Classy late summer flowering shrubs

By Andrew Collyer - Practical Gardening

Published 25/08/2015 | 00:00

Magnolia grandiflora
Magnolia grandiflora

check garden for plants needing water.

Gaura ' Whirling Butterflies'

Late summer is a time of full to bursting herbaceous borders. The hot riotous colours of red hot pokers[ Kniphofia], monbretias [Crocosmia], coneflower [Rudbeckia] and sneezeweed [Helenium] sizzling in borders make looking past their fiery glow almost impossible. But I would argue that this is also a time for some of the finest classy shrubs to come into their own.

There are some obvious common late flowering shrubs shouting for attention over their show off herbaceous counterparts. Hydrangeas, Hypericums, Lavateras and Fuchsias are all fantastic plants worthy of space in any garden. But take a walk around a garden centre or public garden and you will find shrubs of equal beauty that go about their business with a little more decorum.

That said my first plant recommendation has flowers the size of dinner plates, but Magnolia grandiflora [Bull bay or Southern Magnolia] is far from garish. It has leaves very much like a laurel and like it, it is evergreen but has a very attractive rust coloured under leaf. Its huge creamy white flowers are deliciously fragrant and although not produced in abundance their sheer size makes up for that. It has traditionally been grown as a wall shrub and on some old country houses it can be seen as a thirty or forty foot specimen.

In recent years it has become much more widly grown as a feature tree. It tends not to flower as a young plant but the cultivar M. 'Exmouth' is an exception. Magnolia grandiflora 'Little Gem' is more compact than the type and also flowers early with slightly smaller leaves and flowers. Coming from the southern United States plant it in a sunny sheltered spot.

A less bullish shrub clothed in flowers right now is Hoheria sexstylosa. It is again evergreen but with a dainty small leaf with equally dainty star shaped white fragrant flowers. This plant is from New Zealand and like a lot of plants from there it is well suited to Irish growing conditions. A much quicker grower than the Magnolia and it is a useful flowering screening plant up to 25 feet.

Going daintier still is the impossibly named Deutzia setchuenensis corymbiflora. Deutzia tend to be late spring flowerers but this gem is in bloom from July right into September. It has innumerable tiny white flowers that makes it resemble a large Gypsophila [Baby's Breath] from a distance. Very easy to grow given a little sun and decent soil.

Abelia x grandiflora is a great shrub asking for very little and giving so much back in return. It has tiny trumpet shaped pink flowers from August to October and in Ireland remains virtually evergreen. It makes a large arching shrub of 2.5 metres but Abelia 'Edward Goucher' is a more compact hybrid that has all the attributes of A. grandiflora at 1.5 metres high.

Romneya coulteri [Californian Tree poppy] a very desirable glaucous leafed sub shrub that has 15cms white poppy like flowers with a large bright yellow centre. It can be tricky to establish but once it has done so it will grow with abandon. It is best pruned hard in the spring to keep compact and improve flowering.

Ceratostigma willmottianum [ Chinese plumbago] forms thickets of red bristled stems to about a metre high. These produce the brightest of blue flowers right through the autumn. The foliage takes on a red tint on falling. Full sun to get the best flowering from this Asian beauty.

Wexford People

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