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  • We get questions: gardening in early summer!

    Written for the Davis Enterprise, June 28, 2012
    Click on any image for a larger version

    Dwarf butterfly bush is a great new addition to the dry, sunny flower border. Shown here with Euphorbia Ascot Rainbow is the variety Buzz Purple. These compact shrubs grow to three feet or so with equal spread. Butterfly bushes bloom on new growth, so they can be trimmed or cut back as needed. Hummingbirds and butterflies love them.

    Here is the Buzz Buddleia in front of a more typical butterfly bush. The tight growth habit, with smaller leaves, leads to a mound of grey-green leaves and continuous purple flowers from spring through summer. These new dwarf hybrids are sterile, so blooms are more abundant (no energy going into seed production), and they won't reseed.

    As of late June, our Clematis Ville de Lyon has been blooming since late May and will continue for another couple of weeks. The flowers are followed by interesting seedheads. Clematis like soil that has been enriched with compost, and the roots prefer shade. But the tops can grow up into full sun, or will bloom adequately in partial shade. Established vines can give dozens of blooms over several weeks, with varieties that start in early spring and others blooming in summer.

    Clematis montana hybrids bloom in spring, usually March to April. The blossoms are smaller than later hybrids, but more abundant. The blooms smell lightly of vanilla. The Montana hybrids are unusual in that they bloom on old wood, so they should be pruned only after they have finished flowering. The pink flower shown is C. montana Mayleen, and the white one is C. montana grandiflora.

    The Viticella hybrids bloom mid-summer, after most other Clematis are done. This plant, a variety called Polish Spirit, is scrambling all down a Nandina hedge on the north side of my house, and provides dozens of blooms over several weeks. Clematis naturally like to grow behind other plants, climbing up onto shrubs, trees, or climbing roses. They are light and open, so they don't suffocate the plant that is supporting them.

    It's called Irish moss, and it looks like moss, but students of botany will recognize that it can't be a true moss: mosses don't flower! It's actually a ground cover in Caryophyllaceae, the carnation family. Irish and Scottish mosses prefer full sun.

    For a mossy-looking ground cover for moist shade, try Baby's tears. It looks delicate, but can actually spread pretty freely in the shade. Baby's tears won't tolerate direct sun, and may frost back a bit in winter (but aways recovers). Great around stepping stones or with ferns and woodland flowers.