Design Inspiration for the August Garden

Design Inspiration for the August Garden


It’s August and gardens are lush and abundant. There are many ways to think about the garden at this time of year. Recently I was reading Ken Druse’s latest book The New Shade Garden: Creating a Lush Oasis in the Age of Climate Change  This is the most exciting book we have stocked in a long time and it has been getting rave reviews everywhere. He says “Who wouldn’t want to find a spot in the summer garden that could be 10-20 degrees cooler than its counterpart in the sunny border?”  Yes, shade gardens are veryenticing right now.

When designing a shade garden, look for plants with white, golden, variegated, or light colored foliage. Shown above is a white caladium, grown from a tender bulb, and very happy in a shady spot in our garden center. Golden Hakanochloe grasses or hostas, yellow and green variegated toad lilies,  and silver ferns will all add lightness to areas under trees or on the north side of your house.


This is variegated tapioca! It is a cool tropical that does well in partial shade. Bring it in the house for the winter and enjoy the show.

Using plants with colorful foliage of any sort is one of the smartest things you can do at this time of year. Many of our early summer perennials have finished flowering. Plants that prefer it cooler look ragged. Deadheading, cutting back, and foliar feeding with Stress X liquid seaweed help to pep-up our borders. But pretty leaves are the glue that holds it all together. They are always there, looking fresh and adding color no matter what is in or out of bloom.

Another approach to late summer gardening is to go for the hot colors. Approach this time of year with gusto, embracing reds, oranges, golds, and yellows. This week we have just gotten in an unusual yellow Crocosmia name ‘Sunglow’ that’s got everyone talking. Heliopsis ‘Asahi’ just keeps on blooming, week after week.Red and orange  Heleniums are opening, as are the first of the many perennial sunflowers. Late blooming daylilies offer rich shades of red, yellow, and orange. We even have a Mammoth mum with reddish orange daisy flowers that is starting to bloom. These begin blooming in August and go for two months and are totally perennial!


Looking to cool down your sunny garden? Go to the other extreme and plant cool colors. White Coreopsis, blue Caryopteris,  pink Stokesia ‘Color Wheel’, Agastache ‘Pink Hazel’, white mountain mint and phlox, pale pink double variegated ‘Sugar Tip’ rose of Sharon… you get the picture. You can set the mood by the colors you choose to be in bloom right now and reinforce it with foliage that compliments your color scheme.

Remember, color schemes can also change with the seasons. If you want to “cool down” now, you can always heat the palette back up again come September. That’s what makes gardening so fun and so creative.