Glorious Hydrangeas for the Summer Garden

Blue lacecap hydrangeas are garden favorites, especially ‘Nachtigall’ (singer of the night). (Image by Mike Darcy)

The name Hydrangea denotes water and comes from the Greek words, hydor (water) and aggos (a jar). Together the words mean ‘water vessel’ because of the cup-like form Hydrangea seed capsules. I have looked at the seed capsule, and perhaps my imagination is not quite enough to describe them as water vessels, but hydrangeas do require regular soil moisture to look their best. Give them basic care, and they are some of the easiest summer-flowering shrubs you can grow.

As with many groups of plants, Hydrangeas are very diverse in flower color, leaf color texture, and growth habit. Their flowers can be different shapes and colors will vary from solid colors of white, pink, blue, purple, and cream to some that are bicolor in shades of pink and white. Leaf color is also variable and while most are solid green, some are variegated and some have burgundy foliage. They thrive throughout much of the Pacific Northwest and in many other parts of the country, except for areas with extreme summer heat or winter cold, and some species are not adapted to the deep South.

Hydrangea Selection

Tuff Stuff is a compact lacecap known to prosper in more difficult growing areas. (Image by Jessie Keith)

Selecting a hydrangea for the garden can be difficult because there are so many choices. It is difficult to only select one! Space is limited, and I cannot name all of my other favorites, but here is a selection of favorites from my garden.

Oakleaf Hydrangea

‘Snow Queen’ is my favorite oakleaf hydrangea. (Image by Mike Darcy)

If I had to pick just one hydrangea to grow, my choice would be Snow Queen oakleaf hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia ‘Snow Queen’). It is named because of the oak-like shape of the leaves and snowy summer flower clusters. This hydrangea is a sturdy grower with white upright panicles of single blooms that cover the plant in early to midsummer. It has deep green leaves all summer and in the fall, they turn a superb shade of red. Another plus is that oakleaf hydrangeas tend to take more sun than many other species.

Lacecap and Mophead Hydrangeas

‘Nachtigall’ has some of the best blue lacecaps. (Image by Mike Darcy)

Common bigleaf hydrangeas (Hydrangea macrophylla, USDA Hardiness Zones 6-11 (a few cultivars are bred to survive to Zone 5)) and mountain hydrangeas (Hydrangea serrata, Zones 5-9) have either mophead (with a puffy head of showy flowers) or lacecap (with a head showy flowers along the margins) blooms. Mopheads are more common, but I prefer lacecaps for their stately appearance. Their flowers are in shades of blue, pink, white, red, or purple. The blue/purple or pink/red types have flower colors that can change depending on the pH of the soil. Pinkish/reddish colors denote more alkaline soil, and purplish/blueish colors indicate more acidic soil.

One of the deepest blues of the lacecap types, and a spectacular specimen in my garden, is Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Nachtigall’ (5 feet x 5 feet). I first saw one in a garden last summer, and I kept walking back to it because it was such an impressive large shrub in full bloom. Some of the flowers looked as though they were almost double. Another I have had my eye on is a compact, pink-flowered lacecap called Tuff Stuff (3 feet x 3 feet) from Proven Winners. It is supposed to be exemplary and has a neat, rounded habit.

Three more favorite hydrangeas are known for both their foliage and flowers. They are the lacecap ‘Lemon Wave’, which has leaves with patches of white and yellow, the bigleaf lacecap called ‘Purple Leaf Form’, with its truly burgundy foliage, and a dark-purple-leaved mophead called Eclipse® with showy red and white flowers. All are striking in the garden and cause my visitors to comment.

Smooth Hydrangea

‘Annabelle’ is one of the prettiest smooth hydrangeas. (Image by Mike Darcy)

For large blooms, the native Annabelle smooth hydrangea (Hydrangea arborescens ‘Annabelle’, 3-8) is hard to beat. It is sometimes referred to as an old-fashioned snowball plant. The buds begin as pale white or light green and open to white. The blooms are very large, and the plant has a long blooming period in the summer.

