My favorite plant right now is astilbe, as it's contributing the most dramatic color to the garden now that the big flush of June perennials and roses is winding down. 'Montogomery' astilbe is shown above.
Remember this photo from late May? At bottom right you see the deep red buds on 'Montgomery' contrasting nicely with the sage behind it. The buds on pale colored astilbes aren't as showy, but I imagine buds on other deep colored types make a similar effect. By the time 'Montgomery' finishes blooming, its buds and blooms will have yielded color for nearly two months.
This week I transplanted some tiny divisions 'Sunny Border Blue' speedwell (Veronica) and 'Fama' pincushion flower (Scabiosa) to the northwest corner to add more color during this time of year, but for now 'Montgomery' is providing the pizzazz.
The butterfly bushes, Russian sage and three new little 'Ava' agastache plants are starting to bloom in the NW corner and will add color until frost. After being cut back to the ground last week, 'Caradonna' sage (salvia) and 'Moulin Rouge' astrantia will eventually send up new leaves and flowers. Thank goodness for astilbe to fill the gap.
Six clumps of 'Peach Blossom' astilbe are jazzing up the northeast corner of the backyard as well. 'Blue Pearl' bellflower (Campanula), bubblegum pink 'Giles Van Hees' speedwell (Veronica), and the chartreuse leaves of iron-deficient mophead hydrangeas add color above.
The puffy spikes of astilbe blooms really make an impact in a part-shade, well-watered garden. They are not happy in hot, dry gardens. Astilbe hybrids come in pink, red, lavender, purple, white, peach and coral. They are hardy in zones 4-8. Some stay less than 1.5' but others reach over 3' tall. Established clumps are easy to divide with a sharp knife. I started with one 'Peach Blossom' plant several years ago and now have six large plants.
Here in the NE corner the first peachy-pink bloom of a 'Jolyene Nichole' daylily is echoed by the 'Peach Blossom' astilbes in the background.
My three 'Bridal Veil' astilbe plants are still in bud but already add texture to the shade garden against the north side of the house.
Soon they'll open and look like this photo from last year.
After admiring the three types of astilbe already in my garden, I really had to have some more. So I popped over to Gibson's Nursery and picked up four pots: 'Visions in Red' (above), 'Visions,' 'Rheinland,' and 'Maggie Dayley.' I'm excited to watch these new little plants get established and then strut their stuff next season.