Extend the bloom season
Plant long-lasting combinations. Long-blooming perennials, like coneflowers, are perfect partners for showy fall grasses, such as 'Sioux Blue' Indian grass.
Photo/Illustration: Kerry Moore
Plant shopping is a delightful part of the whole spring-gardening experience. But if you hit the garden centers only in April, you're going to end up with plenty of perennials that are at their peak early in the growing season. Some of the best late bloomers are slow to come up in spring, so they tend to look somewhat scrawny in pots and aren’t nearly as appealing to shoppers as flower-filled early bloomers. They can look so bad, in fact, that some nurseries don’t even set them out for sale until the spring rush has slowed.
To make sure you score some later bloomers, plan on a second trip to your favorite plant-shopping place in late spring or early summer. Even then, though, you may not find some of the more out-of-the-ordinary autumn perennials, such as leucanthemella (Leucanthemella serotina, USDA Hardiness Zones 4–9) and golden lace (Patrinia scabiosifolia, Zones 5–8); ordering through the mail may be your best option in this case. Watching the developing buds of these and other late-blooming perennials continues the anticipation that makes spring and summer so exciting. And when they finally do open, the new flowers give freshness to fall combinations.