Climbing Hydrangea

Schizophragma hydrangeoides ‘Moonlight’ is a lovely woody vine for shade. (Image by Mike Darcy)

While technically not a Hydrangea, climbing hydrangea (Schizophragma hydrangeoides ‘Moonlight’, Zones 5-8) is a close relative. The climbing lianna tolerates shade. In my garden, it only receives about an hour of morning sun and looks beautiful. Its heart-shaped leaves are almost silver and the lacy summer flowers are ivory.  Climbing hydrangea stems are stout and develop rootlets that attach to buildings, walls, or pergolas, so plant yours on a structure with strength and permanence.

Hydrangea Care

Hydrangeas like moist, not soggy, soil. Select a site that is protected from the hot afternoon sun. Morning sun or filtered sunlight is ideal. Water thoroughly, especially during the first year, and don’t let the soil become dry. At planting time, add a liberal amount of Black Gold® Natural & Organic Garden Compost Blend to the soil beforehand to increase organic matter. When planting hydrangeas in large pots, use Black Gold® All Purpose Potting Mix. Then add Black Gold® Perlite for increased drainage and aeration.

Eclipse® has both showy leaves and flowers. (Photography by Tracy Walsh, care of First Editions® Shrubs & Trees)

Hydrangeas species and varieties have different pruning needs. Some of the older cultivars bloom on second-year growth, and if heavily pruned in the fall, the plants will skip a year of bloom. Some bloom on new growth, so the time of pruning is not so critical. Those that bloom on new growth include the panicle hydrangea, which is not mentioned above (Hydrangea paniculata ‘Limelight’ is a good variety to try), and smooth hydrangea. Check the plant tag for pruning requirements. (Click here for more pruning guidelines from Proven Winners®.)

There are so many hydrangeas to choose from, and given the right planting conditions they can provide beauty in the garden for many years. A good rule of thumb as to how particular plants will perform in your garden is to talk with friends or neighbors who have them. If their plants are thriving, yours should, too. The month of May is an excellent time to plant. For more Hydrangea information, contact the American Hydrangea Society.

Viburnums For Any Landscape

Right: bright red Viburnum opulus berries, do droop. They also feed hungry songbirds.

What exactly is a Viburnum? Viburnums are trees or shrubs, evergreen or deciduous, that may be diminutive three-foot globes or grow 60 feet tall. Their leaf texture varies from smoothly shiny to velvety, and, their leaf edges may be serrated, dentate, lobed, or not! Viburnum flowers are either round or flattish and range in color from white to pink. The blossoms are either deliciously fragrant, have absolutely no scent, or can be downright offensive. Just forget trying to determine what viburnum you are admiring by its fruit color alone since berries range from yellow to orange, red to black, and blue to purple.

According to the great Georgia plantsman, Dr. Michael Dirr, their characteristics are simply too varied to make a definitive identification without a very good reference guide. In his 2007 guidebook, Viburnums, Flowering Shrubs for Every Season, by Timber Press, Dirr admits that even taxonomists can’t agree on how many species presently exist in the genus Viburnum with the true number probably falling somewhere between 160 to 250.

What makes a Viburnum a Viburnum?

V. Carlesii - Photo by Pam Beck
The Koreanspice bush, V. carlesii, provides a perfect example of a viburnum’s opposite leave arrangement.

Famed tree and shrub specialist Michael Dirr’s definition is:

  1. The fruit is a drupe, generally ellipsoidal, flattened, ovoid to rounded, with a fleshy coat, hard bony endocarp, and a single seed within; and
  2. The leaves are always arranged opposite; a few species, occasionally, have three leaves at a node.

Growing Viburnum

Viburnum diltatum (Image by KENPEI)

Besides their exquisite beauty, the main reason why we embrace viburnums in our home landscapes is their extreme hardiness. Many varieties can be very drought tolerant (once established) as some of our best Southeastern native viburnum hail from dry woodlands. A few, such as our native Arrowwood, will also tolerate wet feet. Most will grow well in full sun to part shade, can take a variety of soil types, and still thrive.

