June Blooms in my Georgia Garden: Hibiscus moscheutos

Annabelle Hydrangea isn't the only Southern native shrub with voluptuous blooms. Just take a look at this native Hibiscus! Hibiscus moscheutos displays blooms up to 12 inches across. The blooms on her remind me of the huge dresses worn by Southern Belles on the movie Gone with the Wind.

Hibiscus moscheutos Lord Baltimore

Also known as Swamp Mallow, Dinner Plate Hibiscus (Due to the huge diameter of the flower), and Rose Mallow, Hibiscus moscheutos is native to marshes in the Southeastern United States. 

Many new varieties of this hibiscus have been developed, resulting in a wide range of bloom colors and interesting foliage.

The huge blooms up to 12 inches across begin opening in late June or early July in our Georgia garden and keep coming until cool weather arrives in the Fall. Although each bloom lasts just one day, a large plant can sport several blooms at one time. Flowers come in many different shades of pink, red, or white. They might be a solid color or have a red eye or some type of variegation in the bloom.

Like Hibiscus coccineus, this plant will grow very fast if it is happy in the spot where it grows. Give it plenty of room, because by mid-summer, it can be 5 feet tall and just as wide. Rose Mallow, like other perennial hibiscus, will die to the ground in Winter and regrow from the base in late Spring.

This fabulous Hibiscus is as easy to grow as Hibiscus coccineus, as long as you have a spot in full sun and can reach it with a hose.  In my garden, this hibiscus has proved to be quite drought tolerant, as long as I give it a drink of water when I notice the leaves drooping from thirst.

Hibiscus moscheutos has a larger hardiness range than coccineus, so it can be grown in gardens further north. According to the USDA Hardiness Zone Map, Hibiscus moscheutos can be grown in zones 5-10.

June Blooms in my Georgia Garden: Hibiscus coccineus, Swamp Mallow

It's hard for me to believe people continue to spend money on those tropical hibiscus plants every year, when they could buy the hardy hibiscus instead and enjoy the same plants year after year. Hardy Hibiscus is native to the Southeastern United States and is a perennial plant that tolerates whatever weather nature dishes out. 

One such hardy hibiscus is Hibiscus coccineus, known by many common names. Folks from Texas like to call it Texas Star Hibiscus. Like most things from Texas, Texas Star can become a huge plant quickly, if it likes its planting spot. (Actually, the USDA Plant Database doesn't show this Hibiscus naturally occurring in Texas. Any of you Texans out there know different?  We welcome your comments!) Also known as Swamp Hibiscus, this hibiscus loves most or wet soil. Swamp Mallow or just Mallow is another common name for this wonderful native plant. The common name Scarlet Hibiscus speaks for itself, since the blooms definitely are scarlet in color.

Hibiscus coccineus grows beautifully beside a creek bank or pond edge, but it will grow just as well in regular garden soil. 

New foliage begins as a bronzy reddish green which I find very attractive. Leaves are shaped somewhat like a maple leaf, but some visitors who seem to be familiar with marijuana tell me this hibiscus looks like a marijuana plant. I have never seen marijuana, so I can only take their word for it. 

The blooms which can best be described by a photograph are bright red and quite large. This is another plant in our garden that attracts pollinators by the droves. I have measured the bright flowers up to 6 inches across. And whether Texas can truly claim Texas Star Hibiscus or not, the blooms are indeed star-shaped. And once it starts blooming in June, it will continue to do so until cool weather arrives in the Fall.

Hibiscus coccineus will reach a height of 10 feet or more where water is plentiful, so remember that when you plant it. 

Mix in a large amount of compost or composted manure when you plant any hibiscus, because they all enjoy rich soil. Although native hibiscus can tolerate seasonal drought, you'll get the most lush foliage and many more flowers if you can water your plants regularly. We don't have the luxury of a creek or pond on our property, but my largest specimen gets watered by the sprinkler at the greenhouse almost daily. That's probably why it's about 3 feet taller than most plant encyclopedias describe.

