Colour for the August Garden

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Now that my summer holiday is under way, I’m getting a chance to start my side garden renovation. Are you just getting the chance to build a new garden bed or do some renovations too?  There are lots of shrubs to consider that will give you colour and interest for the second half of summer.

The first plant group that comes to mind are hydrangeas. Usually by now Annabelle Hydrangea is putting on a glorious show around town with large globe-shaped white flowers. This season mine is still only in bud. I’m sure it will be in bloom in a week or two.

There have been several new hybrids introduced in the Annabelle family of hydrangeas. Their flower colours ranges from light pink to a darker ruby shade. I think I might try one of these in place of a struggling Diablo ninebark I’m pulling out of my side garden.

A larger group of very hardy hydrangea are the Pee Gee types. They have cone shaped flowers that start off white and gradual change to pink as the season progresses, putting on a show from midsummer right through to fall. There have been many new introductions that are excellent plants for northern gardens: Limelight, Little Lime, Little Lamb, Pinky Winky, Fire Light, Bobo, Little Quickfire, and Vanilla Strawberry are a few.

Take time to evaluate your space before heading out to the garden centre to make a selection. They vary in height and width, so it is important to choose one with a flower type you like but also of a size to suit your area.

I have both Limelight and Vanilla Strawberry in my front garden. I love the way Limelight flowers start off lime green, brighten to pure white and then change to pink. Vanilla Strawberry starts out white and quickly develops a rich pink colour. Both of these hybrids have full, large flower cluster. That style happens to be my preference. Several of the Pee Gee types have larger but more open flower clusters. Pinky Winky, Bobo and Quick Fire fall into that category.

You can also buy many of the Pee Gee Hydrangea hybrids in a standard form. This is a shrub trained onto a 4 or 5 foot tall straight trunk. A standard tree makes a great focal point in the garden. I have one in the garden beside our parking area. It is the perfect height to anchor that bed.

Purple Smokebush has deep purple leaves and a plume of feathery flowers in mid to late summer. There are a couple of new introductions that are a bit more compact than the original Royal Purple.

Purpleleaf sandcherry, several barberries and ninebarks also have purple to bronze foliage that offers nice contrast to a shrub bed. Be sure to choose the variety that suits your light conditions and is the right size for your garden.

Since Dwarf Burningbush has leaves with a fiery red fall colour, it is one of the staples for the shrub border. You get the best show when it is planted in an open, sunny area. Shrubs planted in part shade or sheltered by buildings from fall frost, will often stay green. This is such a disappointment!  A warm, wet fall will also delay fall colour.

Barberry shrub, fall colour.

Staghorn and Tiger Eye Sumac have interesting cut leaves and bright red fall seed heads. Just be aware that sumac will sucker and spread throughout the garden, forming a large patch. They aren’t suitable as a single accent plant in a tidy shrub border.

Barberry,  Amur Maple and Chokeberry are more shrubs that have beautiful fall foliage colour. Amur maple is the tallest of these three and is a great choice for a privacy screen.

Assess your space and see where one or more of these shrubs may be perfect for your garden.

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About Me

I began my journey in horticulture in 1982 after graduating from the Humber College Landscape Technician program. At that time, I lead a talented crew of landscapers, taught evening courses in horticulture and had my own landscape design and consulting business. Then I ventured into the garden centre world. I’m lucky enough to be leading the friendly and knowledgeable team at New North Greenhouses. 

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