August in Atlanta is a good time to get caught up with your weeding, especially after the recent summer rains we’ve been experiencing.  And while it’s not the best time to add plants to your garden (since roots will be slow to get established with high soil temperatures and plants will require extra water), it’s an ideal time to add structures and hardscape, like edging for beds, walls, paths and fences. 

Weeding

The best time to weed is after a long, gentle rain during the early morning or evening, when temperatures are bound to be a bit cooler.  The soft soil will make it easier to pull out weeds, roots and all. 

Spending an hour per day weeding can make a difference (or so I keep telling myself) and you get immediate gratification seeing the results of your labor.  But don’t be too hasty. Some perennials, like goldenrod, can be mistaken for weeds by the novice gardener. Goldenrod offers striking yellow summer blooms and comes in a range of sizes. It is also a favorite of pollinators. 

Unfortunately, this native beauty gets blamed for causing hay fever because it flowers at the same time that ragweed (the real culprit) blooms.  The timing of the blooms is the only thing these two plants have in common.  Learn to recognize the difference between the foliage and the flowers of goldenrod and ragweed.

The good news is that the best way to eradicate ragweed is to pull it out by hand, before or as soon as it blooms.  This will keep the plants from spreading by seed and causing you and other unsuspecting visitors to your garden from sneezing or getting watery eyes. When you weed, make sure to wear long sleeves and gloves to avoid any possible skin irritations that this plant may cause. 

Ideas for Adding Hardscape

Edging 

If you have flower beds that run right up to the edge of your lawn and there is not any separation between the two, consider adding a stone or brick edge. This will also help keep turf from creeping into your planting beds.  The materials you choose should complement or be the same as the material that your house is made of. If your house is made of brick, brick edging makes sense. 

Fencing 

Before you install a fence check with your local government or homeowners’ association about any restrictions on how tall fences can be or if they are allowed in the front yard.  Fences make great neighbors and offer a place to train vines or provide screening. You can leave them unpainted or plant a hedge in front for a dark backdrop.

Arbor

An arbor provides a welcome an entrance to your garden as well as a place to train vines like Climbing hydrangea, native honeysuckle or crossvine. As with paving, the material you choose for your arbor should complement the style of your house and garden. A tip: If you are putting in an arbor, make sure it is not too skimpy and is in scale with the house and garden. If in doubt, make it one size larger than you think it needs to be.  Use substantial size posts to support plants. 

Tall Perennials for Summer

Cardinal FlowerLobelia cardinalis– Growing 2 to 4 feet (it’s not the tallest, but offers a great August bloom), this beauty grows naturally in moist soils along streams, in swamps and in wooded areas.  It also adapts well to a moist well-drained garden soil. Plant it where it gets afternoon shade and it will be happy. The striking red flowers are a magnet for hummingbirds. 

Cup plantSilphium perfoliatum-Growing 4 to 8 feet on strong sturdy stems, this perennial gets its common name from the cup that is formed when the leaves encircle the stem. After it rains you can see the water that collects. Up to 3 inches in diameter the yellow, sun-colored ray flowers are welcome in the hot summer months. Give this plant plenty of room to spread. 

GoldenrodSolidago rugosa “Fireworks”- One of many different goldenrods, this one  grows 2.5 to 3 feet tall and produces yellow flowers from summer to fall. Plant it in full sun or part shade. It tolerates a range of soil types including wet to well-drained. Just pull out plants if they spread.

Ironweed

IronweedVernonia noveboracensis – Growing to a height of 4 to 6 feet, this tough guy booms in late summer with rich purple flowers. Give it lots of space and plant it in a natural setting or near a stream. Ironweed grows in full sun or part shade and will tolerate well drained soils. 

Joe Pye WeedEutrochium purpureum – Growing to 4 to 7 feet, this pollinator-friendly perennial is tough and beautiful, with large mauve-pink blooms from July to September, when butterflies are drawn to it. Make sure you have space in your garden before you plant it. Combine it with Ironweed and native grasses, and plant it in full sun. 

Purple Coneflower

Purple ConeflowerEchinacea purpurea – Growing 2 to 5 feet tall, the purple ray flowers surround the stiff orange cones. Plant coneflower in full sun or part shade. It prefers a well-drained soil and will tolerate periods of drought. Leave the dead seed heads in place and, come winter, the cones will be a source of food for goldfinches or other birds that eat seeds.

When you visit other gardens or public gardens make note of the August blooms and plan to add some of these perennials to your garden in fall or early spring so that you may enjoy them next year.

Erica Glasener

Erica Glasener is the Community Involvement and Events Manager for the Piedmont Park Conservancy and serves on the advisory board for Trees Atlanta.