Hibiscus enjoys full sun and will not bloom without it. Really, no shade at all is best.

Unfortunately, Hibiscus coccineus won't thrive in the Northern states, and is winter hardy only in USDA Zones 7 and warmer. (If you are in USDA Zones 5-8, check out Hibiscus moscheutos.)

June Blooms in my Georgia Garden: Hypericum Tricolor

Another Hypericum in our garden is Variegated St. John's Wort, Hypericum tricolor. This hypericum, is beautiful even when not in flower, but the sunny yellow blooms make it even more special.

Blooms on Variegated St. John's Wort are just as bright and sunny yellow as those on any Hypericum. Pollinators just love them. I believe yellow is the favorite color of bumblebees.

But it bears repeating that Tricolor Hypericum is beautiful in the garden even when not in flower. Leaves sport a lovely variegation of green, pink, and cream throughout the season.

Hypericum moserianum 'Tricolor' is a deciduous small shrubby perennial plant. This compact low-growing St. John's Wort stays about 12 inches high and wide and has a weeping habit, making it ideal for the front of the border or even in a container.

Dark orangey-pink buds open into bright yellow flowers that attract pollinators.

Hypericums tolerate lean soil as long as it is well-drained. Regular water is best, but St. John's Wort tolerates drought, once it is established in the garden.

Hypericum tricolor foliage will stay lush and beautiful in partial shade. Here in the South, the hot summer sun burns the foliage. My plants receive morning sun and afternoon shade.

This variegated hypericum looks lovely beneath burgundy foliage of Japanese Maple or Loropetalum.

Like most Hypericums, Tricolor can be grown in much of the United States, since it is hardy in USDA Zones 6-10.

June Blooms in my Georgia Garden: Sourwood Tree

One of my favorite native trees is the Sourwood. This tree is lovely in all seasons.

In Spring, new growth is reddish green and very attractive.

Sourwood is sometimes called Lily of the Valley Tree, because in early Summer it is adorned with blooms that resemble Lily of the Valley. These fragrant flower clusters attract pollinators of all kinds.

In late Summer, the bloom spikes develop into decorative seed clusters that remain on the tree usually throughout the winter. In fact, our tree still holds the seed clusters from last year right amidst the flowers.

Fall color is spectacular. Leaves begin to change early, often in August, and by the time cold weather arrives, Sourwood Trees red, burgundy, and purple leaves seem to glow in the sunlight.

Sourwood Tree, Oxydendrum arboretum, is native to the United States. As the common name suggests, leaves have a sour taste.

Wildlife value: honeybees and other pollinators love it. The flowers are an important source of nectar for all pollinators. You've probably seen or even tasted Sourwood Honey.

Sourwood is easy to grow in full sun or part shade whether soil is good or poor. Sourwood even tolerates drought once it is established. If I had to choose the perfect spot for Sourwood, it would be at the edge of a woodland where it receives morning sun and afternoon shade.

June Blooms in my Georgia Garden: Bottlebrush Buckeye

When it comes to native shrubs, I have many favorites, and Bottlebrush Buckeye is definitely one of them. Just look at these huge inflorescences--one at the tip of each and every stem! This native plant is one of the most beautiful flowering shrubs in the whole United States.

The botanical name Aesculus parviflora given to this buckeye by the famous botanist William Bartram seems to contradict what I see in my garden. The word parviflora means "small-flowered," and I'd consider these blooms to be anything but small. Oh well, this world is full of contradictions. 

Mr. Bartram discovered Bottlebrush Buckeyes in the 1700's during his travels through the Carolinas, Georgia, and Florida. Although for some reason, this shrub is still not widely planted in American gardens, like so many of our native plants, it is appreciated by British gardeners. It was introduced to British nurseries in the 1800's and has been propagated and sold in Europe ever since. Aesculus parviflora is so loved in England that it received the Royal Horticultural Society's Award of Garden MeritDon't you think that award is very well deserved?

