by BRIAN MINTER
July 21, 1999
We enjoy so many flowering shrubs in the spring, but for a continuous flow of colour well into fall, there are some great plants that are missing from many gardens. Most people tend to rely on annuals and perennials for summer colour and often overlook the alied dimension that interesting and fragrant flowering shrubs can contribute. The city of Portland, Oregon uses one flowering shrub extensively along roadway medians. Glossy Abelia grandifolia is a great plant because of its dark bronze foliage and contrasting white flowers that don't quit blooming until October. Its cousin, 'Edward Goucher', is smothered in lilac pink flowers all summer. Both are hardy for Lower Mainland and Valley gardens and during a mild winter like last year, they will keep their colourful foliage. They only grow three to four feet in height, making them useful in so many sunny areas. I find them quite drought tolerant too, which is a nice asset during hot summers with watering restrictions.
Perhaps the most fragrant shrub this time of year is the bulileia. It attracts all kinds of butterflies and appropriately, is commonly call the Butterfly Bush. Starting in July, this plant will fill your garden with a delightful perfume from long spikes of flowers. On sunny days, you will seldom see this plant without a huge butterfly nestled onto one of its blossoms. The standard varieties grow up to ten feet high with white, blue, deep purple, pink and soft yellow flowers. They should be cut back to almost ground level each spring to keep them low and bushy. Lower growing varieties were also introduced a few years ago, so you can enjoy them in small space gardens as well.
Our hardy garden hibiscus are every bit as beautiful as their tropical counterparts. Growing anywhere from 6-12 feet high, the Rose of Sharon, althaea or hibiscus (they go by many names) will flower from July until late October. The double varieties like the magenta-rose 'Collie Mullens' or the soft pink and red throated 'Blushing Bride' are delightful, but I'm really fond of the singles. 'Red Heart', a pure white with a scarlet centre is my favourite. The blue toned 'Blue Bird' and the magenta-rose 'Woodbridge' are also very attractive in the landscape. Most varieties have a deep coloured centre, creating quite a wonderful bi-colour effect. If you plant one this time of year, it will quickly become one of your favourite plants.
In many gardens we see hydrangeas in various colours of blues, pinks, purples and whites. They need moisture and shade from the intense heat of summer to perform their best, but some of the longest lasting and perhaps the most beautiful are the Lace Cap varieties. Lace Caps have unique flowers: the centre of their blooms are sterile and never open up, leaving a delightful outside ring of single flowers that create a lacy effect. They also come in blue or pink, but remember: those colours can change with the acidity or alkalinity of the soil. Lime will tend to keep them pink, and a few applications of aluminum sulphate will turn them blue. As the early varieties finish, take a good look at the huge pointed white blooms of the Peegee hydrangea for late summer and fall colour. It's a very hardy plant that looks especially nice in a standard tree form. The blooms turn an unusual pink tone late in the fall as the blossoms mature.
I'm really surprised more folks don't plant the true hardy fuchsia. The tiny blossoms of F. magellanica 'Riccartonii' are in absolute profusion from July until the first hard frost. They prefer a sunny location and well drained soil for the best effect and stretch up to six feet in height with thousands of tiny red and purple blossoms. After being established for a few years and with just a little mulch protection, they tend to be quite hardy even in tough winters. There are many varieties to choose from these days, but to be honest, it's only the very tiny blossomed 'magellanicas' that will consistently make it through each winter.
Don't settle for just one of these great plants. Try them all for a delightful effect in your garden and now's the time to plant them.