Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Core Mid-Summer Plants & Pretty Combinations

The view just inside our back gate.

A couple of weeks ago I called up a local gardener to make arrangements to photograph her garden for a small magazine article. 

"I don't necessarily have to come right now," I explained,"I want to be able to show off your garden at its peak. If that means putting off my visit for a few weeks, I am happy to wait."

"You might as well come along now," she replied, "The garden looks good at the moment and then it is pretty much all downhill from here."

I didn't say anything, but in my head I thought, "Downhill? Already? But it's only June! There are still two full months of summer yet to come!"

If gardening were a race, think of it more as a marathon than a sprint to the fall finish line. While this gardener did have a really nice garden, she was obviously missing some key plants that would add a zing of color right through the hottest summer months. 

So I have come up with a list of key plants that carry color into mid-summer (with perhaps a post to follow on carrying that color through to late summer). 

I am also going to include some nice July plant combinations both from my own garden and other local gardens I have visited.

A new rose I just bought on the weekend: Climbing rose 'Super Excelsia'. It has a light scent and clusters of magenta flowers with a white back. Full sun. Height: 8'-10 feet, Spread: 5'. 

By the end of June, peonies have finished flowering. Roses do a great job of picking up where the peonies leave off.

If you don't like traditional hybrid tea roses, there are lots of other great options. I have a fondness for roses that look like apple blossoms.

Hybrid Musk Shrub Rose, Rosa 'Belinda' Height: 4-6ft. Spread: 4-6 ft. 

Private garden, Niagara-on-the-Lake

Here is a pretty combination that I saw last weekend in a private garden in Niagara-on-the-Lake : a white rose and Geranium 'Rozanne'. 

I wanted to repeat this combination in my own garden, so I treated myself to a new white rose.

Rosa 'Brillant Vigorosa' is a new addition to my garden.

Rosa 'Brillant Vigorosa' is a groundcover rose. This is a repeat bloomer with a light scent. Fingers crossed Japanese Beetles don't like the taste of it! Height: 2-3', Spread: 3'. 

Geranium 'Rozanne' is hands down one of the best Cranesbill Geraniums. It blooms for an extended period of time beginning in July. Height: 30-50 cm, Spread: 45-60 cm. Full sun to part shade. Normal, sandy or clay soil are fine. Average to moist soil. USDA Zones: 4-9.

Another key plant to have in your July arsenal are lilies, and daylilies in particular. 

Daylily flowers may last for only a day, but each stem carries a multitude of flower buds that open over a period of several weeks. They are easy to grow and when the heat of July hits, a little deadheading is all these relatively undemanding plants require.

Just a few of the many daylilies in Marion Jarvie's Thornhill, ON garden.

Slowly I am building a collection of dayliles, replacing orange daylilies I found here when we moved in to the house with some of the more showy hybrids.

At the entrance to the main part of my back garden.

Here is a quick look at a daylily in combination with other plants.

This mix includes white daises (Feverfew) with the mauve flowers of a grey-leafed hosta. I believe this daylily is 'Stella D'Oro'. I also have 'Many Happy Returns'. Both varieties of daylilies are repeat flowering. 'Stella D'Oro flowers have a slightly more lemony shade of yellow than 'Many Happy Returns'. On the right is Hosta fortunei 'Hyacinthina', but any small grey-leafed hosta might be used to recreate this combination.

My back garden

Count on Daylily 'Stella D'Oro to flowers for an extended period of time. It is a small sized daylily with yellow flowers starting mid-summer. Stella D'Oro is also excellent for massing or using as a hedge. It is happy with most garden soils and tolerates both moist and dry conditions. Full sun or light shade. Height: 25-30 cm (10-12 inches), Spread: 30-60 (12-23 inches). USDA Zones: 2-9.

Hosta fortunei 'Hyacinthina' has tough, grey-green leaves that are very slug resistant. Lavender flowers appear mid-summer. Height: 50-55 cm (20-21 inches), Spread: 80-100 (31-39 inches). USDA Zones: 2-9.

Shown here starting on the top left is a 'Black Beauty' lily, (top right) an unknown varieties of Oriental Lilies in Marion Jarvie's garden and (bottom) Martagon lilies in the display garden at Lost Horizons.

As well as daylilies, I would also have to include Asiatic, Oriental, Trumpet, Tiger and Martagon lilies in my must-have list of mid-summer flowers. 

If you don't have any lilies, your garden is really missing out on a great opportunity.

If there was an award for best flowering mid-summer vine, it would have to go to a Clematis. 

I have several in flower at the moment. This Clematis is next to the front door where it is pared with Milkweed, Asclepias incarnata 'Ice Ballet' and a pink Spirea.

Hydrangea 'Quick Fire' by the back porch

Hydrangea 'Invincibelle Spirit' just inside the back gate

Best shrub at this time of year? 

For me it is, hands down, a hydrangea. And there are so many attractive cultivars to choose from!

