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Blanket flower (gaillardia) is a drought- and heat-tolerant perennial wildflower that provides long-lasting color in a sunny border with poor soil. In red, gold, or brown, its daisy-like, 3-inch wide, single or double flowers bloom through the summer and into the fall. Although often short-lived, it is easy to grow and will flower the first year from seed.
The 7-inch spikes of veronica bloom atop 12- to 24-inch plants in shades of blue or red from early summer through fall. In the North, veronica prefers sun, but it likes a bit of shade in the South. Plant veronica at the front of the bed.
Phlox paniculata -- garden, tall, or border phlox -- grows 3 to 4 feet tall and bears large trusses of fragrant flowers from summer to early fall. It's an old-fashioned favorite that has few rivals for its color display and light, sweet fragrance. It's well suited to the back of the garden and cottage gardens.
Suited to larger gardens, this 3-foot-wide by 5-foot-tall perennial creates clouds of blue flowers in late summer. Russian sage likes sun, and is tolerant of drought and heat. Plant it at the back of the bed and give it room to grow.
Hybrid perennial sage, a relative of the herb garden favorite, combines 18-inch spikes of blue, purple, or white flowers with attractive gray-green foliage. Plant sage in the front or middle of the border in a sunny spot. The variety shown here, 'May Night', is both cold-hardy and showy.
A staple of the fall garden, asters burst forth with their starlike flowers in late summer and autumn. Bloom colors include rich pinks, blues, purples, and ruby reds. They can soar to 5 feet, depending on the species, and are excellent for beds and borders as well as for cutting to bring indoors.
The feathery plumes of astilbe rise above fernlike foliage for a month or more in late spring and early summer. Available in shades of pink, white, and red, astilbe is ideal for shady, moist spots. Plant a swath of these 2- to 3-foot-tall beauties for a memorable display year after year.
This prairie wildflower achieves a level of sophistication in the 'Magnus' variety, which throws its petals out horizontally daisy-style. Coneflower tolerates heat and drought, and it blooms all summer long. Plant this 30-inch-tall beauty in the middle or back of the bed.
A lovely North American native prairie grass, switchgrass offers the garden beauty and easy maintenance. Varieties grow from 2 to 6 feet tall and have airy, cloudlike plumes. Some varieties have rich red or purple foliage in autumn.
Even if you've never gardened before, you can grow yarrow with little effort. Yarrow is an amazing perennial that is hardy throughout most of the United States and can withstand heat, drought, and cold. It's valued in the garden for its ferny, gray-green or dark green, spicy-scented foliage and showy, flat-topped clusters of flowers in pink, red, white, or yellow appearing from late spring to early fall.
Often sweetly fragrant, the peony is a very long-lived plant that forms 2- to 4-foot-tall clumps in shrublike bunches. Its numerous varieties offer a wide range of colors -- almost every shade except blue -- with some bicolors, and blooming periods from late spring to early summer.
Coreopsis, comes in a wide range of sizes and several colors. The threadleaf varieties -- like 'Moonbeam' and 'Zagreb' -- produce blankets of small daisy-like flowers all summer long in yellow or pink, with soft, ferny foliage. (In hot areas, flower production may slow temporarily.) Grandiflora varieties ('Early Sunrise' is one popular version) produce larger orange-yellow blooms. Give this plant a starring role in the middle of the bed.
Siberian iris adds color to flowerbeds in early summer, and vertical accents all summer long. Like most irises, these are moisture-loving plants, but once established they will tolerate dry soil. The blooms appear atop leafless stems rising from the 2-foot-tall grasslike foliage. Colors include white, blue, yellow, and violet, with many bicolors. In addition to brightening the garden, Siberian iris provides a steady supply of cut flowers.
Penstemon produces attractive spikes of tubular flowers in pink, blue, lavender, white, or shades of red. The variety 'Husker Red' (from the University of Nebraska) combines white flowers and purple leaves, creating a wonderful contrast when combined with plants with light green leaves. Place this 3-foot-tall gem in the middle or back of the bed, and give it plenty of sunshine.
Daffodils are dependable perennial bulbs, blooming in early, mid, or late spring, depending on the cultivar. The flowers have a central trumpet (corolla) -- the length varies among cultivars -- surrounded by a collar of petals (perianth) that can be a different color. Colors include yellow, orange, white, red, and peach. Some are fragrant. The strappy, narrow leaves emerge before the flowers do and are a little shorter than the flower stalk.
Pincushion flower, or scabiosa, serves up dainty blue flowers all summer and into fall, making it one of the longest-lasting bloomers in the perennial bed. It likes sun or partial shade, and is best at the front of the bed. The foot-tall variety 'Blue Butterfly' stands up to heat best.
Perfect for rock gardens, alongside paved areas, the front of raised perennial gardens, or as a ground cover on a slope, moss phlox forms a dense, creeping mat up to 6 inches high and 2 feet wide. The small leaves are slightly prickly, and the entire plant is covered with fragrant white, pink, blue, lavender, or red flowers in spring. The foliage is semi-evergreen in the North and evergreen in the South.
Black-eyed Susan is truly an American icon. Blooming from midsummer until frost, its orange or golden yellow blooms just keep coming. The variety 'Goldsturm', shown here, tops out at about 2 feet, making it perfect for the middle or back of the bed. It loves sun and is drought-tolerant.
The fleshy leaves and bright flowers make sedum a popular perennial. It is practically foolproof, and offers spectacular color during the latter part of the growing season when most other flowers are fading.
This front-of-the-bed favorite offers a multitude of charms. Chief among them is the crinkly multicolored foliage. The variety 'Purple Palace' is especially noteworthy for its deep purple leaves. The tiny flowers, borne on stalks above the leaves, appear in late spring. Coralbells like sun or partial shade.