Many people quit planting after spring, but seasoned gardeners know that late summer and early fall are great times to accent boring plantings or re-do tired beds. You'll also save money since many nurseries discount perennials, shrubs and trees now.
I thought it was a good time to talk about some of my favorite plants and to approach experienced gardeners and professionals about theirs. Most are perennials and shrubs and can be planted now, but some are annuals to put on your list for next season.
Even though I hate the color orange, I absolutely love the daylily 'Primal Scream.' The flower is huge and its tangerine/pink color pops in the flower bed. When I first saw this plant, it cost more than $75. These days, you can get it lots cheaper – as low as $15.
As with most daylilies, they require minimal care. I do shear my daylilies back to about 8 inches from the ground after they finish blooming. They will flush up fresh growth that doesn't look so bedraggled at the end of the season.
Panicle hydrangeas are workhorses in the garden, easily surviving the most horrific winter weather without a blink. My favorite cultivar is 'Limelight,' and for those with small spaces, 'Little Lime' works well. The blooms' creamy chartreuse color is lovely, especially when paired with scarlet roses. It also blooms later in the season, providing color after some garden stalwarts are finished.
Richard Liberto, owner of Liberto Landscape Design, recommends 'Walker's Low' and 'Little Twitch' nepata, two cultivars of catmint. He loves them because they are "reliable, hardy, deer-PROOF, long-blooming AND an excellent pollinator," he says.
'Banana Cream' Shasta daisy (Leucanthemum x superbum) is a compact cultivar growing 15- to-18 inches tall and 24 inches wide. Semi-double, lemon-yellow flowers that fade to creamy white bloom profusely from late spring through summer. It has dark green semi-glossy foliage that is resilient to white flies, aphids and beetles, and once established, it's drought-tolerant.
"I consider 'Banana Cream' to be the mainstay of the perennial border, cottage garden, rock gardens, pots and most definitely the small garden," he says.
Penn State Extension and Post-Gazette columnist Sandy Feather says she has many favorite plants.
"Right this minute, Indian pink (Spigelia marilandica) is in full bloom in my yard. It blooms all summer and the buds look like rubies. I have it in sun and shade and it does very well."
'FOREVER PURPLE' HEUCHERA
Susan Silverman, a past winner of the PG's Great Gardens Contest and a gifted master gardener, loves 'Forever Purple' coral bells (Heuchera). "The color is incredible."
Sarah Mendak and her partner, Susie Lobdell, own Flower Pots LLC (www.flowerpotnursery.com), a landscape design company. She lists a few plants they use often in their projects:
'Forest Pansy' redbud (Cersis candensis); blueberries (white flowers in the spring, edible berries and red fall color); and creeping Jenny (Lysimachia nummularia) – "so versatile, great for container gardening, groundcover and excellent for water gardening."
She also likes lady's mantle (Alchemilla mollis), a clumping perennial, and Leyland cypress, a great, fast-growing privacy screen that is deer-resistant.
Bernadette Kazar, another Great Gardens contest winner, chose love-lies-bleeding (Amaranthus caudatus), an annual that grows quickly from seed.
"Got hooked on this plant a few years ago," she says. "I call this plant the fringe of my garden. Its long red tassels hang gracefully almost to the ground. The 5- to 6-foot height makes it an eye-catcher."
She also loves tree lilies, which have huge, fragrant blooms and top out at 4-6 feet. They should be planted in the fall. "When you have a group of these, they perfume the entire garden."
Calla lilies are a third favorite: "I think of this flower as my tailor plant – simple, upright and elegant."
'QUICK FIRE' PANICLE HYDRANGEA
Bobbie Smith, another contest winner, raves about 'Quick Fire' panicle hydrangea (H. paniculata). This early bloomer has vibrant green foliage and long-lasting flowers that open pure white and turn pink. In the fall, the flowers become rosy pink and the leaves turn gold and burgundy.
"Stunning plant!" she says. "Blooms on new growth, which is another nice feature for ease of pruning and size control."
Donald Gilliland, an avid gardener who is a Post-Gazette digital news editor, chose peonies, which do much better when planted in the late summer or fall. "I love the smell, carefree and they remind me of my grandparents' house."
Hollyhocks also remind him of his grandparents' house but he says he's never lived anywhere long enough to grow them. He's also partial to 'Grandpa Ott's' morning glory – "ridiculously easy to grow and stunning color."
He also has favorite vegetables – 'Cherokee Purple' tomato: "a vigorous, early, great-tasting (but ugly-looking) beefsteak;" and 'Blauwschokkers' peas, which have purple pods, are easy to pick and have a sweet taste when young. They can be used in soups.
"My mother put a good dent in my seed crop one year, eating the sweet young peas right in the garden," he says. "She was worse than the deer!"
Dwayne Evans, owner/manager of Best Feeds in Ross (www.bestfeedsgardencenter.com), names two favorites:
'Mountain Fire' Pieris japonica, a deer-resistant plant that grows well in sun or part shade. It has clusters of white lily-of-the-valley-like flowers but also colorful new growth in the summer. It eventually reaches 6-8 feet.
'Blue Mist' Fothergilla has white snowball-like flowers in spring and grows to 3-4 feet over time. He said many people buy it for its fall color. It also can tolerate wet areas.