Friday, 15 July 2011

Summer Flowering Shrubs


There is a flowering shrub for every month of the year, and in every size from ground cover like the Rock Roses, Helianthemum to those  reaching small tree size, like the Eucryphia. Many are scented like the Philadelphus and others invaluable for climbing up trellis, fences, walls and old tree trunks such as climbing roses and honeysuckle.
The garden is enjoyed all year round and as spring flowers are usually plentiful, it is a good idea to make sure there is still room for those summer flowering shrubs.
The larger ones can provide screening and shelter around perimeters and patios. Some, such as Philadelphus, make excellent lawn specimens with the added advantage of a rich exotic perfume.

The Dundee Parks were always a brilliant place to learn all about shrubs as there wasn’t many that we didn’t grow. The nursery at Camperdown park was where we learnt how to propagate and grow them, and then in numerous other parks and outdoor landscapes we were taught how to prepare the ground, planting, spacing and after care.
However, forty odd years ago, shrub beds may have covered vast areas of park and open space land, but their function was more for weed control and easy maintenance, and to provide the gardeners with a job in winter when work was scarce. All shrubs, no matter what type, got a winter haircut at chest height. You soon became very competent at cutting cubes and balls, but pruning to induce flowering was a no go area. We have now moved on.
The design of planted areas and the selection of plants is now in the hands of our landscape architects who endeavour to select the most suitable plants for each situation and allow them to grow to their natural size. The planted areas must be functional but also attractive.
In our own gardens we must check on the ultimate size of a shrub at the selection stage so it does not outgrow its allotted space. That is a lot easier to say than practise since there are so many “must have” plants, but our garden size is limited.

Large shrubs

Eucryphia is probably a small columnar tree, but can be a shrub size for many years.
It is very reliable with a mass of white flowers in mid summer.
Buddleia is another large shrub, but is pruned to six inches from the ground every winter. It can easily grow six to eight feet in one summer depending on weather and produces a large flower spike in a range of colours, though my favourite was always the dark purple Black Knight.
For wild life lovers, it really does earn its common name of the Butterfly Bush.
Philadelphus has single or double white scented flowers in mid summer and will grow quite large. Give it plenty of room, and very little pruning and enjoy its perfume.
Escallonia, weigela and deutzia are all medium sized shrubs with white or pink to deep purple flowers. Escallonias are evergreen.
Shrub roses come in all sizes, and colours and very many are highly scented. They like deep fertile clay soils.

Low and ground cover shrubs

Hypericum, Spiraea, Choisya, Senecio and Potentilla are all very hardy and easy to grow. Hypericum Hidcote will grow up to four foot, but Hypericum calycinum, the Rose of Sharon at one foot in height is a very useful ground cover plant. However keep a look out for leaf rust.
Cistus has beautiful white to deep pink very delicate looking flowers, but needs a poor dry soil. It did not like our hard winter. Many of my Cistus were severely cut back by the cold last winter.
Fuchsia Mrs Popple is normally quite tough, but did get cut back by our winter weather.
It normally grows up to five feet tall, but at this moment in time, mine are rapidly recovering to two feet and will just keep growing hopefully. The first flowers are now out.
Lavender is almost a must for every garden, whether grown as a culinary herb, or just to enjoy its blue flowers in mid summer. The blue gray foliage has a gorgeous scent and the plant is perfect for edging borders or for a dry spot with poor soil. Senecio is also perfect for a sandy seaside garden.
Helianthemums and summer flowering heathers are more ground cover plants for the front of borders and both will smother weeds once they get established. My favourite heather is Calluna H.E.Beale with bright pink flower spikes in late summer.


There is always room for a few climbers in every garden, but which ones do you choose.
Solanum crispum has potato like flowers and can be very vigorous. It is very attractive in flower, but it produces berries that are highly poisonous.
Eccremocarpus scaber is an evergreen with orange tubular flowers. It can be difficult to get established, but then quite reliable.
Clematis and Honeysuckle need something to clamber through, both coming in many colours, but the honeysuckle has an outstanding perfume.
Climbing roses also come in numerous colours, heights and scents, but will need a support to be tied into.


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