1. ‘Gateway’ Joe Pye Weed
Name: Eupatorium maculatum ‘Gateway’
USDA Hardiness Zones: 5 to 11
Size: 4 to 6 feet tall and 3 to 5 feet wide
Conditions: Full sun to light shade; average to moist soil
‘Gateway’ Joe Pye weed will be the star of your border. Huge, mauve pink flowers explode atop erect reddish stems in mid- to late summer, each bloom alive with pollinators, bringing the garden to life. A great cut flower, this native meadow plant extends its display well into autumn, with seed heads that linger in shades of brown and tan. Combine it with native grasses and other tall late-summer blooms for a dramatic display.
2. Prairie Coneflower
Name: Ratibida pinnata
Zones: 3 to 8
Size: 4 to 5 feet tall and 2 to 3 feet wide
Conditions: Full sun to light shade; average to dry soil
Prairie coneflower is a graceful addition to the back of the border. Drooping, bright yellow petals and large brown cones appear like butterflies mid- to late summer above the rest of the border. Long blooming and native to the Northeast, prairie coneflower attracts birds and butterflies over a long period, first with its brilliant blossoms and later in the season with its anise-scented seed heads. It also makes a wonderful cut flower that will brighten up any room.
3. ‘Arendsii’ Monkshood
Name: Aconitum carmichaelii ‘Arendsii’
Zones: 3 to 7
Size: 4 to 6 feet tall and 2 feet wide
Conditions: Full sun to partial shade; moist, well-drained soil
If tall, deep blue drama during late summer sounds good to you, then ‘Arendsii’ monkshood is a plant to consider. Dark violet hoods appear from September through October atop 4-foot-tall stems over wonderfully dark green foliage. Plant them en masse for a stunning swath of color or randomly in small groups for a unique display that will punctuate the perennial border. Monkshood is a toxic plant, so be careful when handling. It’s best just to give it some space and enjoy the show.
4. ‘Floristan White’ Blazing Star
Name: Liatris spicata ‘Floristan White’
Zones: 4 to 9
Size: 2 to 3 feet tall and 1 to 2 feet wide
Conditions: Full sun to light shade; average soil
‘Floristan White’ blazing star is often overlooked in favor of its lavender-blooming cousin, ‘Kobold’, and it’s time we rectify that. ‘Floristan White’ produces clean white spikes that rise to 3 feet above grassy green foliage from midsummer through early fall. Native to the American prairie, it’s a beautifully graceful addition to the sunny border and is adored by butterflies. As a cut flower, the dramatic spikes add depth to any arrangement, whether in bloom or as dried seed heads.
Scott Hokunson is the principal of Blue Heron Landscape Design in Granby, Connecticut.
Photos: courtesy of Scott Hokunson; (1), courtesy of Bluestone Perennials; (3), Christina Bollen/gapphotos.com; (4), gapphotos.com