Between the excited rush of spring blooms and the welcome transition into fall color, the structural elements of many landscapes – the shrubs and trees – endure a long summer of boring bushy green. Including a few strong summer blooming trees or shrubs in strategic places can help your landscape stay exciting and bright. Here are a few of our favorites:
Summer Flowering Trees/Large Shrubs
Evergreen Magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora) produces very large and very fragrant white flowers from mid to late summer. Large, glossy, dark green leaves are held all year round. Varieties include very large trees (Brackens Brown Beauty can reach 50 feet or more), medium trees (Victoria grows to about 30 ft tall), and bushy small trees (Baby Grand is the smallest one we’ve seen, maturing to only 10 ft tall)
Seven Sons (Heptacodium miconioides) can be grown as a single-trunked tree but is often a large shrub instead, either form reaching 12-15 feet tall. Many clusters of small white flowers are lightly fragrant (and enjoyed by bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds alike) in August and September. After the flowers, bright rosy hips continue the attraction even past leaf fall in the October. In the winter the bark peels in strips, providing some off-season interest as well.
Crepe Myrtle (Lagerstroemia spp.) offer many varieties of color and size – from tree stature 15-20 foot size, to moderate and bushy 8-12 foot forms, to even a few dwarf 4-6 foot types. Flowers are dense clusters of bold bright red, pink, or purple in August and September. Many varieties also sport great red-orange fall leaf color and attractive peeling bark in winter.
Late Flowering Medium and Small Shrubs
Chaste Tree (Vitex agnus-castus) is a pollinator magnet. Lilac-like spikes of flowers completely cover this shrub from August through September. The original species is of tree-like stature (20 feet tall and wide), but more recent introductions re-bloom better and bring Chaste Tree into more manageable scale, while also providing new features: Pink Pinnacle is about 6 feet tall and 8 feet wide with clear pink plowers, while Flip Side is an 8 footer with traditional blue flowers and has leaves with deep purple backs that peek out as the breeze shifts them about.
Hydrangeas (Hydrangea spp.) are old classics that have enjoyed a renaissance as many new and improved varieties have been developed over the last few years. The classic rounded cluster in pink, white, or blue is the image most people have of hydrangeas, the Hydrangea macrophylla and Hydrangea serrata species and the hybrids between them; and it is accurate but not comprehensive. Within these traditional types, look specifically for re-blooming types such as the Endless Summer series, and plant with protection from hot afternoon sun; but Hydrangeas have more to offer still. Hydrangea paniculata loves full intense sun; it’s flowers are large conic clusters like a lilac – all emerge white, but the various types age to differing colors such as red, pink, or green! All hydrangeas bloom for a long period of time; the best forms start as the summer heat begins and continue into the fall.
Rose (Rosa spp.) are among the longest blooming of shrubs. Many species roses bloom once and then are done, but most of the modern hybrids (Hybrid Tea and Floribunda types, also the modern landscape roses such as the Knock Out series or the Flower Carpet group) can bloom in repeat flushes (particularly if appropriately pruned). They have a reputation that is at least somewhat undeserved as demanding plants – your local nursery professional can help you find varieties that perform well in your region and site with a minimum of fuss.
Shrubby Cinquefoil (Potentilla fruticosa) is a drought and pest tolerant smaller shrub (3-4 feet) with bright flowers in mid and late summer – usually yellow, but white, pink, and tangerine colored varieties are available. A hard to beat shrub for a zero-maintenance landscape, and grows as well at the coast as it does at 8000 feet in the mountains. The species is native to Oregon!
Hebe (Hebe spp.) are small evergreen shrubs for full sun. A few bloom early in summer, but most are late summer to fall bloomers. Small spikes of blue, pink, white, or purple flowers are profuse and attractive. Most varieties are at some risk of cold damage during the most severe winters, but worth the risk – and they do great without the freeze danger at the coast. Most are under 4 feet.
Summersweet (Clethra alnifolia) deserves more attention. Long slender spikes of fragrant flowers – usually white, but some varieties are deep pink – are visited by bees, hummingbirds, and many butterflies in August and September. Decent yellow fall color. Taller varieties such as Ruby Spice might reach 6 feet, shorter types such as Hummingbird are around 3-4 feet. Needs some summer irrigation – but the trade-off is that it will tolerate soils that are quite wet – or even occasionally flooded – in the winter.
Butterfly Bush (Buddleia spp.) are some of the showiest and most abundant flowers of the summer. They can be quite invasive – plant only proven sterile varieties (required by law in Oregon) such as Asian Moon, Purple Haze, or Miss Ruby. Bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds also enjoy these prolific plants from July through frost (dead-head and prune for best repeat bloom). Larger varieties of the sterile sort aren’t quite as big as their older cousins – Asian Moon might reach 6-7 feet – and many smaller varieties have recently been introduced – Purple Haze is 2-3 feet. Colors are ranges of pink to magenta to purple, and all are quite fragrant. Another semi-evergreen plant – holds leaves late and starts early, but doesn’t keep enough leaves to really be evergreen.