Planting Viburnum

In the absence of good soil, you could amend the planting hole fill dirt with Black Gold Garden Soil for improved drainage that will still provide enough moisture retention essential for a newly transplanted viburnum. Otherwise, mulch the base of your new addition with Black Gold’s Garden Compost Blend in order to help hold moisture, keep developing roots cool in summer and warmer in winter, and to suppress weeds.

Great Viburnum

In my home landscape, I have found several species of viburnum grow well under the canopy of a large Black Walnut tree, where it is very dry. Here I have planted Koreanspice bush (V. carlesii) and Cranberry viburnum (V. opulus), and they both perform beautifully.

Viburnums have also been evaluated for their resistance to deer grazing. The toughest survivors of deer predation are our native Arrowwood (V. dentatum); Blackhaw (V. prunifolium); Smooth witherod (V. nudum), which is sometimes erroneously called “possum haw” and, the Maple-leaf arrowwood (V. acerfolium).

Koreanspice Viburnum

The flowers of Koreanspice viburnum are so fragrant. (Image by Bouba)

Koreanspice viburnum (V. carlesii, Zones 4-7) is one of our most popular, old-fashioned, pass-along southern shrubs. Grown for its intensely sweet springtime fragrance, the late March to early April flowers of Koreanspice begin pale pink, turning white with age, grow 2-3 inches across, and are rounded. This 8-10 foot tall shrub has dull green leaves that turn reddish in the fall, and red to black fruits.

Cranberry Viburnum

Cranberry viburnum is named for its brilliant cherry-red fruit clusters that begin coloring in late summer. The popular double-flowered variety ‘Roseum’ is sterile and bears no fruit.

The Cranberry viburnum is named for its brilliant cherry-red fruit clusters that begin coloring in late summer. Its famous leaf fall color is much more dramatic in cooler regions where leaves turn gold, red, and burgundy. A very good cultivar is V. opulus ‘Compactum’, which should top out at just 5-6 feet.

Chinese Snowball

For sheer drama, nothing compares to the Chinese Snowball (V. macrocephalum). This multi-trunked small tree can reach 12-feet or more in height and grow just as wide. Sometimes semi-evergreen in mild winters, this very dark-leafed viburnum is beloved for its 6-8 inch, rounded, springtime flowers that begin pale chartreuse and age to purest white. They are so beautiful that we can forgive it for not bearing any scent. A significant bonus is that it also flowers again from late summer into fall. Since the Chinese Snowball’s hydrangea-like flowers are sterile, there is no fruit, therefore no unwanted seedlings.

Bodnant Viburnum

Viburnum x bodnantense ‘Dawn’ is an early bloomer with lovely fragrant pink flowers. (Image by Magnus Manske)

Your winter landscape could be delightful including a Bodnant viburnum in it. Viburnum x bodnantense ‘Dawn’ has bright pink, strongly perfumed flowers in late February to early March in my Wake Forest, North Carolina, Zone 7-8 garden. The small, rounded, sweetly fragrant flowers are borne on bare branches on a rather rangy shrub, but ‘Dawn’ blends nicely into the mixed border the rest of the year.

Viburnum Tinus

Garden centers offer V. tinus ‘Spring Bouquet’ in autumn, which is the right time to plant them. During the late fall months ‘Spring Bouquet’ forms tight rose-colored clusters of buds that will start popping open during the first months of the new year. These viburnum flowers are only slightly fragrant, but they will cover the small shrub. This evergreen viburnum will need part shade in summer, winter protection from sun, plus they benefit from being shielded from desiccating winds.

Doublefile Viburnum

Doublefile viburnum (Viburnum plicatum) has lovely tiered branching and should not be pruned.

Since they bloom in early April, Doublefile viburnums, V. plicatum f. tomentosum, are great substitutes for ailing native dogwoods. Named for its flowering habit of doily-flat flowers positioned side-by-side along the top of long horizontal branches, this is a stunning small tree. These viburnum are deciduous in winter, have dark green foliage in summer, and bright red berries in late fall. A cultivar named ‘Summer Snowflake’ will bloom well in early spring, then sporadically repeat off-and-on throughout the summer.

