Before you exclaim, “It’s too late for annuals,” I want to remind you that the gardening season extends long after the summer vacation from school comes to its end! The first frost date is usually around October 20th, which means there are are twelve weeks - eighty-four more days to enjoy your garden. Keeping that in mind, annuals are a flexible and colorful way to maximize your garden space, even though you may not have room in the garden for more shrubs or perennials.
Where your daylily flowers are fading, you can still have an abundance of color and blooms by planting Verbena bonariensis (Brazilian Verbena) in even narrow spaces between your perennials stands. In fact, anywhere your garden is past peak, you can fill in with the lovely scented Nicotiana (tobacco flower), Snapdragons, Pansies, late-blooming annual Salvia or Pineapple Sage (one of Victoria’s Favorite’s).
For striking foliage color, plant Persian Shield (Strobilanthes dyerianus), which has unusual glossy pointed leaves with saturated purple veining. The result is foliage that shimmers like miniature stained glass panels of blue and violet. Another late summer star is Colocasia esculenta, also known as Elephant Ear. Two or three of these large leafed plants can transform any garden into a lush paradise. Even a shade garden can be supplemented late in the season with various colored coleus, which will provide pop right up until frost. A true workhorse of the late summer garden is annual Purple Fountain Grass. Tall decorative grasses like Pennisetum setaceum ‘Rubrum’ can also transition nicely into a fall display with mums and jack-o-lanterns.
There are still twelve more weekends for hosting bar-b-ques or outdoor dinner parties, eighty-four more evenings of solitary strolls through your garden beds, so pump up your gardens with late season color, and enjoy!