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Fabulous Foliage & Flower Power

How to punch up your Cape Cod garden with color this summer

Photo by C.L. Fornari

Other perennials with brilliant yellow foliage include Sedum “Angelina,” a ground cover for full sun, and Hakon grass (Hakonachloa macra) varieties such as “Aureola” and “All Gold.” Hakon grass also makes a good ground cover in part- sun or part-shade. It’s a perfect low-growing, colorful grass to place in front of foundation plantings or perennial borders.

Eupatorium “Chocolate” and Actaea “Brunette” are two taller perennials that have dark purple foliage. Eupatorium grows to about three feet high and does best in full sun, and the spires of the fragrant Actaea flowers reach five feet tall and thrive in the shade. Both of these perennials bloom in late August and September.

One of the longest flowering perennials for sunny spots is Russian Sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia), which produces a wild cloud of lavender blossoms from July until hard frost. Russian Sage isn’t for those who like their plants trimmed and tidy, but many find that it is the perfect plant to group near ornamental grasses. The fountain of pale purple flowers has a wind-swept, beachy quality that is perfect for Cape Cod.

Shrubs and perennials are a necessary part of any garden, but for sheer flower power nothing beats annuals (annuals are plants that only live for one season). Those desiring a more colorful landscape should be sure to save spaces to tuck in annuals every summer. Impatiens and “New Guinea” Impatiens in a rainbow of colors are the ever-blooming gold standard for part-shade or part-sun.

In full sun, relatively new varieties of annuals such as white- and purple-flowered Scaevola, “Snow Princess’ Alyssum, “Purple Heart” Setcreasea, “Profusion” Zinnias, and “Wave” or “Super” Petunias offer non-stop flowers with little care. And the tried and true marigolds and annual Salvia remain popular with good reason.

Although there are many more varieties with interesting foliage and flowers, adding color to your Cape or Islands landscape should always start with knowledge of your property’s particular growing conditions. Matching the right plant to the right environmental situation determines whether the plant flowers or the foliage develops and keeps its unique coloring.

The yellow coloring of a “Gold Thread” or “Gold Mop” cypress shrub, for example, will stay green in deep shade. Similarly, many red grasses or shrubs will only turn rosy in full sun. Before you go shopping for fabulous foliage and more flower power for your garden this spring, be sure to have an accurate idea of how much sun or shade can be found on your property in various areas. Also, try to gain an understanding of your special soil conditions (wet, dry, sandy, and so forth). Once you have learned what will thrive and prosper in your unique coastal environment, you can start to add year-round beauty to your garden.

C.L. Fornari is a gardening expert on the Cape and Islands. She is an author, lecturer, and a local radio host on numerous gardening subjects.

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