It happens every year. Summer perennials lose their luster as the season nears its end. Some stalwarts hang on, but the flower garden has seen better days. There are other flowers out there, though, that can fill the gap.

Wildflowers brighten our world and August sees some interesting and useful flowers growing in fields and roadsides. Here I’ll detail just a few of my favorites, beginning with one that is universally despised, yet was brought here from Japan as an ornamental. How quickly we forget…

Japanese knotweed, often erroneously called “bamboo,” was brought here in the late 19th century because of its flowing form and airy, white flower clusters. Indeed, if we can get past the invasive part, only then can we appreciate the beauty of this handsome, edible plant.

Of course, I’m not suggesting that anyone encourage knotweed, but where it grows naturally, we may as well enjoy it. Just imagine a garden catalogue from the 1890s featuring color plates of Japanese knotweed in bloom. We can take a cue from those early days and appreciate the beauty of all of nature’s garden, not just the things we cultivate, trim and nourish.

Queen Anne’s lace

Here’s a plant that when in season, it always finds a place in my homemade bouquets. The flat clusters of Queen Anne’s lace are frilly and inviting, and a few of these in a mixture of other flowers both cultivated and wild add greatly to the overall effect.

As with another wildling, wild parsnip, Queen Anne’s lace is nothing more than a garden escapee gone feral. Queen Anne’s lace is descended from a garden carrot.

If you save Queen Anne’s lace seeds and plant them, then save the seeds and plant again, you will wind up with a nondescript carrot. The difference between the two is that carrots are (mostly) orange and that orange color comes from the carotene content. Queen Anne’s lace lacks carotene, but by breeding successive generations, carotene content increases.

Queen Anne’s lace roots are edible, but not very sweet. But that’s okay, because it is the flower cluster we value most. Before quitting Queen Anne’s lace, let me mention the wonderfully pungent and aromatic tea it makes. Take one, large flower cluster and add a tad less than one cup of boiling water and let steep. It ‘s a spicy and invigorating tea.

Oxeye daisy

The familiar daisy of road edges and fields, oxeye daisy was brought here in colonial times, probably by accident. On the other hand, it is possible some colonist loved the shape and form of these simple flowers and wanted to see them grow in the new world.

Either way, oxeye daisies have long since become ubiquitous. That’s a good thing, at least in my estimation. Otherwise, legions of youngsters would not have the basic ingredient of the wildflower bouquets they pick for their mothers and girlfriends. Quintessential cut wildflowers, oxeye daisies are.

To punctuate that point, consider Shasta daisies. These, according to Rodale’s Illustrated Encyclopedia Of Perennials, “… are cheerful summer flowers, looking like roadside oxeye daisies that went to finishing school.”

Oxeye daisies, with their bright, white rays and yellow discs, represent your basic flower design. Ask a child to draw a flower and the child will probably draw a daisy. Our world would be a lot less attractive without legions of oxeye daisies lining the roads.

But good looks aren’t daisy’s only positive attribute. They are edible, too. The unopened flower buds, when chewed, release a distinctive carrot flavor. A handful of fresh-picked daisy buds make a fine nibble while hiking or walking.

The foliage, too, contains that same carrot flavor and as such, are good as a salad ingredient. Any simple salad, with some daisy foliage and even a few unopened buds sprinkled on top, will become a remarkable salad.

Try goldenrod

August is goldenrod month. Fields and roadsides practically glow with the showy blooms of the various goldenrods. Maine is home to a number of different goldenrod types, but the plume-shaped flower clusters of Canada goldenrod are the most common and the showiest.
Goldenrod makes a good focal point for any bouquet; and no, goldenrod does not cause hay fever.

So instead of bemoaning the dearth of garden flowers, look to the fields and roadsides. There, you’ll find beautiful flowers aplenty.

Tom Seymour of Frankfort is a homeowner, gardener, forager, naturalist, Registered Maine Guide, amateur astronomer, magazine and newspaper columnist and book author.