But as you know, beauty is not everything. Beauty is as beauty does, so they say. And Bottlebrush Buckeye does beautiful things in my garden! All it needs to look like this is full sun and plenty of water. 

Huge white bloom spikes appear in June and July and are very fragrant. The large blooms shaped like a bottlebrush can be up to a foot long. (I told you Mr. Bartram named it wrong!)  Bottlebrush Buckeye attracts all kinds of pollinators, and when in bloom, bees and butterflies are all over the flowers.

Even if this shrub did not bloom, it would be beautiful in the landscape. Palmately compound leaves are large and give the bush a tropical appearance. They begin as large bronzy green leaf buds in Spring and open into bright green leaves that are fuzzy underneath. They kind of droop, which I like. The leaves turn a nice shade of yellow in Fall before dropping. 

The pollinated blooms will develop a large rough seed pod that will burst to reveal a hard shiny brown nut. This buckeye not is is not edible for humans, but squirrels and deer love it. The seeds are very viable, and if not eaten by wildlife, they germinate at about a 100% success rate.

Bottlebrush Buckeye is a spreading shrub that needs space to show off its beautiful form. At maturity, it will be up to 12 feet tall and just as wide.

Aesculus parviflora can be grown just about everywhere. Although it is native only in the Southeastern United States, it can be grown as far north as Maine. This buckeye is hardy in USDA Zones 4-8.

Although it usually is found growing as an understory plant beneath large trees and near water, you can grow it quite successfully in any garden. It will grow very well in the shade, but it won't bloom very much. Plant it in full sun where you can reach it with a hose, and you'll be rewarded year after year with show-stopping blooms that deserve to be photographed.

You probably won't see Bottlebrush Buckeye in nurseries here except those who specialize in native plants, but this is one shrub that is worth seeking out. 

June Blooms in my Georgia Garden: Hypericum, St. Johns Wort

Some of the most unusual blooms in my garden are found on the Golden St. Johns Wort, Hypericum frondosum. Clusters of bright yellow blooms cover the shrub in June. The blooms are difficult to describe, but I'll try. The flower looks like a yellow fluffy ball of stamens backed by flat yellow petals that curve backward a little bit. Just take a look at the photo. When in bloom, nearly every flower has a bee on it, just about all the time.

A small shrub, Hypericum frondosum, has blue-green leaves that are long and narrow. It is deciduous in our climate. Hypericum makes an excellent speciment plant but is eye-catching when massed in a large garden. 

The variety we grow is 'Sunburst', and it is slightly variegated with a creamy yellow edge to most of the leaves. Excellent color in the Fall when leaves turn a reddish orange. Sunburst grows to about 5 feet tall with a mounding habit. It is a great choice for Georgia and other Southeastern states. 

Blooming a little later is the Bushy St. John's Wort, Hypericum densiflorum. The word densiflorum indicates dense flowers. Hypericum densiflorum is native to the coastal areas of the Eastern United States.

Elongated leaves are bright yellow-green.

Blooms are slightly smaller than those on frondosum, but the bright sunny yellow flowers absolutely cover the shrub and are loved by pollinators of all kinds. If you look closely at the photo, you can see blooms in all stages of development, showing that Shrubby St. John's Wort blooms for a very long time.
This hypericum is even more versatile than frondosum and can be grown in moist areas along stream banks as well as on dry hillsides. 

Hypericum densiflorum is threatened in some states and endangered in others, so do not dig it from the wild. Although Shrubby St. John's Wort is bushy and compact, it is not a dwarf and will reach up to 6 feet tall at maturity. 
St. John's Wort is easy to grow. All Hypericums can be grown in full sun or shade. Most of mine are in deep shade and they still bloom prolificly. This is a shrub that actually thrives in poor, sandy, acid soil--as long as drainage is good.

Of course, regular water is best, but Hypericum is very drought tolerant once established.Hypericum blooms on new wood, so it can be cut to the ground in late winter and it will still bloom in summer. Growth rate is moderately fast. If pruning becomes necessary, wear gloves, since hypericum has a sap that can irritate sensitive skin and may cause an allergic reaction.