Chindo Viburnum

Chindo viburnum is another popular viburnum that isn’t grown for its flowers at all. Promoted by the late Dr. J C Raulston of North Carolina State University, V. awabuki ‘Chindo’, is a loosely pyramidal-shaped, shiny-leafed, evergreen shrub that can reach 15-20 feet. It grows in sun or shade and is shaped reminiscent of a large-leafed holly, so it makes an ideal screening plant. One warning is that a Chindo viburnum won’t like winter temperatures that drop below zero; so, if it does get that cold you may have to trim your plant back severely in springtime to encourage new growth to flush.

There is probably a perfect viburnum for just about any location in your landscape, so how do you go about narrowing your selections? Ask your garden center professional for their recommendations, check with your local Cooperative Extension Service, and find a copy of Dirr’s Viburnums book.


V. awabuki ‘Chindo’ - Photo by Pam Beck
The ‘Chindo’ viburnum is an outstanding evergreen screening shrub. (Photo by Pam Beck)

What Are Good Shrubs for a Home’s North Side?

Gold-and-flame-leaved Forest Flame reaches 6 to 10 feet and has chains of ivory spring flowers.

“I am having trouble with roses in the constant north side shade area of my home. Looking for a possible flowering shrub or a better suggestion for this area at the front of our house.” Question from Larry of O’Fallon, Missouri

Answer: Roses by default are sun-loving. Just a handful of species roses and cultivated roses will tolerate partial shade. (Click here to read another AGE about shade-tolerant roses.) But, there are loads of flowering shade-tolerant shrubs that will grow beautifully on the north side of a home. Here are some of my favorites. All of them should be hardy where you live in Missouri.

Shade-Loving Shrubs

Reblooming Azaleas (Rhododendron spp.): Encore® and Bloom-A-Thon® Azaleas will rebloom and some are even evergreen. I recommend them if you have slightly acid to acid soils with good drainage.

Smooth Hydrangea varieties (Hydrangea arborescens): Tolerant of sun and shade, smooth hydrangeas are very hardy and native to your region. Some of the new varieties bloom for a long time in summer, and then their flowers remain on the plants and continue to look pretty into fall and winter. I love the many varieties sold by Proven Winners, such as the pink-flowered Invincibelle, among others. (Click here to view them all.)

Yak Rhododendrons (Rhododendron hybrids): There are so many outstanding evergreen Rhododendrons that grow beautifully in shade, and yak forms are extra tidy and compact. ‘Grumpy‘ is an outstanding yellow-and-pink-flowered form that reaches 5 feet at maturity and has dark, evergreen leaves.

Lily of the Valley Shrub (Pieris japonica) is another evergreen that likes growing conditions similar to that of azaleas and rhododendrons. Interstella has pink chains of blooms in spring and only reaches 4 feet at maturity. Larger varieties include the outstanding gold-and-flame-leaved Forest Flame, which reaches 6 to 10 feet and has chains of ivory spring flowers. It’s a real showstopper.

Hartlage Wine sweetshrub (Calycanthus x raulstonii ‘Hartlage Wine’) grows well in partial sun to light shade and has very fragrant maroon-red flowers in late spring. At maturity, it reaches 6 to 8 feet, so give this one some space. In autumn, its leaves turn yellow and orange before falling.

We have an excellent article, by horticulturist Russell Stafford, that details how to properly plant new shrubs in the landscape. Please click here to view it. I hope that some of these shrubs interest you!

Happy gardening,

Jessie Keith

Black Gold Horticulturist

What Flowering Shrubs Do You Recommend for Front Landscapes?

Flowering Accent Shrubs

“I am looking for possibilities for flowering accent shrubs (other than roses) for the front of house landscaping.  I’d prefer something that blooms throughout the summer if it exists. My Zone is 6a.” Question from Diana of Fort Wayne, Indiana

Answer: There are several flowering shrubs with a long season of bloom that will grow beautifully in your USDA Hardiness Zone 6 climate. Here are four recommendations that are easy and attractive.

