Endless Summer

TORONTO, ON - SEPTEMBER, 20 Mark and Ben (his son) Cullen are seen in the Star studio for logo photos. The two will be co-writing the weekly Urban Growth column in Homes & Condos. September, 20 2017
Flower like this hydrangea can provide color to your garden

Gardeners love colour. Especially Canadian gardeners who, lets face it, are starved for visual excitement after our long white winter. So, when we go shopping for flowering shrubs to provide some permanence to our landscape, the most asked questions are, “when does it flower and for how long?”
The answer is usually a bit disappointing. Lilacs, magnolia, honeysuckle, fragrant mock orange, flowering cherry, bloom for 7 to 10 days max: the list is long.
However, every so often we run across a flowering shrub that provides colour season long, or almost.
With apologies to the well-marketed line of hydrangea by the same name, we call this unique collection of flowering shrubs “endless summer”. Here it is:
Potentilla. You like yellow buttercups? How about a short, flowering shrub that features small buttercup-shaped flowers from June through September? It thrives in the sun, is very winter hardy (zone 3, Regina) and performs best in dry, hot locations. Potentilla also happens to be a native plant and is therefore hard to beat. Available in white, pink, and orange blossoms also. Prune in late fall for best performance.
Weigela (Weigela florida). Often people come into the garden centre and ask for Wiggle-ya. No matter, experienced help know what you are talking about. Weigelas produce clusters of trumpet shaped flowers that hummingbirds love, from June to the end of August. Most varieties mature to 1.5 metres. Bloom colour varies from bright red, pink, to white.
Butterfly bush (Buddleia). Well named as these are butterfly magnets. The fragrant panicles of purple, blue or rose-red bloom are stunning from late July through the fall. In milder climates, buddleia is considered invasive. If you live in zone 6 or 7, we recommend a hybrid variety that will not spread by seed. Proven Winners have introduced a whole family of great garden performers. Prune hard in the spring for best results. Matures to 60 cm in the sun.
Hydrangea Endless Summer (Hydrangea macrophylla). The secret to the long blossoming period for this hybrid family of hydrangeas is that they bloom on both old and new wood. Some are pink and others blue, depending mostly on the pH of your soil. The more alkaline the soil the greater the tendency for a pink flower, blue if the soil is acidic. Mature to 1.5 metres, prefers partial to full sun.
Rose of Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus). Blooms from mid summer, about now, through fall. Amazing double or single brilliantly coloured blossoms that look remarkably like hibiscus (because they are). With spring flowering shrubs dominating the landscape, it is refreshing to find one this colourful that just does not quit once it gets started. Tolerant of summer heat. Loves the sun. Most varieties mature to 3 metres or more.
Smokebush (Cotinus coggygria) When someone asks us why their smokebush stopped smoking we are never too sure if they are kidding. So, we recommend the reverse-patch (to start smoking again – our joke). Choose between the purple, less hardy type (zone 5) or the green-leaved varieties (hardy to zone 4). When in bloom, smokebush puts on a show less like fireworks and more like the smoke that drifts up to the sky after the fireworks. Attractive blossoms from early summer through fall. Drought tolerant. Can grow to 3 metres.
Spirea. But not just any spirea. Spirea bumalda. ‘Gold mound’, ‘Goldflame’, and ‘Froebels’ are all good choices for a long flowering period starting in early summer. Not to be confused with Bridal Wreath Spirea (Spiraea vanhouttei) which blooms for a little more than a week in late May. Same family but a much better garden performer, the bumalda’s make great hedges, mass plantings and individual specimens, as you choose. Colour range from pink, red, magenta, to purple. Vary in height by variety from 50 cm to 1 metre.
If you thought that all flowering shrubs are just like lilacs and only bloom for a week or so, give this family of reliable plants another look.
Mark Cullen is an expert gardener, author, broadcaster, tree advocate and Member of the Order of Canada. His son Ben is a fourth-generation urban gardener and graduate of University of Guelph and Dalhousie University in Halifax. Follow them at markcullen.com, @markcullengardening, and on Facebook.