Steve Bender

 

Sombrero Salsa Red and Sandy Yellow coneflowers in Grumpy's garden. Photo: Steve Bender

Temps here in central Alabama are stuck in the mid-90s. No relief in sight. This drives up my AC bill, water bill, and beer bill. Can't do anything about the first and third bills, but I can about the second -- choose flowers that love heat, bloom all summer, and sip water instead of chug. Check out these five Grumpy favorites. Buy them now at the garden center and then run fetch me a cold one.

Hot Bloomer #1 -- Coneflower Our native purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) is a wonderful perennial, despite the fact that some idiot named it "purple" when its blooms are really pink. But why stop with one natural color when you can create incredibly gaudy, unnatural ones? So plant breeders got busy crossing species and today we have red, orange, yellow, white, and rose flowers to blind us. See my Sombrero Salsa Red and Sombrero Sandy Yellow coneflowers above. Unlike the early crosses that proved short-lived, these guys are garden powerhouses. And butterflies like them.

Hot Bloomers #2 and #3 -- Lantana and Angelonia

 

Yellow lantana and purple angelonia. Photo: Steve Bender

You probably know lantana as a spreading magnet for butterflies that offers flowers in red, orange, pink, peach, yellow, lavender, white, and bicolors. Give it well-drained soil and lots of sun and set it on autopilot. Angelonia, also called summer snapdragon, is a pleasant surprise to many. It comes in trailing and upright forms and produces showy spikes of blue, purple, red, pink, or white flowers. The forms and colors of lantana and angelonia make them perfect annual companions. Copy this planting above in your garden. Then run fetch me a cold one.

Hot Bloomer #4 -- Blanket Flower

 

'Goblin' blanket flower. Photo: bluestoneperennials.com

Talk about tough. Blanket flowers (Galliardia sp.) are one of the few perennials that thrive in the sand and salt air of the beach. So take a cue from nature. Give them sun and well-drained soil, but don't baby them with water and fertilizer. Most blanket flowers grow about 2 feet tall and wide. They feature daisy-shaped flowers usually banded in combinations of red, yellow, orange, and maroon, but you can get solid red, orange, and yellow versions too.

Hot Bloomer #5 -- 'Autumn Joy' Sedum

 

'Autumn Joy' sedum. Photo: Steve Bender

Wow, this perennial has been around almost as long as Grumpy. But that doesn't make it any less perfect for someone who wants a trouble-free plant you don't have to water or spray. 'Autumn Joy' sedum is a succulent, which means it stores water in its thick, fleshy leaves. Heat and drought don't faze it a bit. It grows about 2 feet tall and wide. Showy clusters of bright pink flowers, beloved by sulphur butterflies, open in summer and deepen in color to rust-pink as they age.

Well, there you have it. You now have four things on your to-do list. Buy. Plant. Run. Fetch.

 

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