The garden on the west side of our house.

My photos don't do this combination justice. 

On the right is Veronica 'Eveline' and on the left is Penstomen 'Dark Towers'. Also adding some magic to the mix is a common Spirea, which you can see peeking into the photo's background. Out of the photograph, but at the feet of these plants is Sedum Sunsparkler 'Dazzleberry'.

Penstemon 'Dark Towers' has deep maroon stems with pale mauve flowers.  Full sun. Normal, sandy or clay soil are fine. Average to dry conditions. Height: 60-90 cm, Spread: 45-60 cm. Zones: USDA 3-9

Veronica 'Eveline' will tolerate part shade, but blooms much better in full sun. Normal, sandy or clay soil are fine. Moist soil is preferred, but it will tolerate average conditions. Deadhead to encourage repeat flowering. Height: 45-50 cm, Spread: 30-40 cm. Zones: USDA 4-9.

Bernie Siegmund's Fergus Ontario.

One final sunny plant combination, this time in Bernie Siegmund's garden in Fergus, Ontario. This is Evening Primrose and self-seeded Straw Foxglove, Digitalis Lutea.

Straw Foxglove, Digitalis lutea is a perennial and has pale cream flowers in late June/early July. Bees, butterflies and birds love it. Height: 45-60 cm (18-24 inches) Spread: 22-30 cm (9-12 inches) USDA Zones: 3-9.

Let's not forget about part-shade and shade. 

One key flowering plant in part-shade at this time of the year is Goat's Beard, Aruncus dioicus (on the right). 

As you can see from this photograph of Jamie DeWolf's woodland garden, this is a not a small plant. In my experience it takes a 2 or 3 years to establish itself and then it is HUGE. 

Jamie DeWolf's garden in Mississauga, ON.

Goat's Beard, Aruncus dioicus has feathery white plumes mid-summer. Apparently the flowers can be dried, but I have never tried it. The plant has green ferny foliage, which are quite attractive in its own right.  Full sun or part shade.  Height: 120-180 cm ( 47-70 inches), Spread: 90-150 cm (35-59 inches.) USDA Zones: 2-9.

I am including this plant not because it has great flowers, it doesn't, but because it has interest as a family member. It is completely opposite in scale to the plant I just showed you. Meet giant Goat's Beard' s diminutive little brother: Dwarf Goat's Beard, Aruncus aethusifolius.

Dwarf Goat's Beard, Aruncus aethusifolius forms a neat mound of ferny foliage with reddish stems. It has short spikes of white flowers in early mid-summer. This plant is a good choice for dry shade conditions. It prefers sandy or clay soil, but does fine enough in average soil. Height: 20-30 cm (8-12 inches), Spread: 20-30 cm (8-12 inches). USDA Zones: 2-9.

Hosta's are usually considered foliage plants, but they do have flowers. 

Though some people think they are messy looking when in flower, but I'm not one of them. I think they add something to the part-shade and shade areas of my garden in July.

The flowers are a little past their prime in this photo, but how cute are these miniature hostas?

Miniature Hosta 'Pandora's Box's foliage has creamy centre and green margins. As you can see slugs can be an issue for this hosta. Height: 8-10 cm (3-4 inches), Spread: 13 cm (5 inches). USDA Zones" 3-9.

Miniature Hosta 'Frosted Mouse Ears' has rounded blue-green leaves and mauve flowers in July. It likes moist, well-drained soil. Height: 10-15 cm (4-6 inches), Spread: 25-30 cm ( 10-12 inches).

Carole's garden near Uxbridge, Ontario

One final core mid-summer plant for shade: Astilbe. If you have moist shade, this plant is a great choice.

These are some of the plants that look great in mid-summer for this gardening zone (zone 6). What would you say are the core plants in July for your area? 

Please share!


  1. Our roses finish blooming along with the peonies... perhaps because of our zone 6b? (They were here with the house so I've no idea the type.) For July we have tall phlox just starting, hollyhocks still, and soon some dahlias (new this summer). And the hosta. I too love them in bloom... all the purple flowers dancing in the air above the broad leaves.

  2. Thanks for sharing the info on the Goats Beard - I'm off to move it now!!! lol

    Lovely gardens...

  3. There are so many wonderful recommendations here for mid summer color. Thank you for giving me some new ideas. I have the roses and the clematis planted, but I see that I can do so much more!

  4. Thanks for all the super ideas, it seems once June/July perennials are done many gardens are a bit flat. We are 4weeks ahead in the season or almost 6 weeks so many gardens look pooped out already here. It's been the heat and drought :(

  5. You show us again such a beautiful plant combinations in other gardens but especially your own garden. The first flush of roses has almost gone, but there are many summer flowering plants to recommend for gardens. I always was not charmed about daylilies, nevertheless I have added more of them the last few years and I'm glad because the mostly vivid colours belong to high summer. But also phloxes are starting, veronicas, varieties of geraniums and so on. I love year round gardens!