If you'd like to grow them massed or as a hedge, space them 3 or 4 feet apart.Drought tolerant, so great for xeriscaping and a good choice for a roadside planting.

The blooms attract butterflies and other pollinators to the garden.

St. John's Wort can be grown in virtually any American garden, since it is hardy in USDA Zones 5-9. 

June Blooms in my Georgia Garden: Althea, Rose of Sharon

I can't believe some of my Altheas are already blooming. Althea, also known as Rose of Sharon, usually blooms here in mid-Summer. I love this plant, but I am always thankful for the blooms that usually come in July and August. I'm not sure what to think or how to feel about this. Although I am always grateful for blooms, I can't help but I wonder what I will have blooming in July and August. For that, I guess, I'll just have to wait and see.

Althea is an old-fashioned shrub that grew in gardens of our grandmothers, but it is seldom sold in modern day garden centers. This deciduous plant will grow 8 feet tall or more and blooms reliably even in full shade. 

Blooms can be large or small and come in shades of pink, red, lavender, white, and even blue (still looks lavender to me.) Flowers can be single or double, and they can be quite large.

Rose of Sharon is very easy to grow. Although its botanical name is Hybiscus syriacus, and it truly is in the Hibiscus family, Althea will grow and bloom quite well in dry conditions. I have some in the woods that never receive any supplemental water, and they have grown to be quite large. These water-starved shrubs bloom just as well as the ones I water regularly.

Althea is a popular shrub in old gardens of the South, but it can be grown all over the United States. This old-fashioned favorite is hardy in USDA Zones 5-9. It tolerates air pollution, heat, humidity, and salt air. And if you don't have much shade, you should know that Hibiscus syriacus, like any hibiscus, will grow in full sun too. Here in my garden, the most beautiful altheas are growing in a spot where they receive morning sun and afternoon shade.

Since it blooms on current season's growth, you'll have more flowers if you prune it back hard in late winter or early Spring. Pruning them probably would have kept mine from blooming so early this year, since they started blooming in Spring! I made a note to remind me next year.

Although Althea loses its leaves in Winter, it still makes an excellent privacy screen, since it leafs out very early in the Spring. Foliage is dense on this tall shrub. I love it at the property line, where it helps to screen out the neighbors, but it makes an excellent foundation shrub too, as long as it is not planted in front of a window.  With so many bloom colors and types available, one could plant a very long privacy screen using different bloom colors.

Many new cultivars have been developed which claim to not set seed, but I must be honest and say that most of mine are reseeding anyway. Apparently they did not read the grower's tag! Perhaps due to our long summers after the bloom, they do have time to set seed here. To prevent unwanted seedlings, prune just after flowering instead of waiting until winter.

My red-blooming Althea, Amplissimus, has blooms that are a deep pinkish red and very fluffy like flowers of a hollyhock.

Blooms on Aphrodite resemble a hibiscus flower. Large single blooms are deep pink with a red eye.

Althea Blushing Bride is probably the fanciest one I have. Fluffy bicolored blooms are a soft pink with a dark burgundy center.

Diana has pure white blooms that are very large, but is not blooming this year and probably won't . Someone ran into her with the lawn tractor and tried to prop it up as if I would not know. Last year, I measured blooms that were 5 inches across!

Minerva will bloom a little later, since it is planted in deep shade. 

If you are looking for an easy to grow, low-maintenance shrub that blooms in Summer, you won't be disappointed with Althea.

June Blooms in my Georgia Garden: Hydrangea arborescens

Voluptuous is the word that comes to mind every time I look at my Annabelle Hydrangeas. Huge bloom clusters can be 10 - 12 inches across and are so heavy that they weigh down the branches. The flower clusters are a pure white, and they hold up well in a vase where they can be enjoyed indoors. Annabelle is a selection of Hydrangea arborescens, native to the Eastern United States.

