The Cape is in the midst of the summer season, and if you love herbaceous perennials as much as I do, you love this season! Herbaceous perennials are those plants that appear each spring and disappear each fall but during the summer months, produce an abundance of flowers.

Lately, I’ve been reading a lot of information about “new and improved” plant species and cultivars that are being developed and much of the work sounds very exciting.

I’ve long been a fan of Echinacea, and the native species are a nice pink. Starting about 10 years ago growers started to introduce Coneflower with reds and oranges. The evolution continues, and I’ve recently read of several dwarf cultivars that grow to 8 inches tall (most are 30 inches or more in height) and produce beautiful golden yellow flowers. Several cultivars look interesting including Echinacea Summer Solstice and Tweety. The introduction of yellow to the species will make Echinacea even more useful.

Another favorite of mine is Caryopteris. Usually this species is some shade of blue but one grower has developed a pink cultivar, Caryopteris Pavilion Pink. It’s hardy to zone 5 and looks exciting. My only concern with Caryopteris is Phytophthora root rot. This can be a problem with Caryopteris, as well as several other species, especially in moist locations. Plant them in full sun in a hot, dry location and watch the water and you should be okay. Moist locations are usually the problem.

Several other interesting developments include a very attractive Gaura lindheimeri Summer Bloom, which has nice broader flower petals and Gaura Steffi Dark Rose, which also has larger petals and is shorter than most of the Gaura in the trade. Gaura can be really fun to use as the plant disappears but you have these wonderful, wispy almost butterfly-like flowers floating above the plants.

Geum, another favorite of mine, is a wonderful plant that I love to use in the garden with its tall orange flowers that wave above everything, much like Gaura flowers. Geum Top Shelf Margarita is a new lemon yellow cultivar that grows to 15 to 18 inches tall with flower stems that are red. The developers claim that it will reliably rebloom, a welcome trait. Geum is another one of those underused plants that can be fun in the garden, and its yellow flowers are a welcome addition.

Spigelia marilandica is a native species found in much of the country. Walter’s Gardens (wholesaler) has released a cultivar Spigelia marilandica Little Red that is a very versatile perennial that will grow in sun or shade. It produces terminal flower spikes that are reminiscent of Crocosmia with dark red tubular flowers with yellow interiors on top of dark green broad leaf foliage. The plant grows to 18 inches tall, spreads well, forming nice large clumps and typically flowers in June/July on the Cape. It’s also hardy to zone 5 and attracts hummingbirds. They tolerate drought but prefer evenly moist soils. This is a really showy plant that is vigorous and well worth adding to your garden.

If you’re like me, you’re always looking for new and interesting plants to add to your garden. I hope these excite you, too.

Les Lutz is the director of horticulture and facilities management at Heritage Museums & Gardens in Sandwich.

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