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Perennials, Late-flowering

Late flowering perennialI have some gardening friends who think summer starts to slide the minute the Fourth of July parade ends. By the time the August calendar flips over, they don't care a whit anymore about their gardens. There are 2½ months left to enjoy our gardens — and a few of these tempting late bloomers are guaranteed to rekindle your passion for perennials.

Aconitum carmichaelii (monkshood) is a purple-blue-flowering, 5-foot, statuesque plant that will bring drama and color to the late-autumn garden. Bright green divided foliage is another attraction of this stately perennial.

Agastache barberi (anise hyssop) is a very fragrant, 1½- to 2-foot bushy plant with feathery blue-green foliage and tiny tubular flowers that attract bees and hummingbirds. Flower color can be red or coral-purple. The leaves emit a wonderful minty anise scent when touched.

Artemisia lactiflora 'Guizo' (white mugwort) will make you rethink your idea of artemisias as being all silver-foliaged with inconspicuous flowers. This variety is 4 feet tall, with bright green foliage and white attractive flowers — perfect for the back of a sunny border.

Aster divaricatus (white wood aster) is a good choice for gardeners who have had bad luck with asters. This 1- to 2-footer is covered with small daisylike flowers for months in the late season. Pinch growing tips during early months to promote a dense, floriferous habit.

Aster lateriflorus 'Lady in Black' (calico aster) satisfies the need for delicate burgundy foliage and masses of the palest pink flowers. Plants are multibranching 3-footers.

Cimicifuga racemosa 'Hillside Black Beauty' (snakeroot) continues to be the connoisseur shade gardener's choice with finely divided, dark purple foliage, sweetly fragrant, white, bottlebrush flowers, and a towering presence at 5 to 6 feet.

Dendranthema 'Sheffield' (chrysanthemum) adds a delicate new color to the fall palette. Flowers are small and single, tinged apricot-pink, and borne on 3-foot plants. Pinch chrysanthemums weekly early in the season to promote stocky growth. Mulch new plants over winter.

Echinops sphaerocephalus 'Arctic Glow' (thistle) is a departure from the classic blue ball thistle. These spiny flowers bloom white on 2½-foot stems. Texture and shape of flowers contrast with other plants.

Helenium 'Copelia' (sneezeweed) is a gorgeous autumn copper. Small, raylike flowers with darker centers bloom for weeks on sturdy 3-foot plants.

Hylotelephium 'Bertram Anderson' (stonecrop) combines dark burgundy fleshy leaves with late-blooming maroon flowers. This plant pairs beautifully with light green or blue-green sedums.

Perovskia atriplicifolia 'Little Spire' (Russian sage) is the right choice for gardeners who love the lacy, gray foliage and lavender spires of the tall Russian sage, but want a shorter plant. 'Little Spire' is only 2 feet but has all the attributes of the taller version.

Salvia koyamae (meadow sage) is a new twist on a perennial favorite. This species blooms late in the season with soft yellow, tubular flowers. Clumping foliage is heart-shaped and plant performs well in part shade.

Tricyrtis hirta 'Miyazaki' and 'Miyazaki Gold' (toad lily) are two recommended cultivars of this shade- and moisture-loving plant. What a surprise to have delicate, pink-with-purple-spotted, orchidlike flowers in the fall! Attractive, arching green foliage has yellow margins in the Miyazaki gold plants.

There is still much to admire as the garden reveals its late-season secrets!