Late summer can be a time for bold floral statements, with tall perennials towering over the remains of those that have finished. It’s almost like the garden keeps building on itself, with late summer flowers being the tallest of all. If you’d like to add a little more height to your garden, consider some of these native giants.
|Rudbeckia laciniata rises above the fence|
A couple of other moisture-lovers are ironweed (Vernonia spp.) and hollow Joe Pye weed (Eutrochium fistulosum). Both of these are often found near me in low, wet ditches where they are covered with pollinators. Some of the ditches are so deep that if it wasn’t for their height, I wonder if we'd even notice these two? It is a joy to see them stretching above the other plants, the jewel-like purple of ironweed catching your attention at any speed while the soft, billowy blooms of the Joe Pye weed are almost too airy to notice above 40 mph.
|Vernonia gigantea lives up to its name|
Some of our perennial sunflowers can be quite big. Blooming now is Jerusalem artichoke (Helianthus tuberosus) and I drive every year past a wonderful garden full of it at an old house. People still live there and the patch is well-tended, with the plants easily reaching 8 feet tall. Perhaps they harvest a few tubers for pickling. Next month will bring the tall bright blooms of swamp sunflower (Helianthus angustifolius). By the time that the 10-foot stems are blooming, they usually could use a little help with staking (especially if we get a summer thunderstorm). Count on people asking you about your plant if neighbors can see it.
|A large stand of Helianthus angustifolius at a nature center|
Similar to the sunflowers are the rosinweeds (Silphium spp.). They’ve already finished blooming now, but species like cup plant (Silphium perfoliatum) and kidney-leaf rosinweed (S. compositum) can easily reach 8 feet with numerous yellow flowerheads. Kidney-leaf is my favorite because of its handsome foliage.
|Silverplume towers above the field (Saccharum alopecuroides)|
So, if you're looking for some plants with late-season oomph, look for some of these.