A look at easy-to-grow perennials for summer
This week we are looking at some more easy-to-grow perennials that are good for taking us from midsummer to late summer. There are three daisy-like flowers that are among the easiest to grow, yet each is relatively underused.One of the happiest colors out there is bright, cheery yellow. I certainly smiled back when I was first introduced to Anthemis tinctoria “Kelwayi.” The realm of yellow flowers can range from pastel sulfury to golden yellow, and this beauty is near the middle – bright, yet just a touch golden beyond lemony. Not only is it a bright splash in the garden, it is an undemanding daisy for low-water and poor soil use. Kelwayi is an improved variety of anthemis tinctoria (golden Marguerite), not only with brighter color but a longer flowering period. It grows in native soil, maintaining itself in existing rainfall in many local environments.It’s an easy reseeder but just does not seem to be prolific in seedlings like it can be in other regions. The scattered seedlings I’ve encountered have been easy to control, and many have been transplanted. Free flowers! The foliage is distinct, and the ferny-leaved seedlings are easy to spot. It will naturalize into favorable areas (which includes much of this valley). It seems to reproduce true to color consistently when not near other hybrid types. Kelwayi is by far the most popular variety and tends to be the variety you see in gardens and in pockets where it has established itself. Get some seed later this summer!Another tough group of daisy shapes is the perennial asters, largely New England asters. They’ve naturalized throughout much of the country, including around here. (Native or naturalized, I’ve read both.) There are also other native species. If you are willing to cultivate some, you’ll have a midsummer treat that isn’t seen enough in gardens.Right now take a look at some of the wild ones. You’ll see various shades of lavender and violet scattered throughout spots in the valley. In naturalizing, they’ve also intermixed to develop some nice shades. Their toughness, compactness and bloom period are as valuable as their color. Aster foliage in general isn’t at the top of the appearance list, but it’s easy to group them and place them among good companion plants. If you see something you like, mark it (in an eco-friendly manner) or note it somehow. Later in the season when it goes to seed, gather some seed (leave most), and plant some in your garden. Store it in a cool, dry place, and seed it in the fall. In general, aster seed around here can be scratched in or lightly covered with soil.They’re a nice choice to use after fleabanes and before fall asters. It’s worth a hike to see the ones that are blooming right now. You can’t miss them. They pop up in scrubland all over.Shasta daisies are more common in gardens, but in an important way, they are also underused. One of its close cousins, oxeye daisy, is a noxious weed. It’s also attractive and prolific. It’s the daisy you see growing wild and in gardens all over. It looks like Shasta, but its flowers are smaller, and the plant is narrower.Oxeye daisy will probably not be eradicated, but if you like it in your garden, use Shastas instead. If you like smaller white daisies, use dwarf Shastas. Besides, oxeyes are weedy, while Shastas spread in a nice clump fashion. Eventually you divide them and get more free plants.Shasta daisies also tolerate poor conditions here and are easy to grow.M.G. Gallagher writes a column on gardening and landscaping for the Daily.