  6. I think you hit most of mine...echinacea and rudbeckias are putting on a show too with yarrow.

  7. Jennifer, I can't choose what I liked the best, so many flowers and plants you showed. perhaps the rose 'Brillant Vigorosa' and lilies Martagon that I have ones red with black stripes. And those so white...ah!

  8. Thanks for your post. I think this is why my all perinneal front garden (no grass) looks "messy". It's too much green, even though there's different leaf structures, my cottage style garden isn't pretty in mid summer due to lack of colour. I have many of the plants you mentioned and I can see adding feverfew will help a lot. I've really been struggling with a particular neighbour who hates the uncontrolled look of a cottage garden.

    1. My front garden is all perennials as well. One way I keep it acceptable to the neighbours is to enclose it inside a picket fence. I also have a flagstone pathway that circles a tree in the centre of the yard. Introducing the pathway gives the space a more organized look, breaks up the jumble of plants and also gives me access to the plants near the centre.

  9. It's all day lilies for me at this time of year. I just came in from my morning wander thrilled with the newest blooms!
    Thanks for sharing your gorgeous garden on Whats Blooming This Week.

  10. Hello Jennifer girl !
    I love that shot from inside your back gate .. the garden wraps you in it's arms ! So pretty !
    My Goatsbeard flowered beautifully a while ago and I let it form the chain link dried flowers from that point. Along with the giant fleece flower (pristine white flower head ! .. you should have it too!)
    Shrubs are a backbone in my garden and look good at this time still too (I have to trim off the brown flowers now though)
    Astilbe follow a flowering procession from white to pink to darker blends .. clematis are still putting on a wonderful show.
    Roses are trying their best .. Orange Velvet is amazing with such intense colour.
    Veronacastrum is so tall and beautiful ... My oriental , Martagon and mixed lilies are ready to "burst" open soon ... fingers crossed the beetles won't notice ?
    Hosta ... the only flowers that impress me are from Guacamole .. those are heavenly with scent.
    I could go on and on .. so it does puzzle me that .. that gardener said it was all downhill from here ..
    That is sad ... I have helenium and anemone and hydrangea to look forward to later as well.
    Your garden is gorgeous ... you said mine was so neat ? but I love your flowing plants to bits .. I am going for that ! LOL
    Joy : )

  11. Oh, I am going to borrow the idea of a rose with a geranium, I could never get my ‘Ann Folkard’ to look good in my old garden, it just crept along the ground and hid among the rest of the plants, now I know how to show it off in my new garden – thanks!
    And I can never get too many lilies, of all sorts, they flower from June to September in my garden and are so easy to take care of. Loved the Hydrangea 'Invincibelle Spirit', one for my wish-list. Thanks for the tour, as always, so many good ideas :-)

  12. I particularly love that penstemon - gorgeous. There are some great combinations you have shown - most of the ones that work in my garden are purely accidental.

  13. Mid-summer is definitely my garden's happy time, and I love many of your suggestions. I hadn't appreciated the blooming beauty of a shrub rose, but will be on the lookout for one next year.

  14. July plants here are silene, phlox, coneflowers, heliopsis, rudbeckia, roses, zinnias, monarda, daylilies, swamp milkweed, geraniums, veronica, annuals of all sorts. Clematis are usually done and roses are a challenge in this climate. Many penstemons bloom in June. Love the photos of your garden. Just beautiful!

  15. Your garden is so gorgeous !! Great captured the beauty of flowers !!

  16. I am all for color in the summer garden and your listing of plants is wonderful. The shade images are relaxing though, the heat and dry we have been having welcomes the shade. I know Toronto had the wettest period of rain lately, but it kept missing us.

  17. Jennifer, your photos are so beautiful! When I was reading about the woman who said her garden was all downhill, I couldn't help to be a bit (a lot) sorry that our garden tour wasn't in August. Everything is definitely 'uphill' in mine. And I think a lot of people are in the same boat.

    I want to spruce up my front (part shade) bed and I'm going to try that goat's beard. I'll come back and search your shade garden posts in the fall to see what else to plant.

    I am going to be making a change....to do with changing my blog. I'll let you know.


  18. Such beautiful photo's, such beautiful colours, an absolute joy to visit your blog.

    Thank you.

    All the best Jan

  19. I love your posts so much. And your new header photo is STUNNING.

  20. Thanks for this post. I just found your blog through Pinterest, and I love that you're a fellow Canadian. For the first time this year, I feel like I'm actually growing gardens, rather than building them (we've been here for three years). I've really enjoyed seeing what plants follow each other. We're in lily season right now (see https://homeon129acres.wordpress.com/2015/07/27/learning-to-like-lilies/). I love that you're adding in more hybrids and looooove that you found tiger lilies. I'm curious what comes next in our gardens... and TBH a little worried that the answer will be nothing until the sedum. Thanks for the suggestions of what I can add.


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