I 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!