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A refreshing summer elixir:

a lively mix of cone flowers, cosmos and verbena

A mixed border with Green Jewel echinaceas, the dark foliage from Bishop of Llandaff dahlias, tall verbena and white cosmos.

If you’re like me, you dread the first week in July when soaring temperatures decimate our plants and overwhelm our gardens.

To give the garden a fighting chance against the dark forces of heat and humidity, a dear friend introduced me to a wonderful combination of drought-tolerant annuals and perennials, adding structure, texture and color to an otherwise lifeless and exhausted summer border.

For the past two summers, cone flowers, cosmos and verbena have become my midsummer mantra — this deer-resistant, tolerant trio effortlessly carries the weight of the garden display through the end of September.

These wonderfully tolerant plants did not come to me in a midsummer night’s dream. They were recommended by the late Victoria Preston, a garden designer who seemed to have a knack for solving for any garden problem with creativity and pizzazz.


You’ll want cone flowers (echinaceas) of varying heights and colors of course, so don’t restrict yourself to a single variety.  I began with the sturdy 24” Echinacea purpurea ‘Fatal Attraction’ developed by Piet Oudolf the Dutch garden designer known for using bold drifts of perennial plants and grasses. A favorite of hummingbirds, it’s unique wine-black stems hold intense pink blooms around a golden brown central core, which flowers in late June.


Last year, I added the breathtaking Echinacea purpurea ‘Green Jewel’ along with the darker pink and slightly taller Echinacea purpurea ‘Vintage Wine’. This year, I had been searching everywhere for ‘Green Jewel’ and accidently found it at terrain in Westport, where I also found “Fatal Attraction’. Both were on sale.

Cosmos Flowers

You will want to add Cosmos ‘Sonata White’ for non-stop summer blooming. Being an annual, it requires replanting each year. The same holds true for Verbena Bonariensis (or tall verbena) as its 3-4 foot sheer purple veil hovers above the border, making it an ideal summer staple. 


Finally, I dotted the borders with bright red blooms of the dahlia “Bishop of Llandaff’. Its dark foliage serves as a dramatic foil for green foliage and chartreuse petals of ‘Green Jewel’.