For late season color, it’s tough to be New York ironweed (Vernonia noveboracensis). This native plant hails from the Eastern part of the country; choose Western ironweed for gardens in the Great Plains and West. Purple flowers start opening in late summer and linger into fall, providing a late season nectar source for butterflies and other pollinating insects. Watch for migrating hummingbirds to visit this bloomer. Goldfinches and sparrows feast on the seed. Use ironweed in the back of the border or wildlife garden. Grows 4 to 7 feet tall by 2 to 4 feet wide. Hardy in Zones 5-8.
Fill your garden with the spicy clove fragrance of ‘First Love’ dianthus. Also known as cheddar pink, dianthus is a strong garden performer, unfurling flowers from mid-spring until fall frost. Removing spent blooms on plants ensures a steady, season-long flower show. Like other dianthus, ‘First Love’ is a short-lived perennial, lasting just a few years in the garden. Flowers open pure white and fade to bright rose. In winter, evergreen leaves add color to the garden in warmer regions. Plants grow 14 to 20 inches tall and 12 to 16 inches wide. Hardy in Zones 3-9.
Add color to your garden from midsummer to early fall with the towering blooms of joe pye weed (Eutrochium purpureum). This native plant boasts a low-maintenance personality, resists rabbits, and adapts to heavy clay or boggy soil with ease. Give it a spot in full sun to part shade. It makes a great back- of-the-border plant or rain garden player. Flowers attract pollinators like crazy, including bees, butterflies and beneficial insects. Cut plants back by one-third in early summer to promote branching and more flowers. Plants grow 5 to 7 feet tall and 2 to 4 feet wide. Hardy in Zones 4-9.
Go native with false indigo, a prairie plant that’s low maintenance and gorgeous. Pretty blue-purple flower spikes appear in late spring and make a great addition to a garden-fresh bouquet. Leaves have a blue-green tone that looks stunning in a vase—harvest stems all season long. Dried seedpods make a nice addition to fall arrangements. This is a tap-rooted perennial, which means it’s not easy to move once established. Plant it where you know it can stay put. False indigo offers different flower colors, including blends of blue, yellow, brown and white. The variety shown is ‘Blueberry Sundae.’ False indigo are deer-resistant plants that grow 4 feet tall by 3 to 4 feet wide. Hardy in Zones 3-9. Good vase companions for false indigo: bearded iris, peony, clustered bellflower, purple coneflower and echibeckia.
A family favorite, applesauce blends well with many mealtime menus, standing in as side dish or dessert. Best of all, applesauce is easy to make. Simply peel, core and cook apples until they fall apart easily with a spoon. Add seasoning (think cinnamon and maple or agave syrup) while cooking or after. Applesauce without seasoning varies in color, based on the type of apple you use. In some cases, cooking the apples with peels on results in a pink sauce. To remove peels, just run the cooked apples through a food mill or strainer. Make applesauce as chunky or smooth as you like. For long-term storage, freeze or can it using a boiling water bath.
Camellias steal the show when they burst into bloom, and Pink Perplexion is no exception. This is a sasanqua camellia, known for its small leaves and ability to grow well in containers and landscape beds. Pink flowers up to 3 inches across cover this beauty in fall. Those pink blooms boast a color that defies description, which is why it’s called Pink Perplexion. Give it a spot in part shade to full sun with acidic soil. Plants grow 4 to 5 feet tall and wide. Hardy in Zones 7-9. Good to know: Sansanqua camellias take well to pruning and shearing. Best timing is after flowering, in spring, before new flower buds form on stems in summer.