Tardiva hydrangea (Hydrangea paniculata 'Tardiva'). This lovely plant grows well in sun or shade, and will grow 6 to 8 feet, making a nice statement in the landscape. It starts blooming in midsummer with huge panicles of showy, white florets surrounding smaller fertile flowers. The effect is stunning. One of its best traits is that the flowers never give up, spending the entire summer, turning tawny gold in fall, and standing loyal through the entire winter.
Onandaga viburnum (Viburnum sargentii 'Onandaga'). I planted five of these last fall, and they knocked my socks off this spring as they began to bloom. The flowers are the lacecap type, like Tardiva hydrangea's, with large, sterile florets surrounding smaller, fertile flowers. But these flowers are maroon in bud, opening to soft pink. With blossoms that persist through the summer, deep maroon fall foliage, and crisp red berries to hang on through the winter, this shrub lends a burst of color to the perennial garden.
Dwarf fothergilla (Fothergilla gardenii). This appealing, diminutive shrub blooms in spring with honey-scented flowers that look like bottlebrushes, and they are hummingbird magnets! The deep green, puckered foliage is a beautiful foil for all types of perennials through the summer, and then the shrub turns magnificent shades of orange, red, and yellow in fall.
Roses. For adding color to the perennial garden, don't forget roses. There are countless types available in a myriad of colors, shapes, and sizes. One that makes a stunning statement and is seldom planted is the redleaf rose (Rosa rubrifolia). It grows 4 to 6 feet high and is covered with rich maroon foliage the entire summer. Soft pink, single blossoms emerge midsummer, followed by orange-red rose hips that remain through the fall and winter.
Butterfly Bush (Buddleia). The sweetly scented, bottlebrush flower clusters are absolute magnets for a wide variety of butterflies. This durable plant will thrive in almost any well-drained soil as long as it is in a sunny spot. Colors range from clear white to pink to the deepest purple-black, and some have variegated foliage.
Hypericum 'Hidcote'. This delightful plant grows only about 3 feet high but is graced with delicately arching stems; tidy, blue-green foliage; and bright, lemon-yellow blossoms with a fireworks display of prominent stamens. These sturdy shrubs perform best in full sun and well-drained soil.
Bluebeard (Caryopteris). Bluebeard comes on strong in spring with silvery, almost-white toothed foliage, followed by the clearest blue, starry flowers in late summer. Together these colors are magnificent. There are cultivars available with dark purple flowers and light powder-blue flowers as well. Give it full sun and well-drained soil.
Beautyberry (Callicarpa). This plant is generally grown for its lovely purplish pink fruits. The pink flowers appear amidst deep green flowers in midsummer, followed by berries that are spectacular when the leaves drop in the fall. This dieback shrub will tolerate some shade.
Chaste-Tree (Vitex). Chaste-tree is similar in appearance to bluebeard except that the blossoms are in large panicles of blue-purple. It also needs full sun and well-drained soil.
'Annabelle' Hydrangea (Hydrangea arborescens). Although a few of its stems usually survive the winter, this old-fashioned beauty is best used as a dieback shrub. Prune back surviving stems in spring so they won't detract from the lush new growth and full flower heads.
Kate Jerome was the National Gardening Association's reporter for the Northern & Central Midwest region.