July 7, 2013

Maine Gardener: Blooms bring some va-va-voom to yard


Spring bursts forth with blossoms, beginning with witch hazel and continuing to forsythia, lilac, viburnums, amelanchier, weigela, apples, dogwood and more.

In the fall, the woodies provide color with the turning foliage.

But in the summer, the landscape becomes a lot greener.

I put out some calls to local nurseries to see what trees and shrubs staffers would recommend for bloom in July and August.

Tom Estabrook of Estabrooks in Yarmouth, Scarborough and Kennebunk and Tim Bate of Skillins in Falmouth both suggested Rose of Sharon, the shrub hibiscus.

"They bloom from the end of July into August and are very popular," Bate said. "One I like is Lil' Kim, a more compact variety at 3 to 4 feet tall. That makes it easier to use as a foundation plant, and it is hardy to 20 below. It has a white flower with a red center."

Estabrook said he had a variety of Rose of Sharons from white to lavender and red, and they make a good statement in the summer.

The Rose of Sharon that Nancy and I have in our yard does not bloom until September, but we think that is because it is in heavy shade and has to put up with a lot of cooling fog during the summer.

Hydrangeas are probably the most popular shrub for providing flowers in July and August.

"Endless Summer" has been out for more than a decade now, and it is about the earliest of the hydrangeas.

"Hydrangea is certainly the standard for summer bloom," Estabrook said. " 'Quickfire' (a red panicum) will be out in early July, as will 'Limelight' and a host of others."

Claudia Risbara of Risbara's Greenhouse in Portland said that most of the PeeGee or paniculata grandiflora hydrangeas won't come into their prime until after August, but "Endless Summer" and "Incrediball" will come out in July.

" 'Incrediball' is an 'Annabelle' type with huge white balls, and that is really attractive," she said.

Jeff O'Donal of O'Donal's Nursery in Gorham said the Macrophylla hydrangeas such as "Endless Summer" do well in midsummer, and while the Panicum hydrangeas are later, "Quickfire" does come early.

"It is just showing color (in late June) and will turn from white to pink and then red, and last right through October," O'Donal said.

Bate suggested a couple of summer-blooming deciduous azaleas that sound attractive, both from Weston Nurseries in Massachusetts.

"I like 'Weston's Innocence,' which has a white flower with a very nice fragrance and very nice foliage," he said. "It will ultimately get to be about 6 to 10 feet tall, but its 15-year height is about 6 feet.

"A red-flowered variety that comes out round the 4th of July is 'Millenium.' It is very pretty with foliage that is bluish-green with a silvery undersides, and that is fragrant as well," he said.

Estabrook and Risbara both recommend Stewartia.

"It gets probably 18 feet tall and 15 feet wide, but it is a slow grower," Estabrook said. "It has a white flower with a yellow center, with a really nice seed pod. And it has a nice fall color."

Risbara said that the leaves look a bit like viburnums, and are quite attractive.

And Estabrook had something to add about viburnums.

"They wouldn't bloom now, but they have a really nice berry set in that period," he said.

O'Donal recommended two old stand-bys -- spirea and potentilla -- that bloom earlier, but will rebloom in mid summer if you trim them.

" 'Anthony Watera,' 'Gold Flame,' and 'Magic Carpet,' all of those dwarf brumulda ones, do bloom earlier than that, but if you deadhead them, they reflush and rebloom and look good.

(Continued on page 2)

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