brick walkway surrounded by blooming flowers with nearby garden gate
Photo: Mark Turner

Color to Last

Once the dog days of summer hit, flower gardens generally start looking tired. Colors wash out, edges brown, blossoms become fewer in number. But Catherine Mix needs glorious, color-filled beds from June to September. As co-owner of The Cutting Garden in Sequim, Washington, with her husband, Tom, she tends several acres of gardens that serve as a lush backdrop for weddings and other outdoor events and provide blooms for the bouquets and flower arrangements she creates. So she's discovered plants and strategies that deliver a brilliant show even in late summer. Here are some of her tricks that any homeowner can try:

Make it easy. Mix grows a wide array of plants, including long-blooming annuals like asters, cosmos, zinnias, sunflowers, lisianthus, and celosia. After planting, she mulches once with a 3-inch layer of rich compost to deter weed seeds, conserve soil moisture, and add nourishment. She also grows a number of flowers that self-seed in her beds. "If you don't weed too hard in spring, these come back every year," she says.

Shown: A brick walkway surrounded by vibrant blooms wends its way through an arch in this Spokane, Washington, garden. The plantings showcase some of grower Catherine Mix's favorites for late-season color: towering multicolored dahlias, as well as snapdragons (shown in white) that she keeps in bloom with constant deadheading.
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