Mid-Summer Refresh: Cool Combos and Easy Design Ideas

Mid-Summer Refresh: Cool Combos and Easy Design Ideas

Dwarf Joe Pye Weed softens the bright, hot tones of Sunny Days™ Ruby Coneflower and Kismet Yellow Coneflower in this pollinator border.
Coneflowers in pink and yellow are backed by clouds of pink blooming Joe Pye Weed this pollinator border.

Dwarf Joe Pye Weed softens the bright, hot tones of Sunny Days™ Ruby Coneflower and Kismet Yellow Coneflower in this pollinator border.

Photo by Doreen Wynja for Monrovia

Mid-summer is when the garden often calls for a refresh: rising temperatures, a run of neglect after Memorial Day, or even a new entertaining event can prompt the need for a new container planting or touch up around the patio. In the Monrovia garden at our nursery in Dayton, Oregon,  we often use the months of July and August to experiment with new plants and combinations that will last through early autumn. Here are several ways to freshen your garden for the season.

Cool off with blue or gray foliage

Elijah Blue Fescue

When days are long and temperatures rise, cool blues and grays can soothe the eye. Look for foliage in steely hues, such as Elijah Blue fescue, to freshen up areas along pathways and edges after spring annuals have faded or other plants have suffered too much heat. Elijah Blue is also a wonderful “bridge” plant that pairs well with heucheras and succulents, as well as blue hydrangeas and white roses.

Elijah Blue Fescue

Icy-blue clumping ornamental grass holds up through the heat of summer. Buff-colored plumes create contrast. Use for edging borders or mass planting as a groundcover. Full sun. Up to 1' tall and wide. Zones 4 - 11. 

Forever® Purple Heuchera

Intensely, consistent purple that won't fade, with frilly edges on the foliage. Can handle all sun exposures, and is lovely as a border edging or in mass groupings. Up to 1' tall and 22'' in. wide. Zones 4 - 9. 

Nitty Gritty™ White Rose

Produces an abundance of white blooms, providing low-maintenance appeal in beds and borders. Disease-resistant, self-cleaning, and own root. White double blooms provide warm season interest. Full sun.  Zones 4 - 9. 

Add a touch of pink to soften brighter colors


Clouds of dusky pink blooms marry well with dark reds, orange, and bright yellows. Look for plants with paler pink flowers:  pink flowering groundcover roses such as Flower Carpet® Appleblossom, sedums such as Spot On™ Pink Stonecrop, or Agastache Pink Pearl and other pollinator plants such as a pink flowering Rose Milkweed or Dwarf Joe Pye Weed.  Plants with smaller, delicate pink blooms provide softness that contrasts with bolder bloooms and hot colors.

Dwarf Joe Pye Weed

A more compact Joe Pye Weed with showy, mauve flower heads that bloom late summer to early fall. Provides spectacular late summer color in meadowlike front yards and borders. Partial or filtered sun.  Zones 4 - 9. 

Flower Carpet® Appleblossom Rose

Pastel pink blooms on large clusters are exceptionally disease resistant. Self-cleaning and low maintenance--no need to deadhead. Elegant, spreading type rose that cascades. Reaches 2 to 3 ft tall. Zones 4 - 10. 

Pink Pearl Agastache

Spikes of light pink flowers pair with darker buds for a two tone effect. Shorter, compact growth with dense flowers. The ultimate pollinator perennial, adored by bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds. Full sun. Zones 6-10. 


Pair lime green with cool white for a frosty combo

In partial shade areas, the combination of lime green foliage with stunning white blooms has a relaxing but stunning effect. We love to add the soft texture of grasses, too, such as in this trio of plants that would make a wonderful border refresh or a cool container on a patio. The no-fuss combo will look fantastic even when summer fades and days turn autumn cool.

Bridal Veil® Agapanthus

Clusters of big pure-white flowers are held on shorter stems. A wonderfully compact plant that tucks in well into beds, borders, and even containers. Reaches 1 ft tall and wide, and blooms all summer. Full sun, partial sun. Zones 7 - 11. 

Little Bunny Dwarf Fountain Grass

The most dwarf fountain grass, with fluffy, buff colored blooms. Terrific contrast plant with texture. The foliage turns olden russet in fall. Reaches 1 foot tall and wide. Full sun, partial sun. Zones 4 - 9. 

Gotemba Golden Japanese Spikenard

Sensational tall accent for semi-shaded border or woodland garden. In late summer, sprays of white flowers burst into fireworks of shiny purplish berries. Fast growing to 5 to 8 ft tall. Filtered sun or partial sun.  Zones 4 - 10. 

Add silvery foliage to freshen shady areas


Hostas and brunnera make cooling companions in shade and partial shade areas. We love the way that the brunnera’s metallic sheen has a sparkling effect on the hosta, especially variegated varieties. When the hosta flowers with pale lavender blooms, it’s an especially stunning combo. This pairing is a wonderful way to play with light changes in the summer garden.

Patriot Hosta

A superb compact selection with more heat tolerance than other varieties of hosta. Gleaming white edges contrasts with green foliage. Moderate grower that reaches 20 in tall and 30 in wide. Filters sun to full shade.  Zones 4 - 8. 

June Hosta

Distinctive gold leaves with striking blue-green margins standout in shaded bedsPale lavender flowers appear in summer. Heavy foliage resists slugs. A 2001 Hosta of the Year. Clumps to 1 ft tall and grows 30 in wide. Zones 3-8. 

Silver Heart Brunnera

Bold white and light green bordered heart-shaped foliage. Creates a lovely groundcover and reaches 6 to 12 in tall and spreads to 24 in wide. Lovely cobalt flowers in spring. Zones 3-8. 


Pot up a quick pollinator container near water features

Bring new life to your patio or porch with a container combo designed especially for pollinators near pools and water fountains. Garden centers have mid and late summer color in stock now that's perfect for bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds. This winning combo designed by Lisa Nunamaker features Jazzy Jewel Ruby Hibiscus as the star of the show for a tropical touch. Angelina stonecrop spills over the edges and adds playful contrast to the colorful Hummingbird's Lunch Cuphea and Columbus Montbretia. 

Jazzy Jewel® Ruby Hibiscus

This dazzler produces long-lasting, bright red flowers to catch the eye of hummingbirds and other pollinators. Reaches 3 feet tall in a container. Full sun. Zones 9-11 or as an annual. 

Hummingbird's Lunch Cuphea

Non-stop blooms to attract hummingbirds and bees all summer and fall. Well adapted to hot conditions. The tidy, rounded habit is perfect for containers. Reaches 2 ft tall and 3 ft wide. Full sun. Zones 8-11. 


Columbus Montbretia

Arching spikes of bright, golden orange flower rise on long stems over grass-like green foliage. Draws humminbirds and butterflies reliably. Reaches 32 in tall and 18 in wide. Full sun. Zones 6-10. 

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2024-07-01 00:52:00