Wild Columbine

Wild Columbine

Flowers and Foliage Q&A

By Pat Curran, Horticulture Educator,

Tompkins County Cornell Cooperative Extension
(Published June 2011)

QUESTION: I have peonies and irises, but I'm interested in other perennials for this time of year (June).

ANSWER: Peonies and irises are the big show-offs in the flower bed at this time of year, but many other perennials provide a variety of color and interest right now. Meadowrue (Thalictrum aquilegifolium) has fluffy flowers in lavender, pink, or white and attractive ferny foliage. Columbines bloom in many different colors and sizes. My favorite is the native columbine with a red and yellow flower. This plant will self-sow and pop up here and there to surprise you, but it isn't a nuisance seeder. Corydalis lutea is a small perennial with golden-yellow flowers from May to October and beautiful ferny blue-green foliage; its relative, Corydalis ochroleuca has creamy-white flowers all summer long. Among the large globe ornamental onions, 'Globemaster' stands out as the best, because the flowers last a lot longer, and the foliage stays green while it's in bloom. Unfortunately, it's expensive, but it will produce more flower stalks each year. Allium moly is a small ornamental onion with bright yellow flowers. Be careful if you site it in a flower bed, because it is an aggressive spreader. I've been pulling it up as soon as it's done blooming, and replanting the extra bulbs near my raspberries.

Don't overlook the season-long effect of ornamental foliage. Besides Hosta, a wonderful plant but a favorite deer food, there are several hardy perennials with variegated foliage for partial shade. New Brunnera varieties have very attractive green and white, or silver leaves. Lungwort has speckled leaves for interest after the blue/pink flowers. Heuchera has dozens of varieties with leaves in shades from amber to bronze to purple to dark red.
A couple of hardy Geraniums have interesting foliage, as well as the usual flowers: Geranium phaeum 'Samobor' has striking dark centers to the leaves, and the native Geranium maculatum has a dark foliage variety called "Espresso." For groundcover use in light shade, try Lamium maculatum, the spotted deadnettle. Leaves have different amounts of silver; flowers are white, pink, or reddish-purple, depending on the variety, and they bloom for a long time.

Ask a Gardener appears weekly in The Journal during the growing season. For answers to other garden, lawn, landscape and pest questions, call Cooperative Extension at 607-272-2292 or email: growline1@gmail.com. This article was written by Patricia Curran, horticulture program manager at Cornell Cooperative Extension of Tompkins County.

Last updated October 22, 2014