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?