Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Front Border in High Summer

This is a scene from my front border after the eremurus, poppies and alliums have gone by
     One of the big problems with a garden is how to sustain interest year round.  As I have explained before, my front border reaches its peak in June, and so the problem becomes, how to keep it looking good the rest of the summer?  This is particularly a problem in a no water border like this, because typically plants deal with lack of water by going dormant.  So the plants in the picture are ones that I have found are good to provide interest later in the summer.
     One of the chief among this group is this late blooming kniphofia.  This is a very large plant I got from Plant Delights many years ago.  If I remember correctly, it was billed as coming originally from Beth Chatto and was considered to be one of the largest kniphofias around.  Unfortunately, I don't remember its name.  I used to grow a lot of kniphofias, but currently this is the only one I have.  I have made a note to myself, however to add more of them for the purpose of providing this kind of late season color.  When planting kniphofias it is important to pay attention to bloom time because their bloom time can vary widely, depending on which one you plant.
     One reason I do not have that many kniphofias any more is that they have rather sloppy foliage.  In the situation pictured above, however, that does not matter so much because the plant is in the middle of a large bed, surrounded by other foliage, so you do not notice its foliage.
     Other plants that are good in a late summer drought tolerant bed like this are Lobelia tupa and various thistle like plants, such as the scotch thistle in the picture (which I am almost afraid to mention for fear the invasive plant mafia will get after me),  cardoons, and globe thistles (the blue globes in the photo are Echinops ritro ssp. ruthenicus). Some of the eryngiums are still going on now, too, although Eryngium alpinum is done blooming.  I have noticed that Eryngium 'Big Blue' has a very long bloom time, and for a border is actually better than Eryngium alpinum,  although its individual flowers are not as good.  It just has such a long bloom time and such a multitude of electric blue flowers on a good looking plant that you can't beat it. If you look closely you can see some of it in the lower left hand quadrant of the picture.
     Another essential plant for late summer interest is Melianthus major which you can see mounded up behind the Kniphofia.  This plant will keep going strongly well into winter in our climate.  It is the foliage which is the thing with it, and it is glorious at this time of the year.


  1. Such true words about kniphofia! And so surprising to hear Lobelia tupa is thriving in a no-summer-water border. Maybe I'll try it yet again!

    1. Thanks Denise! Yes, Lobelia tupa is a great plant. And the hummingbirds love it. I have it all over the garden now.

  2. Gorgeous! Hope you don't mind if I pin this to the Home Depot Garden Club Pinterest board later this week!


    1. Thanks, Michael. I don't mind if you pin any of my photos as long as I am given credit for them. I also appreciate links back to this blog!

  3. This is absolutely stunning! love this combination. The textures of the Echinops, Thistle and Eryngium contrast beautifully with the other plantings. Superb!

  4. What an absolutely stunning garden – congratulations!

    Can you share a little more information about your eremurus, which seem to be doing so well? I notice this garden is on Bainbridge Island, so your climate must be pretty similar to mine in southern Vancouver Island (although you probably have wetter winters – we only get about 600mm, or 24 inches, of precipitation in a typical year).

    Do you ever provide the eremurus supplemental water in summer? Are they in absolutely full sun? From your photos it seems the area has trees, so I was wondering exactly how much sun they need to perform that well.

    Thanks in advance!


  5. Hi Erik- thanks for the comment. Yes, our climate is similar to yours. I never water my eremurus in the summer. Basically they finish blooming and go dormant before the really dry weather here arrives, anyway. They are in full sun. I don't think they would do well in shade. In the picture, there were some Eucalyptus in the background, but these did not prevent them from getting full sun.