In the market for award-winning shrubs to freshen-up the home landscape? Consider Lil Kim Althea and Panicle Hydrangea. Seriously, I can’t imagine anyone who wouldn’t be delighted by the performance of these shrubs. They are stars in the summer garden!
Lil Kim Althea (Hibiscus syriacus) is a new and unique dwarf form of the old Southern shrub, Rose-of-Sharon. Unlike its gangly parent, Lil Kim grows into a compact shrub only three to four feet tall and wide, perfect for small gardens and containers. And I’m happy to report that Lil Kim takes after its Rose-of-Sharon parent when it comes to heat and drought tolerance. This little charmer loves our hot Oklahoma summers. Beautiful white flowers with a deep maroon eye open daily throughout the summer and well into fall.
Several other large growing Althea hybrids are worth considering.
Twenty-plus years ago the United States National Arboretum released four truly outstanding full-size Althea hybrids all named after Greek goddesses. They include:
Aphrodite. This multi-stemmed, low-branching Althea grows six to eight feet tall and wide and covers its branches with large four to five-inch diameter pink flowers. Modern Althea hybrids are the only shrubs that match or exceed Crape Myrtle when it comes to summer long flowering. Aphrodite flowers are accented with a dark red eye. It blooms non-stop July through October. Very few shrubs can boast such performance.
Diana. This fantastic genetic triploid produces large white flowers (no red or pink eye) on a graceful frame that grows eight to ten feet tall. Here’s a cool feature. Diana’s big flowers stay open at night, a great quality for gardeners who enjoy their garden in the evening.
Helene. This marvelous Althea also produces big white flowers. Helene easily is one of my all-time favorite large shrubs. Very showy. Grows eight to ten feet tall and wide.
Minerva. If lavender is your favorite color, choose Minerva. Big five-inch diameter flowers are accented by a deep maroon eye, a stunning combination. Grows ten to twelve feet in height and spread, perfect for use as a free-standing yard shrub or as a corner planting near a deck or patio.
Panicle Hydrangea (Hydrangea paniculata) is another great bloomer worthy of any garden.
Apparently, it’s impossible for gardeners not to love common big-leaf hydrangeas (H. macrophylla). One sees them growing (or dying) in shady gardens throughout Tulsa. They are not the toughest of shrubs, however. If only I had a dollar for every time I’ve been asked, “Why is my hydrangea not blooming?” Causes are many: too much or too little water; too much sun, leaf-spot disease; pruned wrong time of year, etc. etc.
If you’re tired of coddling big-leaf hydrangea, try the tough and gorgeous Panicle Hydrangea. It’s a flower producing beast in sunny or partly shady gardens. It’s also reasonably heat and drought tolerant and faithfully blooms in July.
I challenge readers to visit the Linnaeus Teaching Garden in Woodward Park and check out massive specimens now coming into full bloom. They are breathtaking!
Phantom is the Panicle Hydrangea variety we’re growing at Linnaeus. It produces massive twelve to fifteen-inch long spikes of snowy-white flowers on erect stems, perfect for clipping and bringing inside for flower arranging. Other exceptional Panicle Hydrangea varieties include: Lime Light, Fire Light and Bobo. They are among the most under-utilized flowering shrubs for Tulsa area gardens. Again, come check out the specimens blooming at Linnaeus and see if you aren’t hugely impressed.
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Barry Fugatt is Director of Horticulture at the Tulsa Garden Center and Linnaeus Teaching Garden in Woodward Park. He may be reached at 918-576-5152 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org