Garden Talk: Late-blooming perennials at the Jensen-Olson Arboretum

A chalkboard sign at the entrance lists what’s in bloom at the Jensen-Olson Arboretum. (Photo by Sheli DeLaney/KTOO)

At the Jensen-Olson Arboretum — a source of inspiration for gardeners of Southeast Alaska — late-season flowering perennials are in bloom.

“And one of our favorites is the Primula florindae, which blooms in mid-to-late summer and sometimes will go on until frost,” manager and horticulturist Ginger Hudson said. “They love the cool moist temperatures — they love to be cold over winter.”

Yellow is the standard color for Primula florindae flowers. But when planted alongside a primula of a different color, the flowers can bloom in a variety of shades.

“There are some oranges and they will cross with each other,” Hudson said, “So we have one that’s a kind of a mango color. And even one that’s a deeper mustard yellow.”

A buttery-yellow variety of primula florindae in bloom at the Jensen-Olson Arboretum (photo by Sheli DeLaney/KTOO)

Not only does the Primula florindae bloom longer than other primula and attract pollinators, it’s also easy to propagate.

“This variety of primula spreads easily in the garden, Hudson said. “Not only by clumps expanding, but also seeds being carried away and washing away in our rains.”

Monarda, also known as bee balm, is another late-blooming perennial that produces copious amounts of flowers.

“Really red” variety of bee balm (monarda) in bloom at the Jensen-Olson Arboretum. (Photo courtesy of Sheli DeLaney/KTOO)

“We have two different kinds of bee balm growing here at the arboretum, a pink shade and a deep, deep fire-engine red shade,” Hudson said. “You want to plant them in the best sun possible to get the maximum amount of blooms.”

As the name suggests, bee balm attracts pollinators as well — primarily, bees.

Ginger Hudson, manager and horticulturalist at the Jensen-Olson Arboretum, inspects a patch of bee balm. (Photo by Sheli DeLaney/KTOO)

“We have a lot of bumblebees here even in Southeast Alaska and they love these, as well as lots of other little flies and late season butterflies,” Hudson said. “But mostly you’ll see bumblebees.”

Phlox and hostas are two other perennials that are still in bloom this time of year, and Hudson says she’s even seen hummingbirds visiting the hosta flowers. While attracting pollinators, the flowers and foliage are also entertaining through the autumn.

“And makes you think, well, summer’s not really over because look at this big head of flowers that just keeps on going,” Hudson said.

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