August is one of the loveliest seasons in the garden. This is when the last of the early-summer flowers are still in bloom, but we start to see blossoms emerge that hint at the fall to come.
Whether you love perennials or annuals, exotics or wildflowers, there’s lots of action happening in the garden.
The season begins with the tail end of the hot-weather blooms. Old-fashioned delights like shasta daisies and hollyhocks are just finishing up. So, too, are the true lilies and the early season day lilies. This long weekend may be the last chance this season to enjoy these mid-summer blooms before they begin to fade toward dormancy.
But on their heels comes a whole new range of delights.
Rudbeckia, or black-eyed Susans, can be spotted growing along the roadsides and in fields – not just in Muskoka but throughout North America. And they’re also perfect for a easy-care cottage garden. They’re a hardy perennial, so a new crop of flowers will spring up each year.
Their cousins the purple coneflowers, also known as echinacea, are also starting to make their appearance in August. These tough and long-lasting flowers are a hardy perennial that look fabulous against a backdrop of silvery or soft blue-green grasses.
Sunflowers – the big, heavy-headed seed-bearers – can be a late bloom around here, but their ornamental cousins are coaxed into bloom a bit earlier in the season. Perennial sunflowers can actually be a bit of a nuisance if they’re not managed properly, as they are tough and aggressive and can take over a plot. But planted with forethought and tended properly, they’re a lovely addition to the late summer garden.
Unlike perennials, annuals can sometimes be coaxed to bloom at varying times. Cosmos is a lovely and easy-to-grow annual that looks perfect in a naturalistic cottage garden setting. Most varieties bloom about 55 days after seeding, so we can encourage them to bloom as early as July by simply asking our growers to provide us with plants that were planted earlier. If you grow cosmos from seed – or if they self-seed in your garden from previous years – they will start to show their pink and purple faces in August.
Of course, we can’t forget about the flowering shrubs, and nothing speaks of August as loudly as hydrangeas. These big, showy blooms come in a wide array of colours, from pearly whites to luminous reds and blues. On some varieties, you can even change the colour of the blooms! If the soil is acidic, the flowers tend to be blue; by raising the pH, though, we can encourage red flowers to appear. If you like dried flowers, hydrangeas bring another bonus: the flower heads can be clipped and dried and displayed indoors all winter long.
Closely related peegee hydrangeas also come into bloom in August. These shrubs actually change flower colour on their own: they emerge as white blooms, then gradually take on a pinkish colour as the season progresses.
Finally, we can’t forget about the ornamental grasses and foliage plants. By August, most of these plants are at their most lush and vibrant – in a well-established and well cared-for bed, there are few if any unintentional bare patches in August. Tall stands of miscanthus and other grasses are reaching for the sky this month, while clumps of shorter grasses like blue fescue and fountain grass are perfect amid the rockery or at the front of a bed.
This is a great season to look around your property with a critical eye. If you’d like to see different colours, or more texture, or want to add something unique and interesting for next year, just talk to us: August is a month of opportunities, and there is a plant out there to suit just about any desire.