It’s during these long, hot dog days of summer that I’m thankful to still have some shrubs whose flowers are still doing their thing. Most of the flowers from my other shrubs have come and gone, my fescue has definitely seen a better day, and my potted flowers have dried out because I couldn’t bear going outside to water them in the almost 100 degree temps. But my Limelight and Tardiva Hydrangeas are proving to be the proud summer hold-outs.
It’s no secret that I’ve got a thing for white flowers. To me there’s just something so classic…crisp and clean about having a garden that consists almost entirely of varying hues of white and green. Unfortunately, flowers don’t last forever…so when choosing what shrubs to include in my garden I consider when they bloom so that something is always looking its best in my garden from early spring into the fall.
And fortunately for me and others who have a thang for green & white, there are some really beautiful evergreen and perennial shrubs with white flowers to choose from. Here are some of my faves…that I would consider must-have’s for extending the life of your garden.
I know that spring has sprung and the dark days of winter are behind us when my Reeves’ Spirea begin to burst forth in all their glory.
Also known as Double Bridal Wreath or Double Reeves’ Spirea, this deciduous beauty cascades long bows of profuse white flowers. Which is great for me, because I planted mine to cover up the not-so-beautiful guy wires coming off a telephone pole.
And if you want to take a closer look, you won’t be disappointed. The clusters of dainty white flowers with creamy-yellow centers completely cover their lanky branches…which also make for a dramatic addition to a flower arrangement when you take them inside.
Chinese Snowball Viburnum
At about the same time of year, on the other side of my yard the Chinese Snowball Viburnum explode with huge spherical blooms…also traveling down impressive long bows.
And if you chose to have one grace your yard, make sure you give them room to grow…as they can grow 20 feet tall and about as wide.
Their poofy 6-8” flowers are often confused with Annabelle Hydrangeas…but if you study them closely you’ll see that their growing habit is quite different. While the bows of a Reeves’ Spirea serve as a nice accent to a flower arrangement, Snowball Viburnum can take center-stage…for obvious reasons.
Mrs. G.G. Gerbing Azaleas
I recommend to my clients that they choose an evergreen shrub to serve as the backbone of their outdoor spaces…serving as a backdrop for the other flowers and shrubs and to tie everything together. Loving white flowers and being from the South, there really isn’t another option that consider as impressive as the Mrs. G.G. Gerbing Azalea.
G.G.s are a Southern Indian hybrid variety of azalea…the larger of the azalea varieties. If they love where you plant them and you don’t prune them to maintain their size, they can grow as big as 8-10’ tall and about as wide.
I typically keep mine pruned to about 4-5’ tall, and although I could choose a smaller variety with white flowers (e.g., Kurume hybrids) to minimize the amount of maintenance I have to do, I don’t. I’m just not a big fan of the smaller, popcorn-like flowers…preferring the larger, more graceful flower that Mrs. Gerbing shares with the world. And even though her flowers don’t last that long, I’m more than fine with the 2-4 weeks of heavenly splendor she creates throughout our outdoor spaces.
Just as my G.G.s start to peter out they hand off their white baton to my Annabelle Hydrangeas (H. Arborescens). In their prime, Annabelles have an incredible display of 8-10” flowers…which not only make great cuttings to bring inside, they are also impressive when used in dried flower arrangements. (And by the way, now’s a good time to be thinking about drying your hydrangeas. Check out this post to see how. It’s really easy to do.)
Again, because their flowers look like large snowballs, they are often confused with Snowball Viburnum. But if you spend the time to get to know them better you’ll see that they are quite distinctive.
In addition to blooming at different times of the year, Annabelle’s flowers are “airier” than a Snowball Viburnum’s…and they grow on “new wood” vs. “old wood”…so pay attention to when you prune them – Snowball Viburnum, right after they bloom…and Annabelles in late winter or early spring, just before they wake from their long winter slumber. Annabelle Hydrangeas also only grow to about 5-6’tall…about ¼ the height of Snowball Viburnum. So where and how you use them in your yard will differ greatly.
Now…back to today…I’m so thankful to have my late-blooming hydrangeas – my Limelights and Tardivas…showing their stuff from late summer and into the fall. My Limelights (H. Paniculata), in particular are my favorites. Their blooms are not only beautiful, they are sturdier…and I find their fuller, conical shape quite dramatic and really interesting to look at. They are also Britt’s favorite to bring inside.
Although they can grow as tall as 15’ in height, they can take a severe whacking to keep their size in check and make their structure stronger to hold up their momma flowers. And like their cousin Annabelle, you should prune these lovelies in late winter or early fall…as they bloom on new wood. Also, given their sturdier woody structure, they can be trained into a tree-like form…which could be a very interesting element in your outdoor space.
Now, if you love the look of Limelights, but you don’t have the space for them…have no fear – there is a smaller variety, aptly named Little Limes. I’ve got just a few of those too…you can never have too much white & green as far as I’m concerned..
So that’s how I keep things looking alive and well throughout the growing season in my yard…in the many shades of white & green. What are your favorites? I’d love to introduce some new shrubs to my garden this year…so pass on the good word.
Take care & happy gardening friends,