If you love hummingbirds, include cardinal flower (Lobelia speciosa) in your yard. The brilliant red blossoms on this perennial are a magnet for hummers. Plants branch well and produce flowers on strong upright spikes from midsummer into early fall. Site this native in full sun to part shade. Deer- and rabbit-resistant plants grow 20 to 24 inches tall by 12 to 14 inches wide. Hardy in Zones 6-10. If you prefer pink flowers, look for ‘Starship Rose’ cardinal flower.
Beloved for its ability to beckon bees, butterflies and hummingbirds, bee balm (Monarda) also earns rave reviews for its mosquito-repelling qualities. For many insect-deterring plants to work, you have to crush leaves or blooms to release the plant’s volatile oils. Bee balm is an exception to that rule. As it grows and blooms in your garden, it releases fragrances mosquitoes dislike (so does basil, by the way). Bee balm is a perennial that flowers in a variety of colors and plant sizes. This beauty is Balmy Rose monarda, which is a compact type growing to 1 foot high. It’s a great choice for edging beds or tucking into containers.
Part shade and moist soil provide perfect conditions for ligularia. Historically, ligularia was a go-to perennial for moist shade, but flower spikes often towered far above leaves, creating a plant that looked out of proportion. ‘Bottle Rocket’ improves on that condition, unfurling bright yellow flowers that stand just above leaves. When the plant blooms, it appears to be hoisting a sunny bouquet. Deer-resistant plants grow 28 to 34 inches tall by 24 to 28 inches wide. Hardy in Zones 4-9.
Always read pot tags and consider looking plants up online to confirm just how tall and wide they’ll grow in your region. With living groundcovers like this perennial alpine strawberry, it’s also important to consider how far plants can spread. Groundcovers used as bed edging may need constant attention to keep them in bounds. Read plant reviews online and ask local garden centers to discover how aggressively a particular plant grows in your region. A docile beauty in a northern zone with hard winters can often be a garden thug in regions with mild winters.
Versatile and beautiful, the dwarf globe blue spruce is an eye-catcher in the landscape. The miniature tree features classic blue spruce needles on an upright stem. It’s a slow grower and eventually reaches 6 feet tall and 5 feet wide, but that size can take decades to achieve. Use this unusual tree in perennial beds, and underplant it with daylilies or catmint. Hardy in Zones 3-7. Botanical name: Picea Globe Blue Standard
‘Karl Foerster’ is a commonly used feather reed grass (Calamagrostis acutiflora)—and it’s easy to see why. Plants form strongly upright clumps that are perfect for creating a living screen or a backdrop for flowering perennials. Wheat-like seedheads appear in late spring and linger through the growing season. ‘Karl Foerster’ tolerates heavy clay soils and is deer-resistant. It doesn’t self-seed, so won’t try to take over your planting beds. Plants grow to 5 feet tall and up to 2 feet wide. Hardy in Zones 4-8.
Plants that sow their own seed create serendipitous splashes of color in the garden, like this pretty combination of self-sown Summerina echibeckia and Tuscan kale. But left to their own devices, self-sowing plants can easily take over desired plantings, even established perennials. Self-sowers include plants like cleome, dill, queen anne’s lace, coneflower, nasturtium and globe thistle. To keep self-sowing plantings under control, pull plants before seeds mature. Use caution tossing them into your compost pile, because you may inadvertently spread the seeds around your garden in the compost.
Trade lawn for a long and lovely rain garden, complete with a bridge to span the water collection basin. This rain garden creates a focal point in the landscape with its footbridge. It’s part of an environmentally friendly front yard that replaces water guzzling lawn with eye-catching planting beds. The upper edges of the rain garden feature creeping thyme, which forms a green carpet. Plantings in the basin include ornamental fescue grass, sedge and other regionally-hardy perennials. The bridge elevates the rain garden to a landscape showpiece, tying it to the surrounding setting.
Carex is famous for its love of moist soil, and Toffee Twist is no exception. Coppery leaves give this perennial a striking look that improves any planting—in pots or beds. Toffee Twist carex resembles an ornamental grass and grows best in full to part sun. One important distinction with carex is that it behaves like a cool-season grass, growing actively in the cool seasons—spring and fall. These are the best times of year to divide or transplant this bronze beauty. Plants grow 18 to 24 inches tall and wide. Hardy in Zones 7-10.
