Looking for something new for the shade? Primroses are back in more brilliant shades than ever. I chuckle when I see the catalogs originating from the east coast offering these beauties for sale at prices befitting tulipmania. Here English primroses are a cool season staple. By planting these little jewels early you can enjoy months and months of blooms.
Primula Fantastique is a new cultivar with exquisite richly colored flowers feathered at each tip with a contrasting shade. Super Nova and Rosanna are also new introductions that have to be seen to fully appreciate the brilliant additions they will make to your shady borders. Add some new color to your garden. You’ll be glad you did.
Need more late summer perennials to extend your season? Purple coneflowers will continue to bloom until frost then go dormant for the winter. Showy 4" rosy purple daisies are lightly fragrant and make good cut flowers for bouquets. The clumps spread slowly and can be carefully divided after 3 or 4 years. There is also a beautiful white variety called White Swan. If faded flowers are left in place, the bristly seed heads provide food for finches in winter.
The herb echinacea is derived from varieties of this flower. E. angustifolia is used nowadays as a fortifier of the immune system, mainly to prevent flu and minor respiratory diseases by increasing the body’s production of interferon. The roots are the part of this plant used for medicinal purposes. Echinacea was used by Native Americans more than any other plant in the plains states. It’s antiseptic properties were used to treat snake and insect bites, to bathe burns and to help cure the “sweats.” They chewed the plants roots to ease the pain of toothache. It was also used by the Native Americans for purification. The leaves and the flowers can be used in teas as well.
Late summer color can be an opportunity to add new plant that will bring beauty to your garden right through fall. Many summer annuals are leggy and in need of cutting back about now. If you like spending time outdoors at this time of year take advantage of this glorious weather and make sure your garden has lots of colorful flowers.
Golden yellow perennials like gloriosa daisies, coreopsis and golden mums stand up to strong sun now, and later in the season burn like embers under gray skies. You’re probably familiar with the traditional Black-eyed Susan with a prominent purplish black cone in the center. There are many varieties of this type with russet, bronze or mahogany bands. But a gloriosa daisy I especially like has huge 5" golden yellow blooms with pale yellow tips and sports a light green central cone instead of the familiar brown one. Prairie Sun looks stunning with any shade of blue or lavender like asters, Russian sage or salvias. Try it in front of the sky blue flowers of cape plumbago for a breathtaking combination.
Gloriosa daisies make good cut flowers and are tough and easy to grow. They are descended from wild plants native to the eastern US and require only moderate water once established.
Here are some reminders of things to do in your garden in August.
- Cut back berry vines that have produced fruit. Canes of the current season should be trained in place.
- Spider mites are especially prolific during hot, dry weather. Sometimes you don’t even know how bad the infestation is until all your leaves are pale with stippling. Periodically rinse dust and dirt off leaves with water. Spray the undersides of infected leaves with insecticidal soap, switching to neem oil if they build up a resistance to one of the pesticides.
- Start cool season veggies seeds now so they are ready to put in the ground in 6-8 weeks when the weather is cooler. You can start broccoli, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, cabbage, chard, lettuce and spinach seeds in containers. Carrots, onions, peas, beets and radishes can be sown directly in the ground.
- One last to do: Make a journal entry celebrating the best things about your garden this year