Sunday, May 8, 2011

My Top 10 Flowering Shrubs

   Anyone in the nursery business can tell you that sales of plants skyrocket when they are in bloom.  Azaleas sell well in the spring when they are blooming, the same can be said about roses in the summer.  We all can be guilty of the impulse buying.  We see something, we really like it, so we buy it.  That, however, is a really poor way to landscape.  We should plan ahead.... and plant when the season and weather best dictates it.  I believe that a quality landscape design incorporates different plantings that bloom at different times.  An ideal plan has something of interest (blooms or color changes as in Red Maples in the fall) 12 months a year.    Another good source, particularly if you live in the St. Louis area is Landscape Concepts. OK, here are my top ten favorite flowering shrubs:

  • Azalea - genus Rhododendron -Azaleas are a signature plant in the south.  From Augusta National to what seems like 100 percent of landscapes of older stately homes - azaleas are prominent in spring.  An extremely large variety of azalea species, hybrids and cultivars are available.  Most can trace their family tree back to  the Orient.  Among the standard variety blooming once a year around Easter - I like the 'Hershy Red' and 'Delaware Valley White'.  There is also available a low growing, late blooming variety - the 'Gumpo' azalea.  By far my favorite, however, is the newly released Encore™ series of azaleas.  They offer blooms twice a year, in the spring and again in the fall.

  • Knockout Rose - rosa 'knock out' -

  • "Despite the great possibilities for failure, the burdensome work, and the lack of glamour, my hobby became a passion. Even with successes, it didn't take me long to realize that growing roses would be more fun if it entailed less work."- William Radler, breeder/inventor of the Kockout Rose. You plant this rose just as you do most shrubs and you get beautiful blooms from spring until frost.  Very little maintenance is required.

  • Endless Summer Hydrangea -Hydrangea macrophylla 'Endless Summer'

  • In our southern climate most Hydrangeas only bloom once per year.  The 'Endless Summer' variety usually will have two full blooming periods.  'Endless Summer' may be pink, blue or lavender, depending on the soil in which it is grown. 

  • Yuletide Camellia - Camellia sasanqua 'Yuletide'

  •   Sometimes referred to as Christmas Camellias, the sasanqua varieties of Camellia are native to the evergreen, coastal forests of southern Japan. It was introduced by Dutch traders into Europe in 1869. Yuletide is a chance seedling of Kanjiro and originated at Nuccio's Nurseries in Altadena, CA. The Japanese use the leaves of sasanqua to make tea, and the seeds are pressed into tea seed oil for use as a lubricant and in cooking and cosmetics.
      This variety of the Camellia Sasanqua as well as many others are good choices for a large bed around a tree or even as a hedge.  It is also an excellent choice if you want an Espalier.

  • Camellia Japonica - Camellia japonica 'Governor Mouton'  -

  • I actually like ALL Camellia Japonica's.  They have lustrous dark green leaves and can be used in many situations.  They can be a speciman plant in the center of a bed, they can be a hedge or even a stand alone planting.  Camellias  prefers acidic, highly organic soils.  I like to  mix in pine bark mulch when planting.  You should maintain a good mulch bed because of shallow rooting.   Mature size can be 10 ft. wide and 15- 20 ft tall, but also easy to keep the size you want with twice a year pruning.  This Governor Mouton variety  has 3-5" flowers and  semidouble to loose peony form flowers are red with white splotches. 

  • Kleims Hardy Gardenia - Gardenia jasminoides 'Kleim's Hardy'

  • By far the most frequently used plant you will find in my landscape designs.  In addition to being very beautiful and fragrant, it can be used in many situations, sun and shade.  I particularly like using it in the same planting bed as Radicans Gardenia.  I like this combination near and around summer environments like a back porch or a swimming pool area.

  • Kaleidoscope Abelia - Abelia x grandiflora 'Kaleidoscope' -

  • The newest shrub on our list and possibly the most unique.  You get 3 different looks from this shrub per year.  You get a nice spring blooming of white flowers.  That is followed by the greenish /yellow tint you see in the picture on your left.  And then my favorite is in the fall when it has more of a bright orange,red and yellow 'kaleidoscope' look.
    “…really packs a wallop...specimens are vigorous yet compact, colorful to a fault, do not bleach in the sun, and catch visitors’ eyes.”– Dr. Michael Dirr, University of Georgia

  • Rhododendron Rhododendron catawbiense -

  • First we should get something straight.  Azaleas are actually Rhododendrons (or Rhodos).  Most nuseries and landscapers refer to Azaleas as the variety of Rhodo from Asia.  And we call what are actually 'native azalea' - Rhododendron. 
      The Rhodo typically has larger leaves, larger blooms, a less compact shape and blooms later in the spring.
    The Rhododendron catawbiense I like because it is fairly easy to grow in our climate.  This variety comes in many different vibrant colors.

  • Burgandy Loropetalum - Loropetalum chinensis Purple Pixie™ 'Shang-lo' -

  • There are many varieties and different uses for the Burgandy Loropetalum.  There are the taller shrubs for a hedge and medium sized for color in a bed.  There are even shrubs made into a tree form that are beautiful and sort of cool in that you don't see them on every street corner.  My favorite is the Purple Pixie.  I like it for its dark purple color and compact size. As with most Burgandy Loropetalums, it has nice pink flowers in the spring.

  • Gold Mound Spirea - Spiraea japonica 'Gold Mound'

    • Spireas (Spiraea species) are among the easiest flowering shrubs to grow. There are two distinct kinds of spireas: the bridal wreath type, with clusters of white flowers on arching branches in spring; and the shrubby, much lower-growing type, which has pink, red or white flowers clustered at the end of upright branches in summer to fall. The Gold Mound is a low mounded shrub with pink flowers.  3ft high by 5 ft wide is the normal mature size.  Yellow-green foiliage in summer. Recurrent summer flowering.
      For more ideas you might try this informative blog or for actual good research you could try our favorite Nursery in North Carolina.


    1. Those are all great landscape plants, easy to care for. I would have only added Oakleaf Hydrangea, Hydrangea quercifolia