The best gardens feature sculptural ‘woody’ plants – L’Observateur

Spring flowers are usually easy, with azaleas and other early-flowering shrubs pushing us into our color-hungry eyes. But it takes a real herd to hold out, let alone shine, in the heat and humidity of the scorching Mississippi summers.

As much as we love our cannas, purple coneflowers, lantana, and other summer flowering perennials, the best gardens include several other sculptural “woody” plants, especially those that bloom at this time of year.

There are the most obvious ones, of course, starting with the crepe myrtles of different sizes and colors, roses and abelia, which when I was a child were my go-to flower for catching butterflies and butterflies. strange little hummingbirds or bumblebees with pale wings.

As crepe myrtles gradually succumb to the serious new pest called cochineal, I expect renewed interest in the many more floriferous and less weedy forms of the old-fashioned althaea, a cold-hardy hibiscus often referred to as rose of Sharon because it is native to the plains of Sharon.

Drought tolerant althaeas appear as single and double flowers that are white, pink, lavender, purple, red and even blue, with or without a contrasting throat; some also have variegated leaves. All of them are graveyard resistant – the easiest way to kill one is to use fertilizer and water.

Other southern summer bloom beauties include both large and small gardenias, continuous blooming hydrangeas, Encore azaleas, Little Gem magnolia, vitex (another amazing contender for myrtle substitute crepe), oleander, beautyberry, bottle brush and butterfly bush or Buddleia, which depends on repetition pruning to keep flowers strong.

While I try to leave enticing descriptions of hard-to-find plants to other authors, there are a handful of exotic beauties that, though rarely found in garden centers, are traffic jams grown statewide. . The glory arbor, a type of Clerodendrum that is a tree on the coast and a large shrub in central Mississippi, is by far the most fragrant summer bloom. Brunfelsia is an ancient passalon shrub commonly referred to as “yesterday, today and tomorrow” because its purple flowers fade to lavender, pink, and white.

Along with my sun-loving summer blooming sumac and stunning fall foliage, two other native shrubs are seriously overlooked as summer bloom mainstays for shade and damp gardens. An online search will show the exquisite blossoms of the balmy summer, a small spreading shrub with fragrant spikes of white or pink blossoms, and a bud with its dozens of round thorny flowers that looked like Sputnik satellites but now look like the Covid virus. more familiar. Both are large blooms in midsummer and are usually enveloped in butterflies and hummingbirds.

This is all enhanced if you add a few less hardy shrubs and large perennials that contrast with the regular woody shrubs, such as lantana, Crinum lilies, etc.

And no list of showy summer shrub plants would ignore ornamental grasses and how their plume, feather, or bottlebrush flowers really shine in the summer, especially when backlit by the sun. My favorite ornamental shrub grasses include the great variegated cane, compact pampas grass, sprig stems of fountain grass (Pennisetum) and all the different kinds of feathery “virgin grasses” (Miscanthus) that my rear- grandmother has grown before have become pillars of the landscape.

I bet you have one or more and you can find room for a few or three more. Meanwhile, until you can find them for your garden, add an unwavering pop of summer color with a flag, or maybe even a set of glass bottles where its colors can reflect the sun and the sky. ‘summer.

Then sit back, relax and marvel, as the neighbors pout at how their garish spring flowering shrubs have faded into large, green meatballs that need to be trimmed.

Felder Rushing is a Mississippi writer, columnist, and host of the “Gestalt Gardener” on MPB Think Radio. Send your gardening questions to

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