July Blooms in my Georgia Garden: Clethra, Summersweet, Sweet Pepper Bush

Clethra alnifolia 'Ruby Spice'
Blooming in the heat of summer with temperatures hovering near 100 degrees is Clethra alnifolia. Also known as Sweet Pepper Bush or Summersweet, Clethra attracts many pollinators with its honeyscented blooms of pink or white. Clethra is a deciduous blooming shrub native to the Eastern United States. I'm a little late with this post, since our Clethras all bloomed earlier in July and have now finished blooming.

Because I love all things pink, my favorite Clethra is Ruby Spice. Vivid pink bloom spikes adorn the tips of almost every stem in late July or August. Ruby Spice Clethra is a tall shrub, reaching up to 8 feet tall at maturity.

Clethra 'Hummingbird'
If you prefer white blooms, Clethra Hummingbird is a popular choice a lake at Callaway Gardens. 
Hummingbird Clethra encircles the edge of Hummingbird Lake behind the Discovery Center. This shrub has pure white bottlebrush blooms spikes about 3 inches long. The fragrant blooms which smell kind of spicy attract pollinators from a great distance.

Another white bloomer is Clethra Sixteen Candles, selected and named by horticulturist Michael Dirr from the University of Georgia. This Clethra is so named because when in bloom its upright flowers resemble candles on a birthday cake. These blooms are up to 6 inches long! Due to its compact habit, this one grows well in containers so it would be great on a patio or sunny porch where the blooms and their fragrance could be better enjoyed.
Clethra 'Sixteen Candles'

No matter the flower color, butterflies and bumble bees love the nectar produced by Clethra blooms. I'm watching to see if our honeybees visit the blooms too.

Clethra needs regular water to grow well. In its natural environment it is found growing on the banks of a creek or lake. Full sun makes the plant bloom prolificly in the latter part of summer. You'll want to be able to reach the plants with a hose when summer drought arrives. 

Clethra can be grown literally all over the United States, since it is hardy in USDA Zones 4 - 9.

July Blooms in my Georgia Garden: Black-eyed Susan

Rudbecka 'Goldsturm' in July
Probably the showiest plants in the late summer garden are the Rudbeckias. 

When adding new plants to my garden, I always prefer natives. Rudbeckia is a native flowering plant with showy coneflower blooms that attract all kinds of pollinators. The United States has many different Rudbeckias that are native, some are perennial while others are self-sowing annuals. 

Most often referred to as Blackeyed Susan, many types of Rudbeckia have been developed. The most widely planted one remains 'Goldsturm.' And for good reason! 

Bright golden yellow sunflower type blooms are held up high on strong stems that do not require staking. When given moderately fertile soil and just an occasional watering, Rudbeckia will self-sow and spread into quite a sizeable family of plants, making an eye-catching show in July and August. Since Goldsturm thrives in hot, sunny spots with little water, it should be included in any roadside garden or xeriscape planting. But if you don't have an area with full sun all day, don't be afraid to try it anyway. Although full sun is loved by Blackeyed Susan, they bloom in shade here in our garden. And if you're on a budget, you can start with just one plant!

Another Rudbeckia we added to our garden just last year is Rudbeckia subtomentosa 'Henry Eilers.' Our plant has really taken off this summer. Unlike Goldsturm, Rudbeckia subtomentosa 'Henry Eilers' does require staking or some type of support. It would look great against a wooden fence or wall. The stems are 8 feet tall this year and just coming into bloom. This rudbeckia is named for the horticulturist who found it growing wild. Petals on Henry Eilers Rudbeckia are true yellow instead of gold. The foliage carries the distinct fragrance of vanilla, which is why this one is often referred to as Sweet Coneflower or Sweet Black-eyed Susan. I have it planted right alongside Hibiscus coccineus where the blooms can be enjoyed together along the path beside the greenhouse.
Rudbeckia 'Henry Eilers' in July to August

Sweet Coneflower does enjoy moist soil, so it is more suited to a spot where you can water it when needed. It can be grown in full sun or partial shade, but it cannot withstand long periods of drought. 