This smooth hydrangea, Hydrangea arborescens, is much easier to grow here in the South than the common mophead Hydrangea from Asia. Smooth Hydrangea is considerably drought tolerant. It loves the shade and grows quite happily in the dry shade of my woodland garden. Annabelle is also very cold-tolerant. Even if you live where it is too cold to grow macrophylla hydrangea, you can grow Annabelle. Hydrangea arborescens 'Annabelle' is hardy in USDA Zones 3-10.

Unlike the common mophead hydrangea, Annabelle will bloom every year, even if pruned in Winter or if we have a late frost. You see, Annabelle blooms on new growth, whereas macrophyllas bloom on last season's growth.  Also, since Annabelle Hydrangea blooms on new growth, unlike most other hydrangeas, this one will rebloom again in late summer if spent blooms are removed.

I enjoy cutting Annabelle blooms to take inside. The large flower clusters hold up well in a vase.

June Blooms in my Georgia Garden: Button Bush

Weird-looking but spectacular are the blooms on Cephalanthus occidentalis, usually referred to as the Buttonbush. The blooms are perfectly round balls or spheres!

Buttonbush is native to the Eastern United States and as far west as Texas. Although you might have never seen one, when found growing naturally, it is usually on the bank of a pond or stream. Close friends of mine have a pond in West Point, Georgia, that is almost completely surrounded with large Buttonbush plants. Such a beautiful sight it is, when in bloom with all the pollinators buzzing around it.

This native shrub absolutely loves water and likes having wet feet all the time, but it can be grown in ordinary garden soil too. Buttonbush is very easy to grow and tolerates almost any soil. Heavy clay is not a problem at all.

The flowers are fragrant, and like many blooms favored by pollinators, smell like honey.

Leaves are dark green and shiny. I have not noticed any pest or disease problems with the buttonbush. This shrub leafs out late, sometimes not until May here in Georgia. The leafs turn a soft yellow in fall before dropping.

Cephalanthus occidentalis will reach heights up to 7 feet or more, and will do so quickly in wet soil.

Plant Buttonbush in full sun or partial shade on a pond or stream bank if you are lucky enough to have one on your property. If not, plant it where you can reach it with a hose on a regular basis. Mine are planted by the greenhouse where I can water it whenever I think it needs it.

Buttonbush will grow in any soil. Regular garden soil is fine. Whatever you have--Heavy to average soil. Clay soil is fine. But amend it with some composted manure or compost to add fertility. 

Cephalanthus occidentalis loves water. Keep soil moist to wet. This shrub even tolerates standing water. Don’t allow to dry out. 

Bumblebees love Blooms on the Buttonbush
The Buttonbush can be grown almost anywhere in the United States, since it is hardy in USDA Zones 4 – 10.

If you want a whole row of them or plan to plant in mass, space them about 5 feet apart.

Buttonbush benefits from being cut back severely every few years to rejuvenate the plant.

Plant a buttonbush in your garden and the bumblebees and butterflies will certainly thank you! I have seen 2 or 3 bumblebees on one flower all at the same time.

June Blooms in my Georgia Garden: Climbing Hydrangea

Every time I walk behind the greenhouse this time of year, I notice the distinct fragrance of honey. I wish you could smell it. This honey scent comes from the blooms of the large Decumaria barbara plant completely covering the pine tree it climbs. This fragrant Wild Hydrangea Vine can grow up to 30 feet!

Decumaria barbara is usually referred to as Climbing Hydrangea because its delicate, lacy blooms do look like a white hydrangea bloom cluster, and it is in the hydrangea family. This plant is also known as Wood Vamp, but I have been unable to figure out why. If you know, I would welcome your comments. 

Decumaria is a native vine found growing mostly in the Southeastern United States and can often be found on a hike through the woodland in Georgia. It can be grown anywhere in the South, since it is hardy in USDA Zones 7-11.

Do not confuse this plant with the non-native Hydrangea anomala petiolaris, which is also known as Climbing Hydrangea.

