"Blooming shrubs for summer color," by the Whistling Gardener

Besides the obvious choices of annuals, perennials and bulbs there is a surprisingly large pallet of shrubs that will give us a thrill throughout the summer months.
Steve Smith shares some of his favorite summer blooming shrubs. Photo courtesy of Sunnyside nursery.

This weekly column is being reproduced with the permission of Steve Smith, The Whistling Gardener, and owner of Sunnyside Nursery in Marysville.

Here we are in the last week of May and for the most part the glory of spring has faded away. If we want to keep a continuous display of color in our gardens then we need plants that will bloom in the summer rather than the spring.

Besides the obvious choices of annuals, perennials and bulbs there is a surprisingly large pallet of shrubs that will give us a thrill throughout the summer months.

Here are some of my favorites. For a more complete review come to our free class Saturday May 30th at 10 am taught by Trevor Cameron C.P.H. and learn more about how to incorporate these plants into your landscape.

ROSES: Roses will bloom all summer starting in early June and if you don’t want to mess with all the issues of growing hybrid tea roses then I highly recommend the Floral Carpet or Drift series which are completely disease free. Don’t think of them as roses but rather as landscape shrubs with rose-like flowers.

HYDRANGEAS: The big leaf varieties do best in morning sun and afternoon shade and they come in all shapes and sizes. The flowers are mostly pink or blue but there are also many new forms that are multi-colored and repeat bloomers. For sunny locations try the P.G. types like Limelight or Pinky Winky or for a more unusual leaf form the Oakleaf varieties.

SPIRAEAS: Work horses for the sunny border these shrubs will bloom in early June and if you shear them back will re-bloom in the fall. Magic Carpet has been my long-time favorite but the new Double Play series is more mildew resistant and the foliage color more vibrant.

ROSE OF SHARON: These are hardy hibiscus that bloom in August and come in both single and double forms. Blue Satin is a true blue form. They are late to leaf out in the spring but make up for it in late summer.

BUTTERFLY BUSH: The straight species is on the noxious weed list but all of the varieties you will find in the garden centers are sterile and safe to plant. They come in many colors and growing habits (from 18 inches tall to 5 feet tall) and will attract both butterflies and hummers in the summer.

POTENTILLA: Okay, I admit this is not my favorite summer blooming shrub but for absolute drought tolerance and “thrive on neglect” toughness it is hard to beat. It comes in white, pink and shades of gold and orange.

WEIGELA: The best thing about this plant is listening to customers trying to pronounce it! But seriously, this old-time shrub has gone through an extensive breeding revival and the new Sonic Bloom series will give you blooms now and again in the fall.

CLETHERA: Also known as Summer Sweet this is a late bloomer with white or pink flowers (Ruby Spice is a real winner) that has wonderful fragrance hence the name.

ITEA: Sweet Spire can be an awkward growing shrub but the summer flowers smell very pleasant and the dark red fall color hangs on forever. Little Henry is a winner. Both Clethera and Itea tolerate wet soils so they are a good candidate for our northwest soils.

LEYCESTERIA: Golden Lanterns (also sold as Jealousy) may be one of my all-time favorite summer blooming shrubs. The foliage is stunning and the flowers and berries have a metallic sheen about them. Pheasant Berry is the common name and for good reason. The birds love the berries.

Again, for more in-depth information on these great summer blooming shrubs come to our class on May 30, 2015, at 10 am here at the nursery.


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