I love music! But wouldn’t you know it, I can’t play or sing a lick. Chopsticks, perhaps, but that’s about it. As for singing, forget it. My family runs screaming from the room at the sound of my singing.

To maintain sanity in this topsy-turvy world, I follow Oliver Wendell Holmes’ advice: “Take a music bath once or twice a week,” he remarked, “and you will find that it is for the soul what a water bath is for the body.”

I’m especially fond of “bathing” in the music of big-band legends, such as Benny Goodman, Count Basie and Duke Ellington. Actually, I’m good with just about any music genre other than opera. What does this country boy from South Louisiana know about opera? In a word: nothing. Opera, someone once remarked, is when a guy gets stabbed in the back and, instead of bleeding, he sings. In Italian, no less.

While I will never know the joy of leading a big-band orchestra, I take considerable pride in leading a band of a different sort — cool botanical cats that can flat jam in the summer sunshine. Several of my most talented players include:

Sun Coleus

While many gardeners enjoy growing the newest this-or-that species in their garden, a priority, it seems to me, is to first make sure you fill the majority of the garden with proven winners that provide seasonlong color.

Sun Coleus perfectly fits the bill in that regard. There was a time, not that long ago, when older coleus generations could only be grown in shady gardens. Even then, many of the older varieties would burn out by mid-summer. That’s all changed, however. Plant breeders have made remarkable progress with this species in recent years.

Last year, we trialed 22 new Sun Coleus varieties in a full-sun location in the Linnaeus Teaching Garden in Woodward Park. I was skeptical at first, convinced that the beautiful little annuals would be fried to a crisp by July. That did not happen, however. The tough new Sun Coleus all thrived throughout the summer and well into fall. And foliage colors were outstanding.

Hybrid Lantana

Many gardeners have heard of common lantanas, perhaps even grown them. They have been a mainstay in the garden industry for generations. I’m guessing, however, that many gardeners have not tried the new and spectacular dwarf hybrid varieties that have rightly gained a deserved reputation for being among the best-of-the-best flowering annuals for hot Oklahoma gardens. These floral bad boys come in an amazing range of colors, from deep red to bright yellow. If bright red and yellow flowers make you swoon, check out the variety Luscious Berry Blend. It received the most votes for outstanding color in our Linnaeus trial beds two years ago.

Snow Princess Lobularia

If you’re in need of plant therapy for the soul, plant Snow Princess. This gorgeous bloomer provides wonderful fragrance, along with waves of tiny white flowers, throughout the summer. It’s especially lovely used as a “spiller” in large decorative containers and in hanging baskets. It loves the sun but will easily tolerate a half-day of shade. Its tiny white flowers blend well with virtually all flower colors. Much underutilized!

I could rave on about a great many other garden-worthy annuals waiting for you at local garden centers. Check them out for yourself. Bathing in warm vibrant flower colors definitely lifts one’s spirit.

Barry Fugatt is director of horticulture at the Tulsa Garden Center and Linnaeus Teaching Garden in Woodward Park. He may be reached at: 918-576-5125 or email bfugatt@tulsagardencenter.org.