"Five Summer All-Stars


Only the toughest perennials can endure summer’s long, hot, sunny days. But tough perennials can still be beautiful and charming—like these five recommended by Jeff Cox, author of Perennial All-Stars.

‘Goblin’ Blanket Flower
Gaillardia x grandiflora 'Goblin'
USDA Plant Hardiness Zones: 3 to 9
Blooms: June to August
Height x Width: 1 X 1.5 feet
Flower color: Red, yellow, and maroon
Light requirements: Full sun

Blanket flower is a durable plant, too, with a toughness that comes from its origins in western North America. It can survive in hot, dry soil, in poor soil, and even in seaside conditions. The lifespan of any individual ‘Goblin’ is variable, and this is perhaps its only flaw. Some may die out after 2 years; others may live on for many more. In cold regions where snow cover is chancy, a layer of leaf mulch will help it through the winter.

‘Goblin’ has 3-to-4-inch-wide flowers with dark purplish maroon centers and ray petals of rich red tipped with bright golden yellow. ‘Goblin’ begins blooming in June and continues through the summer.

If you plant ‘Goblin’ in rich, moist garden loam, it will tend to lose its compact habit and may sprawl. This plant is more at home in average or even poor soil and asks only for good drainage in order to thrive.

‘Goblin’ is a supremely useful plant on south-facing banks, in thin soils, and in other trouble spots where more finicky perennials won’t grow. Its low habit and masses of warm-colored flowers make ‘Goblin’ just right for growing at the front of a planting of taller perennials in other warm shades or in cooler blue tones.

Red Valerian
Centranthus ruber
USDA Plant Hardiness Zones: 5 to 9
Blooms: Late June to August, then reblooms to frost
Height x Width: 3 X 3 feet
Flower color: Varies from mauve-pink to lilac-red to strong red
Light requirements: Full sun to partial shade

If every perennial were as easy to grow as red valerian, we could plant up a garden and forget it. Red valerian's thousands of tiny florets cluster in dense showy heads held above bushy, fleshy, gray-green foliage. The flowers have a nice but not strong fragrance, and the flowerheads will last a full week when cut for an arrangement in the house.

Red valerian thrives in just about any soil and conditions except wet, boggy shade. It is drought-tolerant to the point where it naturalizes in many parts of the West where summer water is sparse.

Use red valerian to bring easy, long-lasting color to steep banks, on rough slopes, or along the roadside. Some people might describe its growth habit as “floppy,” but I prefer to call it “relaxed.” Either way, red valerian looks lovely growing where it can cascade gracefully—over a wall, for instance.


...to be continued...



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