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Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Shrubs for Summer Colour

With good planning, there can be a succession of colourful and interesting flowering shrubs performing from early summer to autumn. Oncer established, they are largely able to look after themselves, though most will benefit from an annual pruning. This improves flower quality, helps to control shape and size and can prolong the lives of otherwise short-lived shrubs.

Kolkwitzia amabilis
Beauty bush

Deep pink, tubular flowers with patterned, yellow throats smother the arching branches of this delightful shrub in early summer; look out for K.a 'Pink Cloud', for its deep pink blooms. For the rest of the year it creates a leafy background. Easy to please, teh beauty bush tolerates a wide range of soils. Prune after flowering by shortening or removing up to a third of the flowered stems.

Hydrangea serrata 'Bluebird'
Blue lacecap hydrangea

Hydrangeas provide welcome late-summer colour and perform best when given a cool, moist root run and light shade. In classic lacecap fashion, a dome of blue fertile flowers forms a hazy centre surrounded by an abstract pattern of ray florets, which will vary in colour according to soil. On chalk, expect a reddish-purple tinge, while on acid soils they will be violet-blue. Prune by thinning or cutting back hard in spring.

Hibiscus syriacus 'Red Heart'

Although slow-growing, a mature, hardy hibiscus in full bloom is a wonderful sight. Hibiscus are among the last shrubs to burst into growth in spring and they wait until late summer before producing their large, trumpet-shaped blooms. This cultivar bears dramatic white flowers, 6cm across, with dark maroon centres. Good for chalky soils. Pruning is not usually needed.

Lavatera 'Rosea' Tree mallow
For lasting colour choose shrubby mallows such as Lavatera 'Rosea', which produces masses of flowers all summer long.

For sheer long-standing, mid- to late summer flower power, this shrub is unbeatable; it is also easy to grow. Deep rosy-pink flowers 10cm across open profusely over grey-green leaves. For best results, provide well-drained soil and shelter from cold winds. An annual hard pruning in early spring, to remove old growth, will rejuvenate a plant and help it to live longer.


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