Most of us have a sweet spot in our garden season, that magic time when our gardens are at their best. For a friend of mine, it’s usually late June when her back yard is a lovely sea of roses. It’s a treasured moment around which she plans her outdoor entertaining schedule. For me, it’s that instant in time when the lilies burst forth, the clematis and delphinium are still putting on a show, and the weeds haven’t yet performed a complete eclipse of the stars. There are a host of supporting players in bloom now, too: astilbe, campanula, veronica, achillea, a few roses and some daylilies.

Then comes the rest of the summer, when the bloom bonanza is over, and I have to direct my gaze carefully to the few bright spots that remain and take solace in variegated or colored leaves. Even the coneflowers start to look faded, and sometimes it seems the only things in rampant bloom are the phlox and the annoying harebells I can never quite quell. (I’ve resorted to using the harebells as cut flowers after yanking them out for the weeds they really are, mixed with the ferns that have volunteered in unwelcome spots.)

I do my best to stretch the perennial flowering season. I keep flowering blooms well watered so they aren’t stressed. And few things spur my interest on a plant tag so much as the phrase “long bloom time” or “prolific repeat bloomer.” Be still my heart.

I’ve also tried to add more fall bloomers to keep the sedum Autumn Joy company. But even the New England asters, which are supposed to be my fall mainstays, have jumped the gun and started blooming, so I’m wondering how long they’ll be able to keep up the show.

One way to prolong summer bloom time is by deadheading. Not all plants will rebloom if you pinch off the spent blooms, but many will reward your efforts. And some plants like centaurea will enjoy a second wind if you cut them back. Here’s a handy guide:

The list of long-blooming perennials includes coneflowers, rudbeckia, daylilies, Veronica, scabiosa, coreopsis and Shasta daisies. Here’s a much longer list to pick from, many of which are zone hardy:

Possibly the best way to assure yourself of some late summer color is to keep your pots of annuals well watered, or pick up some hanging baskets in the late season sales.

What are your strategies for keeping summer blooms alive? What are your long-lasting mainstays?