A bee visits catmint flowers. (Getty Images)

A bee visits catmint flowers. (Getty Images)

Please pollinators with perennials like hyssop, catmint and cape fuschia

Newer cultivars of perennials simply bloom longer, quenching our cravings for color and extending the benefit to bees.

By Trevor Cameron / The Golfing Gardener

As we continue the celebration of Pollinator Month all June long, I am hoping all of you will pause and admire all of our little insect, hummingbird and butterfly friends buzzing about garden flowers. Ah… the sweet nectars of summertime. The sun is out (well, at least most of the time) and flowers are bursting with color in gardens everywhere.

I — like most of you, I’m sure — always pop some annual color into my planters, window boxes and garden here and there for some added flower power every spring. However, the permanence of perennials is attractive to me, offering plenty of choices for almost all soil conditions in both sunny and shady garden locations.

There is certainly nothing wrong with old-fashioned perennials or planting native species, for that matter, as they both offer massive benefits to all of our pollinating friends. Perennials continue to be bred and trialed, with many more modern versions of some classics offering improvements. Newer cultivars of useful perennials simply bloom longer, quenching our cravings for color and extending the benefit to our bees.

The advancements don’t stop there, however, as other desirable traits often result when new plant flavors are introduced. Among these qualities are improved disease resistance, a larger or double flower, a new color, a more compact habit, increased hardiness, a new foliage color or variegation, drought tolerance and many others, as well. All this means more satisfaction to you, the gardener, and in turn more benefit to our pollinating friends.

I will continue to preach on the benefits of pollinators often this summer, each time highlighting some useful options for those seeking superior perennials that extend their bloom time or repeat flower in multiple seasons. Almost all perennials reproduce themselves by going to seed. If we deadhead them a bit, especially early, we can delay this until late summer/fall, extending their flowering season while still allowing them to go to seed later and ensure their proliferation for the coming season.

Disclaimer: I am not mentioning echinacea (coneflowers) or salvia (sages), two of my favorites, as we will be discussing these in articles of their own. Many other suggestions will continue all summer long, just like their blooms.

Agastache: Known as “hyssop” or “hummingbird mint,” these lovely perennials have herby fragrance from their foliage. There are numerous good cultivars to be found, but the compact and long-blooming Poquito Series is as good as any I have seen. These bloom now through fall, with some simple deadheading, and grow well in hot, sunny areas with well-drained soil. Tidy clumps will reach about 15 inches tall and a little wider, and flowers can be found in a rainbow of colors, including my personal go-to: orange. These attract all pollinators, including hummingbirds, are drought tolerant and, as a bonus, Mr. Rabbit will even leave them alone.

Gaillardia: These are often called “blanket flowers” and are native to hot, dry areas in the Southwest. As long as your garden drains well, they will naturalize nicely and bloom all the way until frost. We are going with some hot colors on these — oranges, reds and yellows — all prolific repeat bloomers. They are compact plants, under a foot tall, with a mounding habit, slowly spreading and re-seeding into patches along sunny borders and hot, dry slopes. Plus, they are super drought tolerant and excellent for bees and butterflies. There are many worthy choices for cultivars including anything in the Spintop Series, Barbican Series and even older ones like “Arizona sun” and “sunset celebration.” Deadhead them a bit through the summer, then allow flowers to dry/mature in fall so that they will drop some seed and naturalize into nice little patches in the landscape. One that gets better year after year.

Nepeta: Often called “catmint,” these long bloomers are bee magnets. There are many good ones to choose from, depending on the height you are seeking, and blooms can be found in shades of lavender, blue, pink and white. These love sunny, well-drained locations, and exhibit excellent durability, drought tolerance and rabbit resistance. One of the best cultivars to me is “junior walker,” a lovely grower that reaches about 16 inches tall and spreads nicely to 3 feet across. These are summer blooming machines that often look like small shrubs by late summer. Keep in mind this is not “catnip,” the one your cat will devour, but a different species that offers superior ornamental landscape value.

Phygelius: These are known as “cape fuchsia,” a gardening present from South Africa, and are absolute hummingbird magnets for planting in full sun with well-drained soil. The newer Colorburst Series are prolific bloomers, offering us flavors with soft yellow, bright orange, deep red or rose pink tubular flowers. These are a specimen perennial to me, attaining 3 feet of height with maturity, while boasting impressive tall flower stalks. Keep deadheading spent stalks and these will bloom well into the fall. While many perennials will form clumps, this is one for those who like a plant to naturalize. They will spread by underground roots, but can be easily tamed with an annual cleaning as well. Allow some room for these show-stopping bloomers to fill in and you will be wowed.

It is never too late to add more landscape color with perennials, which in turn aids all of our pollinating friends that visit the garden. Every one of us can help save these creatures in our own small way, and by adding some long-blooming summer perennials, you will be doing exactly that.

Free class

Sunnyside Nursery in Marysville will host “Perennials & Pollinators” at 10 a.m. on Saturday, June 22. For more information or to sign up, go to www.sunnysidenursery.net/classes.

Trevor Cameron is a certified professional horticulturist (CPH) and serves as general manager for Sunnyside Nursery in Marysville. He can be reached at sunnysidenursery@msn.com.

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