It takes planning to have a great show in the garden during the heat of summer. It takes time to discover which plants can handle streaks of highs in the 90's. Make a note to seek out these heat lovers for your garden and note how they're displayed.
Eye-popping combinations start with outstanding foliage plants such as coleus and sweet potato vine. Chartreuse 'Wasabi' coleus and black sweet potato vine combine strikingly with bronze-leaf 'Whopper' begonias and magenta petunias. Variegated 'Mizou' ice plant makes an ideal cascading plant in pots with verbenas, calibrachoa and gomphrena.
Spiky plants in bronze, chartreuse and with variegated leaves battle it out for attention in a grouping by my back door. They're punctuated by bright primary bursts of color from lantana, begonias and verbenas. The backdrop for this grouping is a towering banana and a potted specimen of Euphorbia cotinifolia. This small tree displays deep bronze leaves that, as its scientific name suggests, resemble those of the smoke bush (Cotinus).
Oriental lilies bloom in July and August. They are the stars of my summer garden with enormous colorful flowers and powerful sweet scent, especially at night. Lilies grow well in both pots and in the ground. They benefit from some afternoon shade.
Other summer-blooming bulbs that can handle the heat include bold-leaf cannas, glorious gladiolus and charming pineapple lilies.
The "yay plant" is a great summer bloomer that defies the heat. This tall verbena has clusters of flowers that seemed to be raised in a shout of "yay!" Its proper name is Verbena bonariensis, which means "of Buenos Aires." Its clusters of small lavender flowers are especially popular with butterflies.
One of the reasons we decided to hold our annual Proctor's Garden Tour to benefit Dumb Friends League later in the garden season is to highlight the great heat-loving plants that thrive in midsummer. We hope you'll join us Saturday and Sunday, July 29 & 30 from 7 AM to 1 PM each day. The address is 3030 W. 46th Ave. Denver, CO 80211 and the suggested donation is $10.