You can get plenty of summer color from shrubs and trees

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, May 31, 2000

For those of us who love color in our landscapes, bedding plants and perennials provide us with most of our summer loving, flowering plants. Bedding plants and perennials are the staples for showy color throughout the summer here in the Miss-Lou, and rightly so.

In the Miss-Lou, when we think about flowering trees and shrubs, the first plants that come to mind are our wonderful spring blooming specimens like azaleas, spirea, redbuds and dogwoods. However, many summer blooming shrubs and small trees can be used to add color to your summer garden. With a great variety of sizes and shapes available, these plants can be used as fillers and back drops to perennial borders or as stand alone specimens.

For a spectacular summer blooming, small specimen tree, a real winner is the golden raintree (Koelreuteria paniculata). What a sight! These are blooming around town right now. If you have never seen one, at first sight you will see that the tree was properly named. The blooms really do resemble golden rain falling from the tree.

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The golden raintree is deciduous and grows fairly quickly reaching 20-30 feet in height and spreading to 15-20 feet wide. Generally, this tree is pest and disease free. Leaves of the golden raintree resemble those of a China berry tree. Plant in full or part shade in a well drained area. After the tree has bloomed the resulting seed pods are equally interesting and attractive. This stunning tree is another in the long list of plants that were introduced to the U.S. by Thomas Jefferson.

Another late spring-summer winner is the Lilac Chaste tree (Vitex agnus-castus). This old time favorite is very colorful and as the name might indicate, a colorful history accompanies it. The plant is native to the Mediteranean region and has a rich history in ancient Greece and Rome as a powerful herbal medicine. Featured in Homer’s sixth century BC epic, the Iliad, the chaste tree is a symbol of chastity which can ward off evil. Research has shown that the berries collected in autumn are effective in the treatment of a variety of female ailments. As research continues, more information will become available concerning the medicinal qualities of this useful plant.

The chaste tree is a great addition as a filler or backdrop in a larger perennial bed. This sun loving deciduous shrub can get to be 10-20 feet tall and equally as wide. With age the shrub can be more tree shaped. The flowers are very fragrant and showy and are in clusters that are up to seven inches long. The foliage has a gray-green color and is aromatic. Different varieties are available with colors of lilac, pink and white, as well as variegated foliage.

The butterfly bush (Buddleia sp.) is an outstanding deciduous shrub that is very showy in a mixed border or as a specimen. A fertile, well-drained site in full to partial sun is essential. Long, arching branches with gray-green foliage bear lovely 12 inch, conical shaped plumes from summer through fall. Growing to 10 feet in height and as wide is not uncommon for many varieties of buddleia, although there are some that only grow to four or five feet tall.

As the name suggests, the butterfly bush is a wonderful selection for attracting butterflies to your surroundings. The intensely fragrant blooms are filled with delicious nectar that is an excellent source of food for butterflies. Available in purple, deep reddish-blue, blue, pink, white and yellow, there is a butterfly bush suitable for any color scheme. And last, but certainly not least, the beautiful blooms are wonderful for use as a cut flower. What more can one ask for?

When planning for the summer landscape, the addition of colorful, summer blooming shrubs and small trees can add height and variety to your plantings. The shrub althea or Rose of Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus), oakleaf hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia) and, of course, the crape myrtle (Lagerstroemia spp.) are some of the other wonderful, summer flowering selections for the Miss-Lou. Add beauty and variety to your fabulous summer gardens by planting colorful, flowering trees and shrubs. Happy gardening!

Gardening Miss-Lou Style is a weekly column written by Traci Maier of Natchez. She can be reached at Fred’s Greenhouse at 445-5181 or by e-mail at