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Beat the heat with late-summer flowers

By David Berle
University of Georgia

The flowers are all gone. Cracks are forming in the ground. The landscape is looking a little baked at the end of long, hot summer. This is a common problem in the Southern landscape.

Back in the spring, your yard was alive with dogwood and azalea blooms, which soon gave way to green and eventually brown. What can a gardener do to perk up the landscape at this time of the year?

There are several solutions. The temporary answer is to plant some cheerful annuals to liven things up a little. Garden centers often have a few things left from spring sales that could still bring some color back into the landscape.

Lantana and verbena are plants that can beat the heat and produce color well into the fall. Several varieties of repeat-bloom roses can still make a difference. And soon, fall mums will be available with their array of yellows, oranges and burgundies.

Just a few of these heat-tolerant bloomers, carefully placed in the landscape, can brighten up any yard worn down from the summer sun.

Next year

The best solution, however, is to plan ahead for next year and have your landscape looking alive all summer long. Many perennials, shrubs and even trees can provide color and excitement at a time when everything else is crying for water.

Plants in the salvia family are known for taking the heat. Mexican sage (Salvia leucantha) and blue anise sage (Salvia guaranitica) are two commonly found salvias, but there are many hybrids as well. Some are hardier than others, but all seem to take the heat and bloom on through a hot summer.

The perennial sunflowers (Helianthus sp.) perform well at the end of the summer, as do the asters and repeat-blooming daylilies. The common blanket flower (Gaillardia sp.) often seen growing along the coast is a great plant to beat the summer heat, and it's extremely drought-tolerant.

The many new shrub roses available today could be considered a perennial flower or tender shrub. But either way, these exciting flowering plants are great for keeping color alive.

Gardeners can pick from the knockout roses or some of the other hybrids like "Nearly Wild" or the butterfly rose (Rosa mutabilis). All of these will bloom throughout the summer and are resistant to the diseases that bring down the tea roses by early summer.

Other summer-flowering shrubs include the butterfly bush (Buddleia davidii) and the panicled hydrangea, which is often called Pee Gee Hydrangea (Hydrangea paniculata). These two shrubs alone could make any landscape look happier and more colorful when other plants have called it quits for the summer.

Think big

There are even some trees that will bloom well into the last summer days.

The crape myrtle is a Southern classic whose name is synonymous with the heat of summer. The newer types offer attractive bark, too, and the latest dwarf varieties take up far less room and work well in planters.

The chaste tree (Vitex agnus-castus) provides a long-lasting display that attracts butterflies and other insects. Most varieties have blue flowers, but there are pink- and white-flowering varieties as well.

And finally, a tree that really shines in late summer is the golden rain tree (Koelruteria paniculata). This otherwise common-looking tree stands out in late summer with its brilliant yellow flowers.

No matter how you choose to brighten up your summer days, select plants that are hardy in your area and suited to your site conditions. And remember, many plants bloom well after April showers have long been forgotten.

(David Berle is a horticulture professor and Cooperative Extension landscape specialist with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)

(David Berle is a Cooperative Extension horticulturist with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)

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