The Garden Life: Summer in full bloom in gardens




Robb Rosser

Rosa glauca serves as a dramatic backdrop to the early summer blooming Clematis u201cMulti-Blue.u201d

July arrived with a welcome blast of blazing hot sunshine. I am rarely thrilled to have to water pots and planters but this sustained period of bright sunlight is worth that necessary chore. From the look of things, the trees, shrubs, perennials and annuals are equally excited about the return of warm weather. I cannot remember seeing the plants in my garden take such a dramatic leap in foliage and flower production in such a short span of time. Finally, we can welcome summer to the garden.

The repeat blooming roses are at their peak now. By midsummer, the large shrubby Rosa mutabalis, known as the Butterfly Rose, is awash in multicolored blossoms. As new flowers open, older flower heads morph from rosy red to cerise pink and all the colors in between. Most repeat blooming roses have their best flush of flowers in midspring and continue sporadically through the summer months. The yellow groundcover Rosa “Sun Runner” remains continuously fresh with quarter-sized, single blooms.

If planted well and treated like royalty, the David Austin English roses will also perform throughout the summer months. Rosa “Heritage” is easily 8 feet tall with shell pink blossoms so full and weighted down with multipetaled flower heads that the branches bow in a gentle arch. This allows you to look up into those on the highest branches and to smell the rich rose scent of those at nose level. Rosa “Graham Thomas” is still my idea of the classic, yellow English rose. Its deep yellow flowers fade to pale, buttery cream.

Don’t ignore the group of roses commonly referred to as “Once Blooming.” Many of these have a spectacular flush of flowers which is followed in fall and early winter by decorative rose hips. Rosa glauca is one of my favorites and flowered early and long this year. The small, bright pink flower petals stand out against the petite, blue-gray leaves and add an interesting depth to the rose border. The glauca foliage and strong branching habit are a perfect complement to climbing clematis vines.

Certain perennials reseed themselves and return each year as loyally as the birds that nest in our gardens. The simple daisy is a prolific reseeder. Daisies can be the bane of the neat gardener or the blessing of the naturalist. I have learned to let them flower where they will and then, once the blossoms die away, I pull many of them out by the roots. In spring and early summer they fill empty spaces in beds and borders. Once removed from the border they give established, emerging perennials room to open up and spread out.

Keep in check

Many plants that spread themselves freely around the garden are easy to keep in check by thinning them out. This includes my often recommended perennial Geranium endressii “Wargrave’s Pink.” Few plants get the attention of visitors as this one does. It has a neat, mounding shape 18 inches high and wide. If it begins to overtake a highly valued plant, pull it out of the ground, roots and all. It will overpower most neighbors in good soil as surely as it will fill a dry, inhospitable patch of garden where few other plants will grow. The structural Euphorbia “Chameleon” and the furry, gray-leaved Lamb’s Ears are also good self-promoters.

Although annual and perennial flower color dominates the garden at this time of year there are certain shrubs at their best, too. I’m a firm believer in the spirea family, beginning with the wonderful Spirea “Goldflame.” This is a great garden performer with its pale, greenish yellow foliage and bright pink, flat-topped flower clusters that float above the plant. This year, Proven Winners sent me the latest Double Play Spirea, a compact shrub called Blue Kazoo. I can’t wait to see its featured cool blue foliage with hints of burgundy in summer followed by a rich, red fall color display.

If you time it right, you might experience a lull in the garden workload as the rest of your summer flowers reach their peak of bloom. Our gardens are filled with the color and texture of annuals, perennials, shrubs and trees that we picked and planted and cared for ourselves. Although our gardens are special in every season, this is the time of year we would like our friends to drop in for a visit. When they do, take off your gloves, put down your pruners and join them for the best flower show of the year.

Robb Rosser is a WSU-certified master gardener. Reach him at