Summer here in the south can be brutal on the people as well as the plants, with both looking tired and wilted. Sun loving perennials with summer flowers that can withstand the heat can keep a garden vibrant in the summer, and help perk up the people who see it as well. Summer flowers can be a refreshing touch to the garden, you might not even need to break out the mint Juleps. Don’t worry, y’all can still breakout the mint juleps if you're feeling particularly southern, just be sure to get some heat and sun loving perennials to finish the look. It just ain’t proper to sip mint juleps if you aren’t outside surrounded by cannas, pomegranate trees, and other summer flowers. There’s a proper etiquette to these things, though I hear horses and big hats are also acceptable.
If you want to bring some color along with a touch of the south or the tropics to your summer garden, then cannas are great sun loving perennials to choose. Not only are cannas heat tolerant, but have vibrant summer flowers. The showy flowers are often offset by foliage that can be just as showy, and come in a wide selection of colors and patterns for leaf and flower. Another heat tolerant favorite with showy summer flowers are the hibiscus. These sun loving perennials can have flowers up to the size of dinner plates; while not for the understated they go great with white suits, big hats, and Greek revival mansions. If you want the true southern species try Hibiscus aculeatus, coccineus, grandiflorus, or moscheutos var. incanus.
For those who are a little more pragmatic, pomegranate trees (Punica) are great sun loving perennials to add summer color. These heat tolerant trees not only produce edible fruit (choose single flower over double flower forms for better fruit production), but are covered in lovely orange flowers in summer and fall. The flowers are followed by beautiful and edible fruit. Though pomegranate has long been grown in the south, it’s not native.
For a useful native southerner try Pycnanthemum, known as mountain mint. These native summer blooming mint relatives are great at attracting bees and insects and smell minty. The white flowers or bracts, depending on the species, add some needed bright but soothing contrast to the summer garden. Though it is typically considered edible, your mint julep might not taste the same if you use Pycnanthemum in place of mint. Be sure to keep your summer vibrant and refreshing with summer blooming perennials, if you add bourbon to them then that’s your business.