Brutal heat, tropical humidity, torrential downpours, or extended dry spells—welcome to late summer in the Mid-Atlantic region! We have plenty of excuses for our gardens looking tired and tattered now, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Building combinations around tough, adaptable plants means that our gardens can tolerate whatever the weather throws at us and still look good going into the later part of the growing season.
If bright and bold are your favorite garden themes, a vibrant purple-and-yellow combo is a wonderful way to go. Ironweeds (Vernonia spp. and cvs., Zones 4–10) are one of the best perennials I know for pure purpleness, and they are at their best this time of year. New York ironweed (Vernonia noveboracensis, Zones 5–9), in the 4- to 6-foot-tall range, pairs beautifully with a variety of late-summer yellows of a similar height. Try it with smooth oxeye (Heliopsis helianthoides,…
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