Flowering Shrubs for Foundations

1. Smooth Hydrangea varieties (Hydrangea arborescens): Tolerant of sun and shade, smooth hydrangeas are very hardy and native to your region. Some of the new varieties bloom for a long time in summer, and then their blooms remain on the plants and continue to look pretty into fall and winter. I love the many varieties sold by Proven Winners, such as their Invincibelles, among others. (Click here to view them.)

2. Abelia (Abelia hybrids): Abelias bloom and bloom through summer with small flowers of pink or white. Many also have colorful foliage and some are semi-evergreen. Ruby Anniversary is a wonderful compact selection with loads of tiny pink and rose flowers that I have growing in my front yard. Kaleidoscope abelia is another beauty with multicolored leaves and pretty little blooms.

3. Reblooming Yellow Potentilla (Potentilla fruticosa Happy Face®): These mounding 3-foot shrubs bloom all summer with golden yellow flowers. The foliage is very fine and plants are sun-loving.

4. Reblooming Azaleas (Rhododendron spp.): Encore® and Bloom-A-Thon® Azaleas will rebloom and some are even evergreen. I recommend them if you have slightly acid to acid soils with good drainage.

All of these flowering shrubs are tidy and look smart when interplanted with evergreens and perennials. All will become established more quickly with soil amended with Black Gold Garden Compost Blend. I hope that you like these suggestions.

Happy gardening,

Jessie Keith

Black Gold Horticulturist

California Wild Lilac for Western Gardens

Ceanothus thyrsiflorus is the most commonly cultivated species of California wild lilac. (Image by Kousvet)

It is difficult to think of another plant genus that has the diversity of violet-blue flowers as Ceanothus.  There are several species available to gardeners, but the most cultivated is Ceanothus thyrsiflorus (USDA Hardiness Zones 7-10). Most are native to California and are sometimes referred to as California wild lilac, but there are some native to Oregon and the Pacific Northwest. Unlike true lilacs, which are in the olive family (Oleaceae), these shrubs are in the buckthorn family (Rhamnaceae). Although the growing requirements of different species and varieties are diverse, as a group, and in our Pacific Northwest climate, most will thrive with little care once established.  Generally, the crucial factor is providing them with well-drained soil.

California Wild Lilac Characteristics

An impressive Ceanothus hedge in full bloom.

Most Ceanothus bloom in spring and early summer with clusters of violet-blue flowers that range in color from light blue to sky blue to violet blue. The evergreen shrubs are generally not long-lived plants, surviving 10-15 years on average. In addition to their spectacular flowers, another attribute is that the plants fix nitrogen into the soil, and so planting them in the landscape helps improve soil nutrition. The flowers are also very attractive to honey bees, as well as native bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds.  They prefer full sun but can withstand light shade, and once established they do not need summer water. They are truly low-maintenance, easy-care plants for the garden.  Their growth habits are variable as there are some species that grow as ground covers and others that become large shrubs with heights reaching 10 to 12 feet.

These beautiful western natives require soil that is light and sandy or loamy with excellent drainage. They are not picky about soil pH. The addition of Black Gold Garden Soil at planting time will really help. Another benefit is that they are tolerant of salt spray but need to be protected from high winds. As the shrubs grow,  pruning is often required for space consideration. The important thing to remember is that pruning must be done after the plant has bloomed.

California Wild Lilac Varieties

Bees of all kinds love them flowers of Ceanothus!

Luckily for gardeners, the California wild lilac varieties are available at local garden centers and have continually become more available over the past few years. When purchasing one, be sure to check the plant label or ask a knowledgeable nursery person, since their growth habits are so variable.

One of the most popular and widely planted Ceanothus in the northwest is Ceanothus thyrsiflorus ‘Victoria’.  Originally found in Victoria, British Columbia, this shrub has glossy foliage and is good looking throughout the year. The flowers are sky blue and cover the plant from May to June and the shrubs will sometimes repeat bloom but are not as prolific as the first spring flowering. It is a tall shrub, in my garden reaching about 8 feet in height and almost as wide.

Ceanothus ‘Dark Star’ is one of the showiest hybrids with very small dark green foliage and a spreading habit (4 to 8 feet by 8 to 12 feet).  The flowers are deep cobalt blue and stand out against the dark green foliage. This is a spectacular specimen plant for the spring garden. The flowering season is usually in April.

