Flower Combinations – Easy to Grow for Late Summer Display

Some of the most beautiful combinations and long lasting bloom displays in my garden and borders come from perennial herbs and annuals that were paired accidentally.  Once I saw how beautiful the combinations were, I made sure they happened every year after that.


Tansy is a perennial (comes back every year) and member of the aster family. Its button-shaped brilliant yellow flower heads are held on 3 foot stems with ferny foliage.

In the spring and early summer when the lush foliage is still short, it looks as if it’s not going to take much room. But as it grows tall, the stems tend to lean outward and the space it takes becomes larger.


Tansy and dark opal basil.

Tip: In the spring when the tansy gets about a foot or two and looks great, cut it back to the ground and let it regrow.  Otherwise, it tends to get tall and leggy.

Spreading by underground rhizomes, clumps can easily double or triple in size each year if you let them.

When tansy is finished for the year, I cut the stems about 1 inch from the ground. I keep my clumps smaller by just pulling up a lot of those stems (with those roots on the end) when they’re finished for the year.

Tansy can be grown from seed, but root division is very easy if you have a friend willing to share.


Close up of tansy and dark opal basil.

Purple Dark Opal Basil

Opal Basil is an annual that reseeds each year and comes up the next year when the soil is warm in late June or early July.

Plants that are the most robust and that have come up in good locations, I leave. Tiny lilac flowers with the plant’s dark red/purple stems are just gorgeous contrasted with the greens of other plants.

In good garden soil these plants can reach 4 feet tall with a spread of 3 feet.  In my back side border where it’s very dry, with lots of competition from tree roots, the plants grow to about 1 1/2 feet.


Dark opal basil, hyssop in bloom, and pennisetum hameln. (The white is my autumn clematis starting to bloom. The green foliage with dots of red is the annual summer poinsetta.  The yellow at the top left is a variety of Helianthus.)

Anise Hyssop

This perennial herb reaches 4 feet in my rich garden soil and blooms from late June into September. The flowers are lavender-blue and fade slightly as the summer wears on. When I push by it, it smells like anise.

It’s suppose to easily reseed, but I’ve never noticed any seedlings. Maybe I should start paying more attention, so I can have some to transplant in the back borders.

If you want this plant, why not sow seed this fall and have it come up next summer.


A slightly different view of Anise hyssop, Pennisetum Hameln and opal basil combination.

Pennisetum (alopecuroides) Hameln

In my opinion this is the finest of the dwarf fountain grasses. When its plumes develop, height is about 2 1/2 to 3 feet tall. It doesn’t seed and where you plant it is where it stays. (At least that has been the case for me in the 20 or plus years I’ve grown it.)

When established it’s pretty drought and cold tolerant. But it’s possible to lose it from time to time.
I try to plant new pieces (from divisions) each year just to make sure I always have it growing in my borders.

In early spring, cut the previous years foliage 3 to 5 inches from the ground so the grass can renew itself.

Reminder about cutting the old growth on all of these plants:

When you cut back the old growth either in the fall or early spring, just leave them in your border or garden. Nature will recycle them for you and feed the soil.

Final Thoughts

The combinations possible using these 4 plants is limited only by your imagination.

All except the Pennisetum Hameln are easily grown from seed. They’re drought tolerant, love the sun, and will return year after year to help make your gardens and flower borders beautiful.


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5 comments to Flower Combinations – Easy to Grow for Late Summer Display

  • Sandra

    Yes, nice combinations. That same thing would work with Sedum Matrona and Tansy too – purple / yellow. And Tansy cannot be killed. Great idea. I can definitely use this idea because I usually fail to notice these things in combination. Thanks Theresa.

  • Toni

    Beautiful! I haven’t heard of Opal basil. Is it edible?
    I accidently pulled out my Anise Hyssop. That was a sad discovery. I will reseed if possible.
    Thank you for the wonderful ideas.
    It is so interesting that most of my life was spent trying to get rid of Tansy because of its toxicity to horses. Now I am looking at it for its beauty.

  • Theresa

    Yes, Toni, Opal basil is edible. Also, I use to know a lady who used it to flavor vinegar.
    Tansy can be toxic to humans as well. I know it can be ingested without harm if one knows what they’re doing.
    I assume you don’t have horses anymore?
    I think you’ll enjoy growing it as long as you keep it controlled and where you want it.
    It makes a spectacular show with the contrasting dark basil.

  • Lillian

    Would Achillea Coronation Gold work here if Tansy seems to risky a choice?

  • Theresa

    Lillian, I assume you mean would it work in combination? If so – yes, but bloom time is a bit earlier.

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