As we approach Independence Day and the garden gatherings that follow throughout the summer season, we worry that our gardens can look tired and heat stressed. That is unless we've planned ahead for summer-loving plants to take center stage. Because hot weather plants look empty and dormant in spring, not really coming to life until temperatures begin to soar, many gardeners miss out on these heat-loving gems when visiting their garden centers in spring.
With soil temps finally warm enough to nudge these plants onto a garden's center stage, it's time to get them into the ground. Below are some of my "Best of Summer" bloomers for Arizona mountain gardens. I guarantee that they will uplift any garden party setting with their bloomin' bling!
Showy Jasmine - This evergreen shrub is a lazy climber for wire fences or low walls. It also makes a fine landscape plant with fragrant blossoms that can spread out over a large area. Great for tops of banks, on slopes, or anywhere it can sprawl. Its handsome arching profusion of late spring through summer blooms also looks great in raised beds where evergreen foundation plants are needed. A large plant will be under $40.
Chicago Apache Day Lily – Every landscape should have at least one day lily. Animal proof, low water user, and easy care describes this perennial bloomer. Effective in containers and raised beds, it also lends itself to massing in the border or naturalizing at woodland's edge. Its large blossoms are suitable for cut arrangements. Feathered friends are drawn to it for its bright red flowers with vivid yellow throat and slightly ruffled edges. For less than $30 you can find a large bush with dozens of promising buds.
Etoile Violette Clematis – One of the showiest flowering vines, striking pinwheel-shaped flowers from elegant elongated buds cover this vigorous plant. It's one of the best for warmer climates as the flowers begin appearing in midsummer and can last through fall. It withstands full sun as long as its roots are kept cool and well insulated with some extra shredded bark. Because it grows to a height of 10', it really looks good against an iron trellis, archway, or arbor.
Confederate Rose Mallow - Because of its rapid growth and generous six-foot height, it serves as a great makeover plant for gardens. This fast growing plant is used as a foundation shrub to quickly cover walls, create an airy screen, or instantly soften the corners of buildings. The red flowers are HUGE and make a big impact in borders and beds. It's good for creating a tropical garden around pools and water features, but equally effective when cast as a cottage-garden plant amidst traditional perennial flowers. Best of all, it will bloom in clay soil where most other plants suffer. A big plant should cost under $40.
Scarlet Flower Carpet Rose – There is no other low-growing shrub that is covered with so many brilliant scarlet flowers from May through November. It's 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, banks, slopes, and for erosion control, it also is an ideal plant for borders, pots, and hanging baskets. Showy two-gallon sizes are only $29.99.
Petite Plum Dwarf Butterfly Bush – With spectacular fragrant flowers that bring butterflies into the garden and up close to the house, it is perfect to use in side yards where flowers are held up at window level. At just 5' tall it is shorter and easier to grow than other large varieties of butterfly bush. It is ideal for breaking up long runs of fence, and particularly attractive along picket fences and latticework where its airy open character is a good fit at bloom time. Yes, butterflies do love it!
Stars & Stripes Sun Parasol® - Gardeners are going crazy for this newest introduction, and it's no wonder: Large flowers, the size of a child's hand, are star shaped with unusual white stripes that streak through each red petal for non-stop blooms from spring through fall. Decks, patios, and courtyards are the perfect backdrop for this vining, ever blooming plant that catches the eyes of birds as well as those of human admirers. Right now it is available in a large instant party size that's covered with dozens of flowers.
The point of this list is that garden centers are loaded with summer blooming plants that will drive the summer doldrums out of any landscape and deliver heat loving drama to any garden party.
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 cedar bark. This little trick should cut your water usage in half. A word of caution: If you water more than twice a week these plants will not be happy ... even in the hottest summer sun.
Until next week, I'll see you in the Garden Center.