Wild Hydrangea Vine is easy to grow and can be grown as a groundcover or allowed to climb any structure. Like some other flowering vines, this Hydrangea Vine will not bloom unless it is permitted to climb. Its aerial roots will attach itself to anything from a tree trunk to a brick or rock wall, but will not damage the tree or wall in any way.

Decumaria barbara prefers part shade and is one of the few native vines that will bloom in full shade. The fact that it is usually found growing along stream banks indicates that it enjoys moist soil.

The rich green leaves look beautiful all summer and are not bothered by any pests or diseases. I would suggest it to be grown on an arbor or trellis near the patio, but it is deciduous in our climate, so there would be no foliage in winter.

Climbing Hydrangea belongs in the wildlife garden. Birds and small mammals love to hide and build nests in the lush foliage. Butterflies and other pollinators love the flowers.

June Blooms in my Georgia Garden: American Elderberry

Large flat white flower clusters adorn each stem of the American Elderberry Bush at the edge of our garden today. Sambucus canadensis, known as the American Elderberry is a shrubby plant native to the Southeastern United States. This time of year you can spot the large bloom clusters on plants in ditches and moist spots along the roadside all over Alabama and Georgia. Perhaps you've noticed these large flowers on your commute to work or school and wondered what they are. 

The flower clusters provide nectar for all types of pollinators. When you examine the flowers up close, you find that they emit a nice honey scent into the air. Can pollinators smell that? If they cannot, I wonder how they find flowers that have the sweet nectar they want. 

The flower clusters are followed by small purple-black berries in late summer. The berries are adored by birds and make great wine. They do not taste good to me, but once my little boy ate so many that he vomited. The berries should be cooked before ingested. Little boys will eat anything and must be watched constantly, especially in the garden. I am fortunate that vomiting is the only thing he suffered that day. He is now 14 and since then has eaten very many things that horrify me, but that's a story for another day.

Elderberry loves water but is easy to grow in any garden. Sambucus spreads by suckers and reaches a height of 8-10 feet by the end of summer even if cut to the ground in early spring. Plant it at the back of the border or along the edge of your property, so the size will not be a problem. Looks particularly beautiful on the bank of a pond or stream, if you have one.

Sambucus canadensis can be grown just about anywhere in the United States, since it is hardy in USDA Zones 3-9.

Elderberry is not picky about its site, as it will grow great in either part shade or full soil, as long as soil is rich and water is plentiful. Well that's what it prefers, but I've found it will grow in regular soil where water is not plentiful, but just won't get as large, and will be quite leggy.

Whether you use the flowers and berries yourself or not, consider planting Elderberry in your garden. It is a great plant for wildlife.

May Blooms in my Georgia Garden: Caldwell Pink Rose

One of the showiest roses in my garden today is the Caldwell Pink Climbing Rose. Considered to be one of the "found" roses, Caldwell Pink is a polyantha that might be the same rose as Pink Pet from China. Caldwell Pink Climbing Rose blooms here in May each year, and when it does, it'll knock your socks off. The plant is absolutely covered with large clusters of small 2-inch fluffy pink blossoms. It is a rampant grower that will quickly cover a fence or arbor, rooting wherever it touches the ground. Although the blooms have very little fragrance if any, this is one of my favorites. Unfortunately, we won't see the blooms again until next year, since Caldwell Pink Climbing Rose is not a repeat bloomer.

Not so with the Caldwell Pink Shrub Rose. The shrub form of Caldwell Pink blooms continuously until the first Fall frost. Unlike the climber, Caldwell Pink Shrub Rose is a compact bush about 4 feet tall, so it is perfect for the small garden or in a foundation planting.

Whether you choose the climber or the shrub, Caldwell Pink Rose is very easy to grow. It tolerates the heat and drought common in our Georgia garden during the summer, Caldwell Pink can be grown in colder climates too, hardy in USDA Zones 6 through 10. The foliage remains clean and vibrant green throughout the season, never requiring spray chemicals of any kind. 

June Blooms in my Georgia Garden: Oakleaf Hydrangea

This time of year our garden is always bursting with blooms, but this year has been a little different. Due to a very mild winter, everythin...