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Minter: What are the best flowering shrubs for the summer?

Give a lift to your summer garden with these flowering shrubs, master gardener Brian Minter writes.

The following column was submitted to the Tri-City News from Brian Minter — master gardener, best-selling author, Order of Canada recipient and co-owner of Minter Country Garden Store.


Is your garden a little bleak in the colour department right now?

Our late-arriving hot weather certainly hasn’t helped, but most of us haven’t yet discovered "the best of the best" summer-flowering shrubs that take warm summer weather in stride and just keep performing.

On top of the list are the new varieties of butterfly bushes – beautiful buddleias!

The old tall, woody and invasive varieties have given way to a whole new series that not only add long-blooming colour and perfume to your garden but also attract butterflies and honeybees.

Proven Winners has selected many new varieties that are non-invasive and are far more compact.

The newest and cutest is the ‘Pugster’ series — dwarf varieties with thick, sturdy stems, much like the short, stubby build of the dog. Growing approximately 24 to 30 inches tall and wide, they are ideal for patios, and they play well with other small shrubs and with perennials and annuals to boost the colour in any garden.

‘Miss Molly,' a stunning ruby red and ‘Miss Violet,' the purplest purple are a little taller in the four-to-five-foot range. Talk about impact!

Sun- and heat-loving hydrangeas have really come a long way. PeeGee hydrangeas, like ‘Pinky Winky,' ‘Zinfin Doll,' ‘Strawberry Sundae’ and ‘Quick Fire,' are all stunning pink and white combinations that grow six feet plus.

Up there, too. is the amazing ‘Limelight,' a beautiful lime that turns cream then pink. Downsizing has thankfully happened, giving us ‘Little Lime,' ‘Little Quick Fire,' ‘Bobo’ and ‘Little Lime Punch,' all in the three-to-five-foot range.

They make perfect summer companions in containers or as icons in small space gardens.

What shrub starts blooming in July and goes until October? A

lthough we’ve had them forever, hibiscus still need to be planted in more gardens.

Today, they come in a wide range of colours in both single and double blooms that really stand out in the garden. The new, large-flowered, double ‘Chiffon’ series is quite remarkable, and many of the new varieties named after the South Pacific islands, like ‘Fiji’ and ‘Hawaii’ have stunning flower combinations.

‘Purple Pillar’ and ‘White Pillar,' new columnar varieties with nice purple and white flowers, fit beautifully into small space gardens.

Summersweet (Clethra ainifolia rosea) is another August bloomer with tiny, bottlebrush-like, pink flowers that have a lovely perfume. Their fall colour is also magnificent.

Speaking of sweet smelling, sweetspire (Itea virginica) is loaded with long, cascading, white flowers that perfume up any summer garden. A few varieties are quite small (three feet tall and wide) and fit easily into small spaces. They also have wow fall colours.

Calycanthus, with its beautiful, magnolia-like blooms, is one of the most unusual summer-flowering shrubs. Once established, it will rebloom in late summer to early fall with red, slightly perfumed flowers. Growing only five to six feet tall and wide, its shiny foliage is quite remarkable and very unique. Its blossoms will turn heads.

These are some of the best flowering shrubs of summer. So, if you have some downtime in your garden right about now, these plants will really add that lift your garden needs.

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