oudolf and Tom Stuart-Smith.
I think these dozen midsummer classics are ideal for my design style, which I describe as a merging of traditional and contemporary, but the same plants can easily look at home in other garden styles also. I like to plant them in drifts, using big brush strokes?particularly Allium senescens ssp. montanum var. glaucum and Veronicastrum ?Fascination?. Cirsium rivulare ?Atropurpureum? is a stunning accent plant; for containers, I really like Verbena bonariensis and Dahlia ?Caf? au Lait?.
Almost all of these make great border plants. My favorite combination: Agastache ?Blue Fortune? with blue-violet flower spikes; Rudbeckia maxima with stunning oversized leaves and black-eyed Susan flowers; Veronicastrum ?Fascination? with its long tall flower spikes. To my eyes, this is Midwestern midsummer perfection.
Go to the next page to see the summer flowering plants recommended by Nick McCullough.