Rhododendrons and Azaleas
Rhododendrons and Azaleas, both from the genus Rhododendron, have long been mainstays of late spring because of its spectacular clusters of showy blooms and large green leaves that often last through winter.
Delicate foliage and cascading branches of white or pink spring flowers are two traits that earn spirea its rightful place in the mixed border. A beautiful flowering companion for spring bulbs, the bridal wreath spirea is a traditional favorite.
A native of Southeast Asia, crape myrtle is a beauty that's destined for greatness in any garden. Depending on the variety, this deciduous tree can reach 25 feet in height (7.5 meters) with 6 to 12 inch (15-30 cm) clusters of delicately ruffled flowers in shades from white to purple. A favorite in the South, crape myrtle has distinctive gray-brown bark that peels in patches along the branches and trunk, giving it an interesting multi-hued appearance in winter.
Arching stems covered in bell-shape flowers in late spring to early summer make weigela a traditional favorite for mixed shrub borders and backgrounds. But there's a bevy of new varieties that also flaunt flashy foliage in shades of gold, green, white, and rose for a season-long spectacle. Sizes range from vigorous 6-foot shrubs to very compact varieties well suited to mingling with perennials. Weigela likes a fertile, well-drained soil in full sun with adequate water, but it will also tolerate drier soils and partial shade.
Red Twig Dogwood
This is another old favorite. The plant’s striking red stems are not just attractive on their own, they make a great accent when combined with evergreens. The color remains all year but in spring and summer the new leaves will need to be regularly removed to reveal the stems. The brightness of the plants color depends on the amount of sun it receives.
Baptisia is one of those tall plants with beautiful spires, often in a showy blue, that draws everyone to it for an admiring closer look. It's a native prairie plant that bears long, tall spikes of pealike blooms in late spring. As the flowers ripen, they turn into interesting black seedpods often used in fall arrangements.
Verbena is a spreading plant ideal for cascading over retaining walls, pots, baskets, and window boxes. As log as the soil is extremely well drained, verbena will reward gardeners with countless clusters of small blooms all season.
Few shrubs are easier to grow than ninebark. This North American native tolerates an array of weather conditions and is largely left alone by animal pests. Plus, its peeling bark creates winter interest. Newer selections bear foliage in bold shades of purple and gold.
Ninebark is a fast grower and makes an excellent large, informal hedge. It may suffer from powdery mildew, especially during extended periods of wet weather but is otherwise virtually carefree.
Hydrangeas, which come in types that can flourish in sun or shade, offer huge bouquets of clustered flowers, in various arrangements from mophead to lacecap from spring through fall. Varieties of hydrangea differ in size of plant and flower shape, flower color, and blooming time. Oakleaf hydrangeas have the most handsome foliage, which reddens dramatically in fall.
Hydrangeas thrive in a moist, fertile, well-drained soil in partial to full shade. If you're seeking blue hydrangea flowers, check your soil's pH level and apply aluminum sulfate in spring to lower pH to the 5.2-5.5 range. The change in hydrangea flower color results from lower pH and higher aluminum content in the soil.
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