For a ground cover, Ceanothus gloriosus ‘Point Reyes’ is hard to beat.  It will cover the ground densely with light-blue flowers in March.  This is an excellent plant for steep banks or slopes and will usually not get much taller than about 1 foot. It is tough and heat tolerant, so it is often planted in the ‘hell strip’ area between curbs and sidewalks.

New Jersey Tea is an eastern species that also grows well out west. (Image by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)

Some eastern Ceanothus are also available for gardeners in this part of the country. New Jersy Tea (Ceanothus americanus) is a very hardy deciduous species that survives in USDA Hardiness Zones 4-8 and can take partial shade. It has fragrant, white summer flowers that attract bees, and it only grows to 3- to 4-feet high. It is also tough and can be grown in the West.

Another for white flowers is Ceanothus cuneatus ‘Adair Village’, a cultivated variety of an Oregon native that has silver leaves and white flowers. It is fast growing, reaching about 8 feet at maturity, and requires no summer water.  It is also a great pollinator plant, honeybees love it.

This brief listing of Ceanothus is just a sampling of the many species and varieties that are available. The ‘Victoria’ in my garden has never had a pest problem.  I gave it supplemental water the first year and none thereafter.  Check out your local garden center for prime Ceanothus because this is an excellent time to plant them.

Flowering Shrubs for Minnesota

“What is a good flowering shrub for Zone 4? Question from Sandra Lee of Cottage Grove, Minnesota

Answer: There are so many great flowering shrubs that grow beautifully in USDA Hardiness Zone 4 winters! Here are three super hardy options to try:

1. Smooth Hydrangea (Hydrangea arborescens, USDA Hardiness Zones 3-9): There are lots of wonderful varieties of this summer-flowering beauty, and the shrubs grow well in partial shade and full sun. Two of the best to try are the giant-white-flowered Incrediball® and more compact, mauve-flowered Invincibelle Mini Mauvette®.

2. Potentilla (Potentilla fruticosa hybrids, USDA Hardiness Zones 2-7): These sun-loving, summer-flowering shrubs are long blooming and have flowers in yellow, white, or pink. They are also tolerant of drier, more well-drained soils. The golden-flowered ‘Happy Face‘ is a good performer.

3. Hardy Roses (Rosa hybrids): Loads of shrub roses really tough it out way up north. Those in the Oso Easy® group of roses are extra hardy and very high performing. There are lots to choose from with flowers of rose-red, peach, white, and pink. Try the super hardy (Zones 3-9), pink-flowered Oso Easy® Fragrant Spreader , which is fragrant, pretty, and spreads to form a low mass of roses from early summer to fall. The double red Oso Easy Double Red, is slightly less hardy, surviving in Zone 4a winters.

Happy gardening!

Jessie Keith

Black Gold Horticulturist

Shrubs with Fall Color

This late-season Pacific Northwest landscape shows the bountiful blooms of a pink-flowered crape myrtle.

In the spring, gardens come alive with tulips and other spring-flowering bulbs, and the peonies and many other herbaceous perennials emerge from the soil.  It is a time of much BG-Peat-Moss-8qtanticipation for gardeners.  We often visit our local garden centers to see what is new, in bloom, and what we must have. In the fall season, however, gardeners are less apt to visit garden centers or other gardens. As a result, many late-blooming trees and shrubs are overlooked when there are so many trees and shrubs with fall color to consider.

I began to seek out trees and shrubs that provide good fall color some time ago. Whether the color comes from flowers, berries, bark, or foliage, there is a surprising assortment to chose from. My plants of choice were selected for Pacific Northwest gardeners, but they can also be cultivated in other parts of the country.


Hydrangea quercifolia fall color JaKMPM
Hydrangea quercifolia fall color. (Photo by Jessie Keith)

While hydrangeas are noted for their spectacular flowers in late spring and summer, some varieties provide great fall color.  One is Hydrangea paniculata ‘Fire and Ice’.  The cream-colored spring flowers change to pink as the season progresses, and by the end of summer the papery blooms turn dark to medium pink.

