NEW Trips to Take!

Myrtle's easy when the conditions are right.


NEW Plants to Try!

Louis tries to capture the exact words to describe the fleeting but deep pleasures to be found in these Summer-into-Autumn incredibles.


New Gardening to Do!

Allergic to bees? You can still have an exciting garden, full of flowers and color and wildlife.


A Gardening Journal

Today in the Garden of a Lifetime: Oakleaf Hydrangea in Summer

As with most roses, iris, and lilacs, the floral performance of most hydrangeas is so powerful that the foliage is secondary. This is usually just as well. The exceptions—blue-leaved rose, variegated-leaved iris, and cut-leaf lilac—are as striking as they are welcome. 

Hydrangea quercifolia Sykes Dwarf wider view 072716 320

Oakleaf hydrangea is perhaps the most dramatic—the most foliage-fabulous—of them all. Indeed, despite the spectacular flowers, oakleaf hydrangea can be grown, proudly and gorgeously, so that it never flowers.

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Today in the Garden of a Lifetime: Goldbug False Nettle

Especially on scorching days, in-the-shade plantings beckon. I find myself darting across the garden's sunny stretches from one dappled patch to another. There had better be some flashy plants to make the trip worthwhile. 

IBoehmeria nipononivea Nichirin stem tip head on 071716 320

This bright-leaved false nettle is one of the season's shady stars: Its new leaves are white-gold, stippling with green as they mature. In late July, new foliage is still emerging even as the tallest of the clump's stems nears five feet. Many other shade garden treats peak in Spring or even Winter—think snowdrops and hellebores—so it's a joy that this sizable plant just keeps on coming as July melts into August.

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The Best Season Ever: 'Firecracker' Lysimachia in Flower

Gardeners whose beds are all tidied by April (my realistic target date is mid-July) will want to show off their colony of 'Firecracker' lysimachia in Spring, when its emerging foliage is as deep a burgundy as that of any smoke bush.

Lysimachia ciliata Firecracker Chamaecyparis obtusa Fernspray Gold 071216 320

By Summer, the burgundy has softened—OK, faded—and the stems can have grown so tall that they could lean or even flop. But by then, the butter-yellow flowers have appeared, and are happy to chat with other yellows you have thoughtfully planted nearby. My choice is 'Fernspray Gold' hinoki cypress, whose horizontal branches and feathery yellow foliage put steadying arms around many a willowy 'Firecracker' stem.

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The Best Season Ever: 'Sander's White' Rambler Rose in Bloom

I love pruning, and pruning roses in particular. I grow a number of climbers and ramblers, so the pruning pairs with another love: training plants into espaliers and pillars. Canes of 'Sander's White' are profuse, and can lengthen to eighteen feet. So, there's plenty of both activities.

Rosa wichuraiana Sanders White flowers 070516 320

Although the training is an end in itself, a rose in bloom is still the biggest reward. Flowers of 'Sander's White' are pure white, with countless petals forming tight rosettes. They are borne in sprays—potentially hundreds on a mature shrub—in a single voluptuous show that is all the more welcome for happening in early July, a few weeks later than the typical rose season of May and June. Hooray!

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