How can we transition our landscapes from spectacular spring color to July’s summer interest? First, we need to realize few mid-summer landscapes are going to equal that spurt of fabulous spring color and new growth.
Using one corner of our backyard as an example, I made a comparison of spring colors in May using the same area transitioning into summer interest this time of year.
I took a photo May 9 that shows the lush drama of three blooming azaleas, along with bright lavender phlox flowing over our retaining wall nearby. Those azaleas stood out because little Stella de Oro daylilies in front were just getting going, allowing those azaleas to dominate.
By June those perennial daylilies were reaching up, pretty much hiding the spent azalea shrubs tucked in behind. Lavender elfin thyme hugging each side of the steps provided color during that transition from azaleas to yellow daylilies.
A month later, the thyme had finished blooming, allowing those daylilies to steal the show. Complementing and standing tall behind the yellow daylilies were the light-colored leaves of a variegated dogwood shrub and the grassy vertical interest of Calamagrostis ‘Karl Foerster’. Both stand out against a green conifer backdrop.
Additional summer color comes from a maple (Acer ‘Bloodgood’) in the background. Displaying dark maroon leaves in June and July, these leaves will turn green as the dog days of summer proceed. Cooling nights of fall will turn those leaves orangey-red before falling in preparation for winter.
I planted a trailing nasturtium that is working its way beyond the daylilies to spill over the wall for summer color and interest.
Trailing plants spilling over walls and containers softens their abrupt edges and adds a dose of color. Good spiller plants in addition to nasturtiums include baskets of gold (Aurinia saxatilis) and candytuft (Iberis) in spring, and for summer, dainty trailing lobelia and bold petunias.
For other ideas offering summer interest, consider often overlooked leaf textures, shapes, sizes and coloration. For instance, in dappled or shady areas, I’m hooked on lime green hostas that seem to glow and lighten those darker spots. Brunnera ‘Jack Frost’ and that variegated dogwood lighten shady areas, also.
A few standby perennials that work well in sunny areas include yellow, orange, magenta or red coneflowers (Echinacea) and yellow gloriosa daisies and black-eyed Susans (Rudbeckia). These daisy family workhorses bloom all summer.
Then there are the beautiful salvias, many in blue tones and other colors also. Sedums and lavenders are great standbys needing minimal care.
For summer, consider the wealth of impressive annual and perennial flower color to keep things interesting, along with the advantage of easy-care grasses and shrubs.
Every landscape has its attributes and negatives, and we gardeners have the pleasure of spending time surveying and dreaming what we like and what meets our whims and work tolerance.
A WSU Master Gardeners of Chelan County column appears weekly in The Wenatchee World. Mary Fran McClure is one of four columnists featured. To learn more, visit wwrld.us/cdmg or call 667-6540.