It can be argued that most South Sound gardens are primarily filled with rhodies, azaleas, and viburnum — all are spectacular in bloom, but they all bloom at once. The real art of gardening in the Pacific Northwest is extending the color palette well past spring. Annuals and perennials are the answer. Annuals are easy. They will bloom all summer if you remove dead flowers, water often, and give them a little fertilizer.
Perennials are a little more of a challenge, since most only bloom for only four to six weeks. Luckily there are a few that bloom almost as long as annuals, and with the added benefit of returning next year. These perennials reliably bloom May-October in the South Sound, and really put on a show:
- Coreopsis (any variety) doesn’t stop blooming and attracts butterflies.
- Dicentra ‘Luxuriant’ (fern leaf bleeding hearts) is an unusually cold-hardy bleeding heart that (unlike the regular bleeding heart) can tolerate some sun.
- Salvia ‘May Night’ is a spiky sage attractive to hummingbirds and butterflies. It is easy to find and grow.
- Hakonechloa macra ‘Aurea’ is a big name for a perfect summer ornamental grass. This Japanese grass is bright chartreuse and adds a pop of color.
- Carex ‘Bowles Golden’ ornamental grass is similar in color, and achieves the same effect.
- Achillea filipendula ‘Gold Plate,’ ‘Coronation Gold,’ or ‘Cloth of Gold’ adds another dimension. The flowers of these yarrows are bright yellow with large flat flowers.
- Erysimum ‘Bowle’s Mauve’ is a perennial wallflower that sometimes blooms year-round. Beautiful blue-gray leaves are a bonus.
- Echinacea purpurea is the “real” purple coneflower. It is unbelievably hardy and long blooming (unlike the newer varieties).
Inspiration from England
Talk to any group of avid South Sound gardeners about their gardening passions, and (if they haven’t already been there) they will likely express a wish to visit England and its famous gardens. Now they can with America’s Romance with English Gardens by Thomas J. Mickey.
It is a gardening history book about the “wag the dog” process of American seed houses in the 19th century. Their business was growing seeds, but they also created tantalizing catalogs and wrote all the gardening books.
Their brand of “social media” before computers steered the new middle-class home gardeners straight back to their seeds to grow the beautiful gardens pictured in the catalogs and books — all English landscapes. The seed growers also began the first horticultural societies to educate the masses. Any nurseryman, home gardener, landscape architect, journalist, anglophile or social media nut will find the book fascinating. Ohio University Press, $26.95.