Originally Published: June 25, 2010 10:02 p.m.
The mountains of Arizona have four distinct seasons and four distinctly differing garden stages. Now is when the summer blooming plants take center stage.
Novice gardeners often overlook these incredible summer bloomers because they are not available at garden centers during the spring planting rush. To create a balanced landscape that looks great year-round, visit your garden center during each of the four growing seasons. To help you pick out the best hot weather additions for your gardens, I've put together a list of my most successful summer blooming shrubs. They are in full bloom at the garden center now and, because the ground is finally warm, it is time to plant these flowering showpieces!
Stardust Hibiscus: With its spectacular flowers that grow wider than a large hand span, this truly is the queen of summer bloomers. It exhibits one of the miracles of nature, as every year it rapidly grows from ground level to four feet tall and then blooms with enormously impressive flowers. Stardust sports red-centered lipstick pink blooms and soft green leaves strikingly touched with purple. This is a perfect addition for an instant makeover to any perennial shrub border.
Little Spire Russian Sage: Unlike most Russian sages, Little Spire does not grow tall and then flop over by summer's end. This variety is shorter, easier to take care of, and because it is a brighter blue it brings more lightness to the garden. Its claim to fame is its extreme low-water use. This spiky little shrub fits any Mediterranean garden yet is small enough to be grown in a container for years of hardy beauty. Its casual character is equally suited to a carefully planned cottage garden or for wild gardens amidst rocky outcroppings or landscape boulders, and it delivers a lot of color year after year.
Hot Lips Sage: This stunning, ever-blooming hybrid bears a profusion of fluorescent, raspberry-red flowers held well above its arching branches. Just above knee height, its foliage is deep green with a sweet herbal fragrance. It is suited to containers, annual borders, courtyards, or anyplace where a garden needs a touch of color. Although utterly irresistible to hummingbirds and butterflies, javalinas and rabbits find this plant downright repugnantly distasteful!
Kaleidoscope Abelia: The longest-blooming of all abelias, from late spring and well into fall it is covered with soft pink buds. The compact evergreen shrub is frost, drought, and heat hardy as well as deer-resistant. Eye-catching as a container specimen for apartment dwellers, it is equally suited to modest low maintenance gardens and to impressive mass plantings.
Centennial Spirit Crape Myrtle: A perfect accent plant for urban and spatially challenged yards because of its large, long lasting, showy clusters of rosy red, crepe-like flowers. It is ideal for a front yard or in large planters near the front door. A few could be lined up along a driveway or blended into sweeping beds and borders to balance out spring blooming plants.
Scarlet Flower Carpet Rose: There is no other shrub that is covered with so many blooms from May through November. Masses of brilliant scarlet flowers cover this low-growing shrub. An easy to grow undemanding rose, even the glossy dark green foliage is resistant to mildew and black spot. An exceptional choice for lining a walk or driveway, for banks and slopes and erosion control, it also is an ideal plant for borders, pots, and hanging baskets.
For more summer blooming ideas, ask to see my summer blooming plant collection the next time you visit our garden center. On my website, www.wattersonline.com, under the "Garden info by Topic" link, is my handy-dandy "Preferred Plant Guide" with other suggested plant choices listed by season and use.
Garden Tip of the Month: To get our summer plants off to a good start while keeping water usage to a minimum, just sprinkle a couple of tablespoons of "Soil Moist Water Crystals" at the base of each planting hole; then top-dress the root ball with a three-inch layer of shredded bark. This little trick should cut your water usage in half.
A word of caution: If you water more than twice a week, your plants will die from over-watering - even in our hot summer sun.
This Saturday's 9:30 a.m. gardening class is entitled "Gardening for Newcomers." Next week's class, on July 3, is "Containers Sure to Please." Classes are free, informative, open to all, and a lot of fun.
Until next week, I'll see you in the garden center.
Ken Lain says, "My personal mission is to help local homeowners garden smarter and get our local garden timing right." Throughout the week, Ken can be found at Watters Garden Center, located at 1815 W. Iron Springs Road, Prescott, or may be contacted through his website at www.wattersonline.com.