Pacific Northwest Regional Reports

Peak-Season Perennials for the Northwest

Fine Gardening – Issue 212
Golden Baby® Dwarf Goldenrod

While we would all ideally have gardens that look at their peak in every season, the reality is often far from that ideal. Very few of us have all the time in the world to dedicate to our gardens, and the hard truth is the planning and work that goes into gardening means we often only get one season where we can sit back and enjoy the fruits of our labor.

As Executive Editor Danielle Sherry explains, “Winter is for planning. It’s when you really don’t want to be outside and when your time is better spent formulating the plan of attack to make your garden the best it can be. Spring is the working time period, when the bulk of your cleanup, planting, and projects get done. Fall is also a working period and is generally when you can revisit the things you didn’t get done in spring.”

After all of that prep and planning, you want to ensure your summer garden is at its prime when it’s finally too hot to toil. To help ensure your summer garden really shines, regional experts shared their favorite perennials for this peak season. Find picks for the Northwest below, and be sure to check out more fabulous summer selections in Peak-Season Combos.


1. ‘Indian Summer™’ Peruvian Lily

Indian Summer Peruvian Lily

Name: Alstromeria ‘Tesronto Imp’

Zones: 8–9

Size: 24-30 inches tall and 36 inches wide

Conditions: Full sun; well-drained soil

Native range: South America

I’ve fallen in love with this well-behaved Peruvian lily. Its unusual, plum-colored foliage contrasts beautifully with the flowers’ smoldering tones of gold, peach, orange, red, and burgundy when the blooms begin to open in early summer. In cool maritime climates, blossoms occur continuously until early autumn, bringing a tropical touch to your garden. This deer-resistant, easy perennial is robust in growth but is not a rampant spreader, instead forming a compact clump with long, sturdy stems that are excellent for cut flowers. Flowering will be more profuse and will occur for a longer period with regular watering during the summer.


2. ‘Golden Baby®‘ Dwarf Goldenrod

Golden Baby Dwarf Goldenrod

Name: Solidago ‘Goldkind’

Zones: 4–8

Size: 12 to 18 inches tall and 18 to 24 inches wide

Conditions: Full sun; average to dry, well-drained soil

Native range: Garden origin

This cute goldenrod is a compact, upright grower with glowing, golden-yellow blooms. The tiny flowers are arranged by the hundreds in graceful tiers on the sturdy branch tips; they look beautiful in the garden and make excellent cut flowers. The plant forms a tight crown and will not run or reseed as it matures. Originally selected for the cut flower industry, this tough perennial exhibits very good resistance to diseases, is not palatable to deer or rabbits, and is loved by bees and butterflies. Although it can tolerate dry conditions, it will perform even better if given some supplemental water during dry periods.


3. ‘Mönch’ Aster

Mönch Aster

Name: Aster × Frikartii ‘Mönch’

Zones: 5–9

Size: 3 feet tall and wide

Conditions: Full sun; well-drained soil

Native range: Garden origin

‘Mönch’ adds a welcome cool note to the summer garden as the warm days intensify. It is unique among asters for its earlier and longer flowering time. The first periwinkle-blue flowers with cheerful yellow centers open in late June, and the show continues until early autumn. Its stout stems are well branched and resist flopping later in the season. New flowers form higher on the stem than fading older blooms, making deadheading unnecessary. This aster has shown good deer and rabbit resistance. To help it live longer, protect it from becoming overly wet in winter.


4. ‘Bleeding Hearts’ Ox Eye Sunflower

Bleeding Hearts Ox Eye Sunflower

Name: Heliopsis helianthoides var. scabra ‘Bleeding Hearts’

Zones: 3–9

Size: 4 feet tall and wide

Conditions: Full sun to partial shade; well-drained soil

Native range: Eastern and central North America

From the moment this tough prairie perennial emerges in spring, its smoky purple-tinted foliage makes a statement. This long-blooming plant opens its first flowers in early July and continues to bloom until early autumn. As the buds open, the petals are an astonishing vibrant reddish orange that will slowly age to a rich golden yellow. At the peak of summer, ‘Bleeding Hearts’ gives a spectacular multicolored show, with individual flowers holding up for over four weeks. New flowers are formed above the older blooms, hiding them and making deadheading unnecessary or mostly so. Deer generally find this plant unpalatable—unlike pollinators, which adore the blooms. It is tolerant of clay and rocky soil as long as there is good drainage. Water it regularly during prolonged dry weather for best flowering.

Contributing editor Richie Steffen is executive director of the Elisabeth C. Miller Botanical Garden in Seattle.

Photos: courtesy of Richie Steffen

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