Some excellent garden plants for mid-coast Maine and why I like them.
Monarch butterfly caterpillars will only eat members of the milkweed family (genus Asclepias). Monarchs are rapidly declining in number, partly due to loss of habitat for milkweeds. There are many wonderful species of milkweed to choose; this is one of my favorites for its brilliant orange color. It gets going in June with a long-lasting dazzling display and continues with sporadic flowering until September. It spreads by deep underground runners so use a little caution in deciding where to place it.
One of the best fall-flowering mums. It often does not even start blooming here until early October and then keeps going for 3-4 weeks. It pairs beautifully with fall asters and ornamental grasses. It's as lovely as the potted mums you buy every fall, but it comes back year after year.
Helen's Flower, Sneezeweed
This is an excellent plant for a very long season of bloom (6-8 weeks). It is not supposed to be highly drought tolerant, but I have found it to thrive without any added irrigation as long as there is sufficient soil organic matter. This plant can be cut back hard in early July for shorter, later blooms that are less likely to flop. There are many good varieties.
Gayfeather, Blazing star
Liatris is a superb vertical accent in the garden. It is readily available in white and purple forms. In my garden this plant attracts more butterflies than any other. It is also more drought-tolerant than most books give it credit for.
Nepeta faassenii 'Blue Wonder'
An amazing plant that blooms for most of the summer and is always covered by bees. Very drought tolerant, and can grow to 6' in diameter in a few seasons if happy.
I have been in love with this plant since I was a child and found it growing in a crack in the sidewalk with no other poppies nearby. It's an annual that self-seeds very happily in any well-drained, average to lean soil.