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.
Pump up the color in your late summer to fall garden with the stunning blooms of ‘Mars Madness’ hibiscus. Flowers open from midsummer through early fall, unfurling to a whopping 6 to 8 inches wide—as big as a dinner plate! Leaves serve copper highlights and a deer-resistant constitution. Perennial hibiscus are easy to grow, requiring little care in exchange for their flower power. Plants grow to shrub size, reaching 4 to 4.5 feet tall by 6 to 6.5 feet wide. Hardy in Zones 4-9.
‘Imogen,’ another shrub rose from English breeder David Austin, has a button eye, like most so-called Old Roses (a class of roses grown before hybrid teas debuted around 1867). Its lemon-yellow buds open to frilly flowers that gradually become cream-colored. Michael Marriott, an Austin rose expert, recommends growing it with soft blue and lilac perennial flowers. 'Imogen's' scent is a mix of fresh apple and almond with a touch of musk and cloves. Grow it in zones 5 to 9 and expect flowers from early summer till frost.
Known as blue wild indigo or blue false indigo (Baptisia australis), this native perennial achieves shrub size each growing season. Plants sink a deep tap root that searches out water to fuel top growth. Blue flower spikes appear in late spring, blending beautifully with the blue-green leaves. More stems appear each year, creating a full, lush plant. Snip blooms or branches for the vase. Grows 4 feet tall and 2 to 3 feet wide. Hardy in Zones 4-9. Look for new and smaller varieties with flowers in shades of pink, purple, yellow and brown.
A vintage kitchen cupboard handed down from my parents does double duty in a hallway as storage for gift wrap and shipping supplies, kitchen linens and other items. Figuring out where to store things in a historic home is a perennial problem but not as challenging as in previous homes. A small portion of my vintage suitcase collection on top of the hutch once functioned as a much-needed storage tower of suitcases and room divider in the closet-free two-room apartment where I lived with my husband in New York City's East Village. The "Pray for Atlanta" artwork is by beloved Atlanta artist R. Land. A metal basket holds my son's sports equipment and vintage wooden tennis rackets, which we still use.
The name whitefly is fairly descriptive of what these pesky insects look like: tiny, white, flying bugs. Whiteflies cluster underneath leaves usually starting in mid- to late summer. When you disturb plants, the insects fly up, forming white clouds. It’s dramatic and horrible at the same time. They love tomatoes, perennial hibiscus, fuchsia and anise hyssop. The adults and young suck plant sap, damaging leaves as they do so and releasing sticky honeydew. Controls include ladybugs, lacewings and a naturally occurring tiny parasitic wasp. You can also control whiteflies using horticultural oils, soaps or bioinsecticides containing fungi that parasitize whiteflies.
Fall’s classic bloomer is the garden mum. These colorful beauties paint the autumn landscape in nearly any shade imaginable, from pastel tints to bold hues. Garden mums grow best in full sun with well-drained soil and work well in containers or beds. To enjoy the longest show, choose mums with flower buds that are just beginning to crack open. To overwinter plants as perennials in colder zones, get mums into the ground as early as possible in fall. Mulch well after the ground freezes. Plants grow 1 to 3 feet tall and wide. Hardy in Zones 5-9.
Tall garden phlox (Phlox paniculata) is an old-fashioned perennial that fills midsummer with perfumed color. Flowers open in shades of pink, red, purple, white and various bicolor combinations. The blooms release a sweet fragrance that wafts through the garden on sultry summer days. This beauty is sold as Flame Series Coral garden phlox. The Flame Series is a group of naturally dwarf, compact garden phlox that grows 15 to 18 inches tall—a perfect height for containers, front of the border or courtyard gardens. Plants boast strong disease resistance and a naturally bushy form. Hardy in Zones 3-8.
Edge planting beds with beautiful lady’s mantle. This is a go-to perennial for cottage or old-fashioned gardens. Leaves have a heavily felted texture that causes water to bead on the surface, even morning dew. Chartreuse flowers appear from late spring to early summer. They make the perfect filler for fresh garden bouquets and also dry well to use in dried flower arrangements. Deer- and rabbit-resistant plants grow 15 to 18 inches tall by 18 to 24 inches wide. Hardy in Zones 3-7. Good vase companions for lady’s mantle: peony, bearded iris, Oriental lily and clustered bellflower.