Summer Stretch; Favorite Late Season Flowers

Early September can be a confusing time. Football has started but Baseball will last for another month, or more. For many, summer is over. Kids have gone back to school and the stores are filling with Halloween items. But technically, the autumn equinox, signaling the official start of fall, is still weeks away.

There’s less confusion in parts of the world with traditionally cold winters. The garden may be shutting down and fall color on its way. But here on the West Coast, locals know that our best weather is yet to come. This is true in other Mediterranean climates as well, where winters are wet and mild, fall is usually warm and dry. We lucky Westerners can usually count on garden-enjoying weather for at least another month, as well as more baseball.

Late Summer Garden with Roses

Late summer light kisses the garden border

But even in Western gardens things can be looking a little shabby, over-grown or bloomed-out. To take advantage of our long mild growing season I like to be sure and plant a variety of species that provide late season beauty or contribute to garden structure. An effective way to do this is to rely on a combination of plants that are long-bloomers, re-bloomers or late-bloomers. Or plants that are attractive after-bloom, such as those with interesting seed pods. Many plants fall into more than one of these categories.

Late Summer August Bouquet

In August the very last of the lilies is queen of the bouquet and the Scabiosa are in their prime

Beautiful season-extending bouquets can be created from a combination of these characteristics along with fine-leafed foliage which provides bouquet filler and garden structure as well. A mixed cottage-style bouquet using a little of this and that is also a great way to use the very last bloom of whatever is ready to be cut-back, but has “just one more” blossom hanging on for dear life.

Late Summer Bouquet with Callianthus

By September the Scabiosa have gone to seed and the lilies are no more but the Fragrant Glad bulbs have started and many other late-blooming flowers are plugging away

Late summer is one of the best reasons to have a thought-out planting scheme for even the simplest garden. It is a compelling argument to do more than buy whatever looks pretty in the nursery pots in spring. When late-blooming or long-blooming plants are included in the planting palette, any garden can be ready for summer’s seventh inning stretch.

Here are a few of my favorites;

Ornamental oreganos are among the most versatile for late summer interest. I especially love the ones that have attractive  bracts that keep some color as they dry, such as the “Santa Cruz” Ornamental Oregano.

Tip; delay the bloom as long as possible by cutting back the early stalks before they flower. They will try again, after other plants have given up, and provide color later into the season where it is more appreciated.

Ornamental Oregano

There are many ornamental oreganos that serve well in the late summer garden

Beautiful seed pods are often in the eye of the beholder. But almost everyone agrees that Scabiosa, with its lacy, detailed heads of seed, is one of the most beautiful after-bloomers.

Tip; Scabiosa pods are terrific dried, for a while, then as they shatter put them back into the garden for next season’s progeny.

Late Summer Scabiosa

Scabiosa flowers and seed pods add texture to the late summer garden

Many plants can fall into the category of re-bloomers if blossoms are cut immediately after they fade. Roses, especially cottage-style groundcover type roses, can have a lovely blooming season in warm fall weather. I love the Flower Carpet series, especially the Amber and Apple Blossom.

Tip; keep your roses trimmed for blossoms up until late September, then let the final crop turn to “hips” for traditional fall texture.

September Bouquet

A re-blooming Sol d’Or Rose contributes to the mix, along with Origanum, Parahebe, and Fragrant Glads, in this September bouquet

Parahebe linifolia is one of my favorite long-bloomers. It is a native of New Zealand, stays neat and petite at about 12-18 inches high and is best used at the front of a border or in pots. There’s no common name for this little gem, as far as I know, although it can sometimes be called Veronica linifolia.

Tip; When lightly pruned, on a regular basis, Parahebe keeps pumping out its delicate white flowers over a very long season.


Parahebe linifolia

Parahebe linifolia looks great at the front of the border


Long-blooming Parahebe pairs well with late-blooming Eucomis bulbs

Late Summer Garden with Scabiosa

Scabiosa sparkles in the late summer garden

Late Summer Garden with Abelia

Abelia is another perennial with a long bloom season, its colorful bracts are almost as pretty as its flowers

Plan ahead to bridge the seasons and enjoy every last bit of summer, in the garden.

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Categories: Landscape Design


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