Now Comes High Summer

In our garden high summer comes in a very literal way, with the first blooms of some very tall plants. My favorite among these are the Cup Plants (Silphium perfoliatum), which grows eight to ten feet tall.

Cup Plant
Cup Plant

Their height gives Cup Plant a certain majesty combined with a gangly, awkward beauty. They are the Abraham Lincoln of August prairie flowers.

Cup Plant and Wild Bergamot
Cup Plant and Wild Bergamot

They also combine wonderfully with other August blooms, for example this patch of Wild Bergamot (Monarda fistulosa).

Here you can see the Mexican Sunflower growing tall among its perennial partners.
Here you can see the Mexican Sunflower growing tall among its perennial partners.

This Wild Bergamot is growing in the Driveway Border,ย and bloomed later than the plants of the same species in the Sidewalk Border – and has far less powdery mildew. I wonder why.

The path between the Front Island Bed and the Driveway Border
The path between the Front Island Bed and the Driveway Border

The Cup Plant is growing in the Front Island Bed, where it is joined by Sweet Joe Pye weed (Eutrochium purpureum), another flower that puts the height in high summer.

Joe Pye Weed, Swamp Milkweed, Monarda 'Purple Rooster'
Sweet Joe Pye Weed, Swamp Milkweed, Monarda ‘Purple Rooster’

The blooms of Sweet Joe Pye Weed create domes of dusty pink. ย You can also see Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata) and Monarda ‘Purple Rooster’ flowering in the Front Island Bed. ‘Purple Rooster’ is straining to be seen, I really should have planted it in front of the milkweed. The Swamp Milkweed blooms outlast the Butterflyweed (Asclepias tuberosa), which has begun shifting from flowers to seed pods.

Yellow Coneflower
Yellow Coneflower

Going back to the Driveway Border, we can find another of my favorite August flowers – Yellow or Grey Headed Coneflower (Ratibida pinnata). These yellow ray flowers are just starting to poke out from around the central disks.

Yellow Coneflower with Mexican Sunflower
Yellow Coneflower with Mexican Sunflower

Yellow Coneflower makes a pleasing combination with Mexican Sunflower (Tithonia rotundifolia). Mexican Sunflower has been blooming for a good month or so, but as it blooms its stature and presence grows – until it literally starts coming apart. Staking will delay but not prevent this from happening.

Long view of the Driveway Border.
Long view of the Driveway Border.

Here’s a long view of the Driveway Border. As late summer perennials take center stage, the earlier summer blooms are fading. You can’t tell from this picture, but the ‘Conca d’Or’ lilies are turning brown and soon they will be gone. The petals of Clematis ‘Jackmanii Superba’ are falling fast, making purple splashes far and wide.

DSC_0488 bumblebee butterflyweed

The bumblebees find the nectar of the last Butterflyweed flowers exceedingly sweet, even as they also partake of newly available blooms. And so the garden shifts with the seasons, like a parade with new colorful cohorts stepping forward as others retire to the rear.

What are your favorite August flowers?

39 Comments on “Now Comes High Summer

  1. I love that long view of your front borders. I’ll bet you have people stopping to admire your blooms. Our tithonia is also looking good and is one of my favourites this year. Gaura lindheimer ‘The Bride’ is also flowering well – I love it for its graceful and delicate habit and its longevity.

    • I’m glad you are enjoying the Tithonia, it became an instant favorite of mine when I started growing it a couple of years ago. The Gaura is only marginally hardy in this area.

  2. I love these combinations of tall perennials – it must be wonderful to watch as the summer progresses and you gain more privacy from the street!

  3. Your August garden is so exuberant. It is a feast for the eyes. I have one of those tall plants. I forget the latin name but around here it is called Jerusalem Artichoke.

  4. And unlike Laura S., I was amazed by the difference in plants between your place near Chicago and my place in Maine. But all very beautiful. Your August garden is grand and rather elegant.

    • Sounds like you have mostly a woodland garden, which would be a big difference from our front garden. Thanks for the nice compliment.

  5. Such gorgeous blooms, all of them! Beautiful August garden! I love the “Abraham Lincoln” reference.

  6. “Abraham Lincoln” indeed! ๐Ÿ™‚

    Favorite August flowers… hmm… crape myrtle, echinacea, potentilla, and at the end of the month, Ceratostigma plumbaginoides (I adore that blue!)

  7. There is a special place in my heart for the talls, but I had no idea Tithonia was one of them until I grew it this year. I’ll take a tip from your photos on how to incorporate it into a border. I think the Ratibida is the one for me…with maybe some Leonitus thrown in for good measure.

  8. I love your tall plants, Jason. I remember last year being in awe that you could grow such tall specimens. Even in my irrigated cuttings beds, my plants don’t grow as tall.

    • Well, these plants are naturally tall and this has been a wet year so all the rain hasn’t hurt in the height department. Also I’m lucky to have fairly deep, rich soil.

  9. It looks wonderful, Jason. Your garden is an amazing example of how to use native plants in a pleasant way in a city garden–hence, the wonderful name of your blog. Cheers!

  10. If you have better air circulation in the driveway border than the sidewalk border that might explain the powdery mildew. More sunlight might keep it out of the driveway border too.
    It’s all beautiful in spite of the mildew!

  11. I hope you don’t find a lost kid in your garden after the tour with all the tall plants. ๐Ÿ˜€ The garden looks great, Jason. You must be getting good amounts of rain because the Monarda is all blooming well and healthy. The wild monarda in the local meadows is all dried and shriveled here. Even though drought tolerant, it just needs more moisture than a lot of the other plants in the meadow to maintain bloom, like asters and goldenrod. Every year I notice the same thing.

    • We had been getting lots of rain through early July, the last few weeks have been quite dry. I have been giving extra drinks to the ‘Gateway’ Joe Pye and the new ‘Golden Raindrops’ crabapple.

  12. My favorite blooms now are on my black eyed Susans. They are proudly defying the heat with vibrant color.

    • Today is so hot and dry here even the black eyed susans are wilting. But I agree they are both beautiful and essential in the garden.

  13. Hi Jason, height is great to have in a garden as it makes the eye work around all the plants at different levels and I certainly feel that when looking at the beautiful pictures of your front garden. With nearly all the plants in my garden going in as very young or new, height is missing from my borders, but as the plants establish and start growing, I’m hoping to have many levels of plants from ground to overhead.

    • Sounds like you will have lots of height soon enough. Of course, the disadvantage of really tall perennials is that they can demand a lot of staking, especially after a storm.

  14. Your tall flowers truly are majestic! You do have some gorgeous combinations going, good the pollinators love them too! I especially enjoyed the Driveway

  15. I enjoy many of the same flowers in August…Joe Pye is colonizing so it is a stand out with Obedient right now….and of course I am just so in love with sunflowers.

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