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Gardening: My sights are set on colorful shrubs for next year

Nancy Szerlag
Special to The Detroit News

The first thing I do in the morning is check the local weather. And then I put on the coffee.

Between the heat and lack of rain, this has been the toughest gardening year I have ever experienced. 

The good news is I have a great bunch of volunteers who have hung in throughout the summer heat and our display garden got rave reviews at the Summer Soirée 21, the evening garden affair held in the OPC Senior Center Rochester garden to benefit Meals on Wheels.  

Next summer may not be any better, and some folks ask if I’m ready to step down as steward of the garden. My answer is heck no --  like most avid gardeners, I’m already planning next year’s project.

'Legend of the Small' bottlebrush

The big trend in shrubs is compact size and multiple seasons of interest, and we’re making plans to convert our “orphan” garden, hidden by a brick wall,  into a sea of interesting flowering shrubs that are easy to care for, colorful and winter hardy. 

Here are some new introductions I’m looking at.

Van Belle Nursery’s Blooming Easy collection debuts the Weigela ‘Peach Kisses.’ Maturing to just 3- to 4-feet tall and wide, this summer-long bloomer may be a front-row star.

Also on my wish list is Lilac First Editions ‘Pinktini' that was introduced by Bailey. Bred in Canada and hardy to zone 2, it matures to only 4 to 5 feet tall and 3 to 4 feet in width. The best news is it produces oodles of fragrant rich pink flowers in late spring, a pollinator favorite.  

From Proven Winners comes Fothergilla ‘Legend of the Small’ – commonly known as bottle brush.  This native introduction is deer resistant and hardy to zone 5.  Maturing to 24 to 30 inches in height and width, it produces an abundance of  fragrant  flowers in spring to the joy of the early arriving pollinators and it provides a fantastic show of color in fall. 

Hydrangeas are the No. 1  shrub on everyone’s list, and I’ve got the hots for paniculatas so, ‘Little Hottie’ is also a contender for me. Hardy to zone 2, this pretty baby reaches a compact rounded 4 feet in height and has good foliar disease resistance in the landscape.

For season-long color, I’m looking at Proven Winners Color Choice Hardy Hibiscus ‘Holy Grail’ from the Summerific series.  This zone 4 Walter’s Gardens (Zeeland) introduction has dark burgundy leaves and dark red blossom that will take center stage in the late summer garden.

Nancy Szerlag is a master gardener and Metro Detroit freelance writer. Her column appears Fridays in Homestyle. To ask her a question go to Yardener.com and click on Ask Nancy. You can also read her previous columns at detroitnews.com/homestyle.