Proctor’s Garden: Finding color in the midsummer garden

These flowers keep your midsummer garden bathed in color and will also attract butterflies.

DENVER — If your garden is boring and lacks color, you’re growing the wrong plants. many flowers are at their best now.

Tall garden phlox are among the easiest perennials to grow. Their lovely flowers carry a sweet scent and bloom over an extended period in many shades from white and pink to purple, lavender and coral. Butterflies love them.

Butterflies also love zinnias because the flowers are flat and serve as little helicopter landing pads. Many gardeners forget to plant zinnias in their mad rush of May planting. Zinnias really don’t take off until midsummer. If they’re pinched at planting time, zinnias will branch well and produce many more flowers.

Some varieties of Dianthus also serve as landing pads for butterflies. The Amazon series look like really big sweet Williams and also have a sweet carnation fragrance. There are several colors in this series; this year I grew ‘Amazon Neon Rose’ and ‘Amazon Neon Cherry.’ They were bred for the cut flower trade but make great garden plants. Start them indoors in March and plant them out in May.

Butterflies cannot resist the butterfly bush. The only variety I recommend is ‘Lochinch.’ It’s named for a Scottish castle where it was found growing. Unlike other varieties, it’s very hardy. Mine are at least 25 years old and bloom dependably every year with pale lavender flowers above silver-gray leaves. The show of flowers and butterfly visitors starts in midsummer and continues until frost.

I totally mistimed the foxgloves this year. I sowed the seeds too late (in late March rather than February). I’m surprised that they’re holding up and blooming in the summer heat. Foxgloves are normally grown as biennials, which means they make leaves the first year and bloom the second. New varieties, however, bloom the first year. If you want to grow foxgloves from seed, try the series that bloom the first year: Dalmation, Camelot and Foxy. You can buy separate colors such as peach, rose, white and lavender as well as mixed colors. Foxgloves can be grown in the ground or in pots in partial shade. They are poisonous. Don’t eat them.

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