As I walk around my garden on this Labor Day weekend, I am observing what plants are looking good after this hot and dry summer we have had and continue to have. I have spent many hours, (and dollars), watering, but on this morning, it appears it was time and money well spent. The plants in pots are especially vulnerable and sometimes need water twice a day. But despite all the hours spent watering and enduring the heat, some plants are looking great and is fulfilling to see them showing off their flowers. While there are many plants that I could mention, here are four that are looking particularly good right now.
For late summer color and low maintenance, it is hard to beat Crape Myrtle, (Lagerstroemia). These shrubs/trees thrive in full sun and as I drive around neighborhoods, their flowers are offering some spectacular displays. My experience has been that they come into bloom in August/September, although there are some newer varieties that bloom earlier. The flowers appear in large clusters of white, lavender, shades of pink, and almost red. The leaves on some varieties will provide brilliant fall color. Crape Myrtle has beautiful colored bark that looks especially nice with a spotlight shining on it in the winter. I have a Crape Myrtle in my garden that is a 20 ft tree but newer varieties have been developed that are more of a shrub in the 6-8 ft range.
A plant that is not well known, but deserves to be, is a hardy ginger, Hedychium ‘Tara’. While most gingers would not be winter hardy here, this one is. It does needs to be cut to the ground in the fall, and I have had it in my garden for 4-5 years and it comes back every year. It can be slow to appear in the spring and I always have a few bamboo sticks around it so I remember where it is. It will grow in full sun and this time of year it blooms with spikes of tangerine colored flowers on stems that can be 6-7 feet tall. This ginger makes clumps and I always mulch mine in the fall.
Hardy Hibiscus are in full bloom now and their flowers can be the size of dinner plates. They are very easy to grow and want full sun. This is a hardy perennial and should be cut to the ground in the fall. Some new varieties have bronze-red foliage so it is attractive even when not in bloom.
My garden probably has a dozen or so different hardy fuchsias and these bloom from late spring through fall. It is difficult to think of a plant that performs so consistently throughout the summer with the assortment of flower colors, as well as plant height, that hardy fuchsias provide. They can grow in full sun but I have found they seem to prefer some shade especially in the late afternoon.
These are just four plants that are blooming now and, with water, are surviving our hot summer. Even with the time spent watering, I continue to find the garden as a relaxing and restful place.