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Examine landscapes to learn what thrived through summer

By Gary R. Bachman
MSU Extension Service

I took time to just enjoy my home landscape this last weekend. I put off chores just to take a look at some of my solid garden performers.
Here’s what I observed.
Coleus has become one of my go-to plants for looking great all summer and still going deep into the fall. Nobody can get bored with its kaleidoscope of colors and various leaf shapes.
I’ve been impressed with the coleus selections being brought to market every year. I really like the uniquely shaped leaves of the Under the Sea series. A really good-looking selection is Coral Copper. The deeply lobed foliage is a hot combination of brilliant coppery red-orange that is edged in a fiery yellow and neon green.
Here’s a little landscape trivia for you. I went to graduate school with the breeder of the Under the Sea series, who also developed many of the best looking and colorful coleus selections available in garden centers today.
Another coleus that I didn’t initially like but have changed my mind about is Electric Lime. I have developed a new appreciation for this plant after watching it over the years. It was selected as a Mississippi Medallion winner in 2010. Electric Lime has pretty, coarsely serrated lime-green leaves with distinctive vein patterns through the growing season.
Another landscape shrub that I really love in late summer is one that I discovered in 2000 in a research plot.
Duet beautyberry is a rounded, deciduous shrub with showy variegated, white-margined green leaves. It produces a late-summer to autumn display of white berries.
Adding to the colorful displays in my garden was the late-season revival of Blue My Mind evolvulus.
This plant prolifically produces brilliant sky-blue, funnel-shaped flowers near the tip of its shoots. The flowers only open in the morning for one day, and by afternoon look quite spent. This is especially true in my landscape as the planting bed is west-facing and receives a high heat load each afternoon.
Blue My Mind has been a perennial in my coastal landscape for the last five years, and I’m hoping for at least five more.
I want to finish by mentioning another late-season garden favorite of mine. In the past, I’ve talked about my Summerific Summer Storm hardy hibiscus, and I’ve discovered a couple more great choices in this lineup.
Summerific Edge of Night produces bubblegum-pink flowers up to 8 inches across that are set against dark, dark foliage that appears to be jet black. Summerific Spinderella hibiscus has large, white flowers with pinwheel, soft pink-accented edges along with a dark-red center eye. Dark-green leaves provide a nice background for the flowers.
The Summerific hardy hibiscuses all emerge later than other flowering landscape shrubs and are perfect for the late summer. In my landscape, these hibiscuses have two or three bloom cycles and have earned their spots in my garden.
So, take a look in your landscape and appreciate those garden plants that have held up over the long, hot summer.

Dr. Gary Bachman is an Extension and research professor of horticulture at the Mississippi State University Coastal Research and Extension Center in Biloxi. He is also the host of the popular Southern Gardening television and radio programs. Contact him at southerngardening@msstate.edu. Locate Southern Gardening products online at http://extension.msstate.edu/shows/southern-gardening.