This time of the year can be a bit of a bummer for perennial gardeners now that the dog days have arrived. Those gorgeous clematis have petered out and need to be cut back. Repeat bloomers put out a few blooms here and there, but nothing like the big show in June and July. Roses too seem to be resting up for their fall finale when the temperatures cool down a bit. 

The mixed planting in front of the Stone House in the OPC display garden in Rochester is still colorful but a bit subdued. The thick carpet of light green, low-growing sedum glows in the sunshine beautifully framing a stand of mixed marigolds, so they do stand out.  But happily, there is another big show that’s about to take place that will garner rave reviews from visitors. The hardy hibiscus (rose mallow) are about to bloom and some of the newer varieties are real drama queens. 

The 2019 Proven Winner Perennial of the Year, Hibiscus Summerific ‘Berry Awesome,’ is a stunner in my book. It first produces an attractive compact 4-foot high shrub-like plant of dark midnight olive foliage that adds rich color and texture to the summer garden. Later in the season when much of the garden is on hiatus it bursts forth with a showy display of luscious ruffled 7- to 8- inch lavender-pink flowers accented with a dark red eye. 

Hibiscus Summerific ‘Cherry Choco Latte’ produces dark olive-green foliage with bronze highlights topped with 8- to 9-inch white ruffled flowers sporting intense deep pink veining accented with a dark red eye. 

If red and black works in your color scheme and you’d like to make a statement in late summer and early fall, Hibiscus Summerific ‘Holy Grail’ is for you. Four to 4 1/2feet of dramatic near-black leaves grace the garden early in the season, and then suddenly 8- to 9 -inch deep rich red flowers burst forth and provide four to six weeks of incredible contrasting color. 

Hardy hibiscus thrives in full to part sun and well-drained rich, moist soil. They are on the deer resistant list and so far, they have ignored them in our garden. 

Hardy to USDA Zone 4, we leave the thick stems of the plant intact over the winter. Stripped of their leaves they make good winter interest, protect the crowns of the plant and mark their space in the garden as they are late risers. This year they did not show their faces until early June. 

Nancy Szerlag is a master gardener and Metro Detroit freelance writer. Her column appears Fridays in Homestyle. E-mail her at , Ask Nancy. You can also read her previous columns at

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