All rudbeckias attract pollinators into the garden. Butterflies, hummingbirds, bumblebees, and honeybees love them as much as we do. 

The strong stems and long life of the flower make them excellent cut flowers for bouquets to be taken indoors.

Don't remove all the spent flowers. Allow your plants to go to seed and rudbeckia will self-sow to fill a large area. And by the way, the seeds are a favorite food of all finches. 

Coneflowers can be grown in most areas of the United States in USDA Hardiness Zones as cold as Zone 5. We should all make room in our garden for coneflowers of every color. 

July Blooms in my Georgia Garden: Surprise Lily, Lycoris Squamigera

A late-blooming flower you'll probably see only in the South is the old-fashioned favorite, Lycoris.

Lycoris squamigera in July
Lycoris squamigera, is usually referred to as Surprise Lily, but a funny common name for this plant is Naked Ladies. Surprise Lilies blossom in the middle of summer, usually sometime after the 4th of July. The bulb lies dormant a good portion of the year, and then suddenly surprises us by sending up a naked flower stalk up to 2 feet tall, topped with very fragrant pink trumpet-like flowers that look somewhat like a cluster of amaryllis. It is in the amaryllis family. Leaves do not emerge until the flower stalk has faded. The trait of having a flower stalk with no foliage at the bottom is the reason for the amusing common name "Naked Ladies." Leaves are strappy medium green leaves like you'd expect from a lily, but by early Fall they turn yellow and disappear again.

Probably because it grows from a bulb, Lycoris squamigera is very easy to grow. Growing equally well in sun or shade, Lycoris is very versatile and is at home in any southern garden. However, you can grow this one even if you live in a colder climate, since it is hardy in USDA Zones 5-9. Squamigera is the most cold hardy of all Lycoris.

Surprise Lily is not picky about soil. Whether you have clay or sand or even the very rare "good soil," Lyoris squamigera will thrive and multiply. It doesn't even matter if your soil is acid or alkaline.

Lycoris squamigera will appreciate regular water during the growing season, but it's just not necessary. And once it goes dormant and the foliage has disappeared, it needs no water at all.

July Blooms in my Georgia Garden: Campsis Radicans, Trumpet Vine

Hummingbirds love the trumpet shaped bright orange blooms of Trumpet Vine. Campsis Radicans, known as Trumpet Vine, Trumpet Creeper, or as my parents call it, Cow Itch, is a beautiful native plant common in the Eastern United States.

Trumpet Vine blooms with large orange/red trumpet flowers that are a favorite nectar source for hummingbirds and other pollinators. It is for this reason that most gardeners grow Trumpet Vine.

This native vine makes a showy focal point on an arbor, fence, or in a tree. It climbs by attaching itself to masonry and wood, but doesn’t do the damage that some other vines will.

Trumpet Vine looks like a tropical plant but is very easy to grow. It thrives with little care and has low water requirements. It will grow in shade, but blooms better with full sun. It isn't picky about water either. It tolerates wet or dry sites and is very drought tolerant. This plant is not bothered by insect pests or disease.

Trumpet Vine can be grown in most of the United States as it is hardy in USDA Zones 4 or 5 through 10.

Campsis radicans is a very rampant and aggressive vine. If you decide you have time to keep this vine contained, I recommend you grow it in a tree form, as my neighbor does. This makes a beautiful specimen that is easier to maintain. If you prefer to grow it on an arbor, make it a very strong and sturdy one, and let it grow in solitary. It will require some pruning to keep it in check, and having other vines growing with it will make pruning almost impossible. 

Immediately after flowering, remove spent blooms before seed pods develop, or you will have Trumpet Vine popping up in other areas of your garden, probably in the very spot you do not want it.

If you can maintain it and keep it in bounds, you won't regret planting Trumpet Vine when you see all the hummingbirds flocking to your garden.

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...