Oakleaf hydrangeas (Hydrangea quercifolia) put on a great fall show with both colorful flowers and foliage. Not only do their pinkish-tan flowers remain attractive into winter, but their leaves turn brilliant shades of red. ‘Snow Queen’ is a large, carefree oakleaf hydrangea with rich mahogany red fall leaves and very large flowers.

Hydrangeas grow best in humus-rich, moderately moist soil.  Before planting amend with Black Gold Peat Moss Plus. It contains an organic wetting agent and helps hold soil moisture during the hot days of summer.

Crape Myrtle

There are so many selections of crape myrtle (Lagerstroemia indica) that it can be difficult to make a decision if one only has space for a single plant.  Older varieties were traditionally late blooming and prone to powdery mildew here in the Pacific Northwest, but most new selections are resistant to powdery mildew and will flower from July to September.  An added bonus is that crape myrtles bloom on new growth, so they can be pruned to size in winter or spring if space is a consideration.  The flower colors range from white to lavender to shades of pink and red.  Some varieties even have red, bronze, or dark purple foliage, which can provide a nice contrast against a home or large border.

Peanut Butter Shrub

Clerodendron trichotomum fruits look almost like flowers and remain colorful on the shrubs until early fall.
Clerodendron trichotomum fruits look almost like flowers and remain colorful on the shrubs until early fall.

Clerodendron trichotomum, often referred to as the “peanut butter shrub” due to its leaf and stem fragrance, is a mid- to late-summer bloomer that produces brilliant clusters of fall fruits.  Each fruit has four fuchsia calyces that surround a metallic turquoise drupe. The showy fruits remain on the tree into the early fall.

European Spindle Tree

Euonymus europaeus 'Aldenhamensis'
Euonymus europaeus ‘Aldenhamensis’ has cheerful pink and orange fruits.

Euonymus europaeus ‘Aldenhamensis’, (European spindle tree) produces a comparable display of brilliant fruits.  In spring, rather nondescript clusters of small white flowers appear. In fall, fruits appear that are brilliant pink outside and open to show orange berries.  If that is not enough, the leaves turn brilliant fuchsia before dropping.

There is much to be seen in the garden at this time of year.  Not only are summer annuals still going strong and dahlias at their prime, but many trees and shrubs are putting on quite a show that should not be missed.  It is a good time to visit your local garden center to discover these and other fall-blooming trees and shrubs for autumn. (Click here to discover more fabulous fall-blooming shrubs.)


Summer Hydrangeas in the Garden and More

The brilliant white flowers of Snow Queen oakleaf hydrangea will brighten any summer garden, day or night.
The brilliant white flowers of Snow Queen oakleaf hydrangea will brighten any summer garden, day or night. (Photo by Jessie Keith)

It has been a busy summer with many exciting activities! Aside from my normal radio, writing and garden work, there have been garden tours, talks and even contests to take part in. On June 29, my garden was one of five private gardens open for Garden Conservancy Open Garden Days in the Metro Portland Area. The Garden Conservancy is a national organization dedicated to preserving and helping to maintain both public and private gardens throughout the United States. (For example, one of their current ambitious goals is to restore the gardens on Alcatraz Island.) The admission fees collected for their Open Garden Days, $5 per garden entry, go to support their cause. Continue reading “Summer Hydrangeas in the Garden and More”

Tried-and-True Early Summer Flowers

Hartlage Wine summersweet
Hartlage Wine sweetshrub of one of several resilient early summer bloomers in Mike’s garden.

Unseasonably warm weather continues here in the Pacific Northwest, and the plants are responding to it. In many cases they need supplemental watering earlier than what would be the norm. And while my lawn has remained green with no extra water, many plants are showing signs of stress with the heat. This is especially true for those grown in containers and newly planted color spots. I am very glad that I used Black Gold Natural & Organic Potting Mix in all my pots this spring because it has done an excellent job of holding moisture for my summer flowers. Continue reading “Tried-and-True Early Summer Flowers”