Every year it’s the same thing. We know it’s coming, but it can’t be avoided. I’m talking about the dog days of summer, the summer doldrums, or simply July and August in Nebraska. The weather this time of year, with daytime highs in the 90s, lows in the 70s, test my patience as a gardener.
The sultry, humid air forms a haze without any breeze, clinging to my skin. When there is a breeze it’s more like an oven fan turned on high, sucking the moisture out of my parched landscape.
My garden needs some rain, but it’s not likely to come anytime soon.
I have to admit that gardening through the summer doldrums usually made me cranky until I decided to do something about it. I was tired of babying my landscape plants and flowering perennials through the heat of the summer. Maybe it has something to do with my concern for conserving water, but I decided not to garden with plants that need my help all the time.
Instead I started using lowmaintenance perennials that survive, even thrive, on their own and don’t wilt in the relentless summer sun. A plethora of perennial plants have adapted to grow in harsh climates, under droughty conditions and thin soils. But it takes a special plant that dares to bloom this time of year, let alone grow and survive.
I have always admired plants that seem to enjoy blooming in hot weather. Perennial favorites like the lavender-blue spikes of Russian sage, the dependable black-eyed susan, purple coneflower and “Autumn Joy” sedum, have become mainstays in the border.
We can also mention the “Moonbeam” coreopsis, dazzling daylilies, garden phlox, yarrow, hosta and the striking hardy hibiscus.
All of the previous plants are excellent choices for the hot summer perennial garden, providing beauty without much care. Thankfully, there are many more summer bloomers to choose from that are starting to gain the attention they deserve. The next time you think about planting consider some of the following plants to beat the summer heat.
Patrinia (Patrinia scabiosifolia) The lush leaves of this plant look like those of the common Scabiosa plant forming a dense 2 foot mound by early summer. The small bright yellow flowers are held in airy clusters high above the foliage in August to 4 feet high. They may be cut and brought indoors, the fragrant flowers lasting a long time. They are excellent companions for almost anything and are great for hot, humid summers.