Top 10 Perennials for Summer Gardens – My Pick

Blue Delphiniums
Blue Delphiniums

As much as I love the ability to walk barefoot through the back lawn to my raised bed gardens and pick fresh, pesticide-free peppers, tomatoes, herbs and whatever else I’ve decided to plant in any given year, I love perennial flowers even more.

What is it about perennials that enthralls me the most? Certainly the longevity of the plants is at the top of the list. I have irises and peonies that have been passed down through several generations on both sides of the family. Deep red peony blossoms that are fragrant beyond belief – unlike many of the hybrid flowers on the market these days (which brings me to the second reason – the heavenly smell). Memories of strolling barefoot through my grandmother’s flower gardens, carefully tiptoeing along the limestone paved paths as summer breezes carried the sweet scent of garden phlox through the air.

Here are my top 10 favorite perennials and the reasons why I like them:

Irises – One of the hardiest plants you can find that require very little care other than keeping them free of borers. They come in hundreds of colors and you can even create your own with a little practice.

Peonies – another very hardy plant that is available in a multitude of colors. The size and smell of the blossoms are heavenly. A fresh bouquet will brighten any room. Very romantic too.

Blanket Flower – these are low maintenance, bright and cheerful and do well with little water. They make a great mid-summer colorful addition to the garden.

Bee Balm (Monarda didyma) – bright and compact, this winner will attract bees, butterflies and hummingbirds to the garden. It spreads easily but is not invasive.

Black-eyed Susan – similar to the blanket flower, this compact daisy-like flower adds sunny color the mid-summer to fall garden. It can easily be reseeded and is hardy and low maintenance.

Coneflower – This is a daisy-like flower also, but is taller. It adds height to the garden and is great for attracting bees and butterflies as well. The roots are used in the natural cold remedy echinacea.

Hostas – Talk about hardy! Hostas will grow in the shadiest area you can find. The number of options and selection of colors and varigated leaf choices is almost unlimited.

Delphinium – these are not so easy to grow but when placed in the proper location they produce the most romantically beautiful spiked blossoms. The colors of blue and purple simply can’t be beat.

Creeping Phlox – This is a low creeping ground cover that flowers in mid-spring. I love the way it drapes over a rock edging. It’s works wonderful as a rock garden border.

Garden Phlox (Phlox paniculata)– A mid-summer bloomer that will attract many friendly garden visitors too. Traditionally a tall spikey plant, it can also be found in 18-20″ heights with white, purple, or pink blossoms.

Finally – the thing that I love most about perennials is how easily they can be shared with friends and family. Plant exchanges are a popular way to increase the variety of plants in your garden. Perennials need to be thinned out every few years, so it’s a great opportunity for you to offer to share your garden favorites with others. Younger family members are sure to love a shoot from Grandma’s favorite peony bush or Aunt Mary’s purple irises. If only these treasured heirlooms could talk – think of the family history (and secrets) they could share!

Mid-summer Blooming Perennials

Tequila Sunrise Coreopsis
Tequila Sunrise Coreopsis

Here are a few of the perennials that are blooming in my mid-summer garden, even though it has been neglected for several years. Thankfully, these plants are all hardy and require very little maintenance.

Tickseed or Coreopsis is a perennial that is drought tolerant and low maintenance.  It comes in an array of bright, sunny colors and looks nice planted alongside other summer blooming plants, but also adds color through the fall.

Creeping Bellflower
Campanula rapunculoides

Creeping Bellflower (Campanula rapunculoides) , another perennial that has been growing in my yard for as long as the house has been in the family (more than 5 decades) and returns year after year.  Actually this Creeping Bellflower is considered an invasive weed by many, so if you’re going to allow this to grow in your garden, you’ll want to keep it contained since it spreads easily and can be hard to eradicate.

Salvia Mainacht

Salvia is easy to grow in full sun and well drained soil.  May Night Salvia (Mainacht) requires very little care and is hardy to zone 3.

Obedient Plant (Physostegia virginiana)
Obedient Plant (Physostegia virginiana)

Obedient Plant was probably named for it’s ability to keep its formed when shaped.  This type, Miss Manners, was bred so that it doesn’t spread like other varieties.  This plant hasn’t spread much at all in the five years since I planted it.  It has lovely white spikes and is pretty it cut flower bouquets.

Lavender Garden Phlox
Garden Phlox - Phlox paniculata Eva Cullum

Garden phlox is a favorite of mine – maybe because of the beautiful flower gardens that my grandmother kept and were full of sweet smelling phlox in shades of purple, pink and white.  It’s great for attracting hummingbirds, bees, and butterflies and smells heavenly.  It blooms best in full sun and likes rich, well drained soil.  Dead-head for longer blooming season and it should be divided every 2-3 years, preferably in the spring.

Garden Phlox Paniculata - David
Garden Phlox Paniculata - David

A beautiful white-blossomed garden phlox, this variety was named Best Perennial of the year in 2002.  Also likes full sun and rich, well drained soil, but is easy to maintain and hummingbirds love it.

Echinacea - Purple Coneflower
Echinacea - Purple Coneflower

Another easy to grow, low maintenance favorite of the butterflies, bees – and me!  These sturdy, tall flowers are reliable self-seeders and add height and color to the mid-summer garden.  The Purple Coneflower was named the Perennial Plant of the Year in 1998 for good reason.  Once it is established, it is very drought tolerant.  Leave the stems in the garden through the winter for birds to feed on.  Goldfinches love them.

Coreopsis lanceolata-Yellow Tickseed
Coreopsis lanceolata-Yellow Tickseed

Another bright sunny, easy to grow perennial, Yellow Tickseed Coreopsis is happiest in full sun and well drained soil, but really isn’t too fussy.  Birds love the seeds, or you can save them to start more plants next year.  Deadhead for longer blooming.

Don’t forget to cut a few of the colorful blossoms to create a bouquet for indoor enjoyment!