Late season color: Perennial flower mix puts out season finale

Jennifer Hanson of Lawrence loves flowers, especially ones that bloom all summer to create a landscape of color in her backyard. Those include clemoe in full bloom.

Jennifer Hanson of Lawrence loves flowers, especially ones that bloom all summer to create a landscape of color in her backyard. Those include clemoe in full bloom.


Mandervilla climb on a metal frame in Jennifer Hanson’s yard in west Lawrence.


Buckeye Susans fill a spot in Jennifer Hanson’s backyard.


Glowing with the morning sunlight are Limelight Hydrangeas, which fill a corner along a fence in Hanson’s yard.

There is often more than one way to accomplish something. Last week, I highlighted a garden that uses a mix of annual and perennial flowers to provide seasonlong color. Another method of ensuring blooms all season long is to carefully select perennial flowers and shrubs that bloom at different times.

Lawrence resident Jennifer Hanson is one gardener who has carefully planned her garden with seasons in mind.

“I use a few annuals for early color, but the perennials quickly take over,” Hanson says. “I’m really trying to do perennials as much as possible, or annuals that re-seed themselves.”

Hanson also bases many of her plant choices on whether the plants are butterfly-worthy.

“I’m working on getting a Monarch Waystation designation,” Hanson says.

Butterfly bushes and black-eyed Susans are two perennials that stand out in the landscape with purple and yellow blooms. The raised vegetable garden bed is also bright with silvery-leaved Russian sage blooming next to the watermelon and muskmelon vines. Marigolds — annuals that will re-seed themselves — hang over the low walls of the garden bed.

Hanson’s favorite plant has bloomed most of the summer and will hold its massive blossoms until frost. The plant is Limelight Hydrangea, and its 6- to 12-inch blooms are green just as the name implies.

Another showstopper is the pink cleome or spider flower. Cleome is an annual, but most experienced gardeners will laugh at that designation. Cleome produces a prolific crop of seeds that will happily pop up in the garden for years after an initial planting.

A few containers are tucked into the perennial border, each containing annual flowers that Hanson says she overwinters in the house or in the garage. This is the second summer for the Mandevilla, a tropical vine with leathery deep-green leaves and magenta blossoms.

A few containers contain tuberose plants (Polianthes tuberosa). Tuberose is a slender, spiky plant with tube-shaped white blossoms.

“The tuberoses have to be the best for smell,” Hanson says. “You really need to be here in the evening.”

Even in the day, the rich fragrance from the tuberose flowers draws you to them.

Tall garden sedums are just beginning to put on flower heads that will turn a rosy pink for most of September and October, and I see chrysanthemums with buds still developing.

Another fall favorite hides in Hanson’s garden: toad lilies. This somewhat unusual perennial has leaves and stems only faintly reminiscent of its Asiatic cousins. Hanson’s toad lilies will bloom into the fall with lovely purple blossoms dotted with white spots. Other varieties of toad lilies come in varying shades of purple (some more pink) and white, all dotted with the other color.

“In the spring there are orange daylilies, purple false indigo, lilacs, bee balm and Endless Summer hydrangeas,” Hanson tells me. Irises, redbud trees and forsythia also promise a colorful March, April and May.

As Hanson reflects on the season, she points out yarrow and sneezeweed (Helenium). The two yellow-flowering perennials fill in the mid-summer months with their cheery blossoms.

With the mix of perennials, re-seeding annuals and flowering shrubs, I suspect Hanson’s garden feels like a new one with each passing season. I can only wonder what else fall will bring!


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