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?

43 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

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