This time of year, many gardens in my region can look a little tired. Still, if you look hard enough, there are bright spots of color to be found. And, interestingly enough, at least three that come to mind are various shades of pink. Last week I wrote about one of them, the lotus flower. This week’s examples are slightly less ethereal but no less useful (and perhaps more commonly found) in residential gardens: Hibiscus and Joe Pye weed.
I first became entranced with the intense color of pink hibiscus right after acquiring my Nikon macro lens (AF-S Micro Nikkor 105 mm/f 2.8) several years ago. On one of my first outings with it, on a hot early August crack-of-dawn trip to Brookside Gardens, I captured this photo.
Meet Hibiscus moscheutos, or swamp mallow. The intensity of the flower’s hot pink eye, combined with the pink and white petals and the dark green leaves, was a revelation to me. The blooms, which are quite large, last only for a day, but the shrub (which is what it is, not a perennial), can grow to sizable proportions in the right site. Since then, I have used Hibiscus ‘Sweet Caroline’ and ‘Copper King’ in clients’ gardens where late-summer color is called for. (‘Caroline’ is all pink; check out red ‘Lord Baltimore,’ as well). ‘Copper King,’ which I’ve planted on streambanks of a Bethesda client’s garden, may be the same as the variety pictured above. These plants like moist sunny sites and some of its varieties are hardy as far north as Ontario. Cut them down to about a foot high when you’re putting your garden to bed for the winter and they will come back strong again the following year.
Another late-summer favorite is Eupatorium purpureum, or Joe Pye weed. For years, this American native was neglected in our landscapes, although Europeans discovered it and prized it highly. It will grow in either sun or filtered shade (and flower in both), although it prefers sun (and also, like the hibiscus, moist sites). In August its broad flower heads open up, their scent attracting bees and butterflies.
Combine it with a bright stand of Rudbeckia for a nice effect in your late-summer perennial border.
I’ve also seen it grown in a median strip with purple coneflowers, doing remarkably well with no supplemental water.
There are many, many more terrific late summer plants, including other pink choices: reblooming roses, Rose of Sharon varieties, dahlias, the coneflowers shown just above, phlox, and even late-summer poppies. I’ll leave it to my readers to suggest others, but for now I will stop with these imposing additions to the garden. Hope you are all “in the pink” as summer peaks this month!