Flowers have been a special part of my life since I was a child. I remember holding buttercups under people's chins to see if they liked butter. A yellow glow would appear if they liked butter.everyone did. Then there was the game of popping the heads off of dandelions which went along with a rather bizarre song. I would spend hours walking along ditches picking Chicory, Queen Anne's Lace, Daisies and Black-Eyed Susan's for my mother. I don't know which I loved more, the flowers or her smiling face when I would hand her a fistful of these roadside beauties.
Today, I have made a career out of flowers and nothing pleases me more than summer color. I am often asked, "What flowers bloom all summer here?" This month I have compiled a list of my absolute favorite summer flowers that I use time and time again. I have chosen them for their excellent heat tolerance, long bloom season and low maintenance requirements.
Perennial Flowers (Some of these are tender perennials and may not overwinter without protection in your area)
Agastache: Hyssop is an herb and my favorite cultivar is 'Blue Fortune'. The bees love this plant which is why I grow this in my vegetable garden.
Allamanda: There is a vine and bush form. The bush form is excellent in pots and in borders, blooms yellow flowers constantly.
Gaura: Sprays of delicate pink or white flowers cover this drought tolerant plant. There are some great burgundy foliage varieties. This plant does best planted in mass in beds.
Hibiscus: I really love all hibiscus, their large flowers are so tropical and happy looking. I tend to use the dwarf varieties a lot in pots. They love full sun, but I have seen them bloom in part shade. Wide color selection including pinks, oranges, reds, yellows, and white.
Ixora: Hands down, my favorite easy, tough, blooms constantly plant. This is the plant that can handle ocean front wind and salt spray and still bloom and thrive. Yellow, orange and pink are generally the color choices. There is a form called 'Petite Red', which looks like Boxwood with the addition of clusters of red flowers. Great in containers and beds, thrives in sun.
Knock out Roses: If deer are not a problem, these are the roses for you. Easy care, pinks and reds, singles and doubles, they bloom almost year round.
Lantana: I know some of us are bored with 'Gold Mound' lantana, but there are so many other varieties available. 'Pink Caprese' will get to be a 4-5' almost shrub looking plant, covered with pink/orange/magenta/cream flowers. There are some fabulous red and orange types, such as 'Spreading Sunset' and 'Red Spread' and 'Tangerine' which I love. Lantana is also a major butterfly attractor. There is a white and lavender, low growing form of lantana, (Lantana montevidensis) which only blooms in the spring and fall.
Mexican Heather: Great little formal vase shaped plant which is great for edging, covered in tiny little white or lavender flowers.
Pentas: This is my second favorite plant. The New Look, Butterfly and Monarch series have become a favorite with landscapers due to their compact, uniform, easy flowering growth patterns. Personally, I love the taller varieties such as; 'Cranberry punch', 'Jsessica', and 'Ruby Red'. These guys get to be 3'-4' tall, make great cut flowers and attract butterflies in record numbers.
Plectranthus: Huge group of plants but the one I use most often is 'Mona lavender'.
Plumbago: Pretty sky blue or white flowers grace this sprawling shrub like perennial. Sometimes plumbago takes a little break from blooming.
Rudbeckia: Very reliable perennial. 'Goldsturm', 'Fulgida' and 'Indian Summer' are the ones I use again and again.
Ruellia: Mexican Petunia comes in purple and white and can be invasive though lovely.
Salvia: I don't think there is a salvia that I do not like, but I always recommend 'Indigo Spires'. This giant will continue to repeat bloom if cut back.
Angelonia: These are medium height (12-18"), spike type flowers that come in blues, purples, white, and pinks. They are great for beds and containers. Prefers full sun, but will tolerate part sun.
Begonias: There are so many types of begonias on the market these days, from the bedding begonias of years past to the ever popular dragonwing types to a dizzying array of colorful leafed varieties. Most are shade loving.
Blue Daze: Wonderful ground cover or trailer in a pot, covered with blue flowers all summer. They love the sun.
Impatiens: We all know this shade loving flower. Sometimes they even come back, depending on the winter.
Melanpodium: Small yellow daisy flowers adorn this self sower. Loves full sun.
Scaevola: Excellent in hanging baskets, comes in blue and white, and I have seen a pink form. Full Sun.
Torenia: Great trailer in pots for the shade or part sun. Comes in blues, purples, pinks and white.
Vinca: This is the flowering type and is a great plant as long as we are patient as to when we plant. It hates any cold and is prone to disease, but planted in the latter part of May or later can thrive in the sun.
Zinnia: The varieties I really like are the profusion and star series. These are bedding plants and are not prone to the rust problems of their taller friends. They come in some great hot colors of pinks, reds, oranges, yellows. There are white forms, but not so pure in color. They love the sun.
"Whether the flower or the color is the focus I do not know. I do know the flower is painted large to convey my experience with the flower - and what is my experience if it is not the color?"
Karen Geiger, Landscape Designer, has owned Creative Gardening for 14 years. She has installed cottage gardens, woodland gardens, courtyards, water gardens, and specializes in container and color gardening for both residential and commercial properties. She was awarded 2008 Best of Plantation Front Designs for her work at Windmill Harbour. In addition, she has created and maintained the beautyscape at Sea Pines Center for more than 10 years and worked on Arthur Blank's property for seven years designing, installing and maintaining flower borders and over 180 pots. Visit Karen's new website at karengeigercreates.com.