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Vermont Garden Journal: Flowering Shrubs

07/29/11 5:55PM
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AP/Charlie Riedel

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I'm Charlie Nardozzi and this is the Vermont Garden Journal. While mid summer is a beautiful time in the flower garden, it's a quiet time in the flowering shrub border. Other than the hydrangeas that are loving this wet summer we've had, there aren't a lot of choices for flowering shrubs in July and August. While I love hydrangeas, I like different flowering shrubs as well. Here are three choices:

Clethra or summer sweet grows 4 to 6 feet tall and wide in full or part sun. In the spring it looks like it's dead because it leafs out later than most shrubs, However, by midsummer it sends up white, pink or red flower spikes with a sweet fragrance. It's a native plant, hardy to  zone 4 and grows well in moist, acidic soils.

Buttonbush or (Cephalanthus) is another native to our region. It's hardy to zone 5 and I first encountered this summer bloomer on a canoe trip in the Lake Champlain islands. It grows 3 to 6 feet tall and wide and, like clethra, grows well in full sun or part shade and moist locations. The flowers are cool looking, white, 1-inch diameter globes that seem to float on the foliage. The plant can be short lived and may need some rejuvenation pruning to keep it growing and looking its best.

Another summer bloomer is really more of a small tree. The seven sons tree or Heptacodium is an attractive, multi-stemmed tree that grows to 20 feet tall. It's called seven sons because the white flowers form in clusters of seven on the branches. It's hardy to zone 5. The summer blooming flowers are followed by showy reddish-purple fruits that make this, an attractive fall foliage tree as well. It doesn't tolerate drought, so plant it where the roots will stay consistently moist.

Now for this week's tip, water your veggies and flowers deeply to encourage deep rooting. This will make them less likely to wilt in the hot summer heat.

Next week on the Vermont Garden Journal, I'll be talking about planting a fall veggie garden. For now, I'll be seeing you in the garden!

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