In the Garden:
Mid-Atlantic
July, 2004
Regional Report

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A new favorite in my July garden, summersweet (Clethra alnifolia) has sweet pink flowers to match its sweet summer fragrance.

Undeserved Rewards

The best surprise in my garden this summer is an unnamed, pink-flowered summersweet. (Mine came simply marked "pink" but the Clethra alnifolia cultivars 'Ruby Spice' and 'Pink Spires' are widely available.) This little bush with the unknown name is blooming its head off. The flowers are spire-shaped with intensely pink buds. The buds open paler pink and smell heavenly. I planted it in a rush last spring and at the time thought I was planting a different small clethra cultivar, 'Hummingbird', with white flowers.

But never mind. It's great just where it is. I see it -- and smell it -- on the way to the mailbox. And the pink is nearly a perfect match for its neighbor, a "Southern Belle" group, hardy, perennial hibiscus with dessert-plate-sized blooms in lovely shades of pink and white. This poor perennial has been attacked by Japanese beetles, and the foliage has more holes in it than Swiss cheese. But the plant is blooming right along nonetheless. I was on vacation, otherwise I would have sprayed it with a neem-based product to try to repel the beetles.

Surprise Dahlias
Another serendipitous mix-up is my dahlia planting. Honestly, I am beginning to wonder if I have ADD as my daughter seems to think, or whether I simply should try to do better and remember to label things, or at least have the wisdom not to take all the dahlia tubers out of their packages and then reshuffle them before planting. (Dahlia tubers and dahlia plants out of bloom are indistinguishable from one another.)

Anyway, I have to admire the great selection of dahlias in assorted pinks, and a ruby red with deep dark foliage (by process of elimination, that one MUST be the famous 'Bishop of Llandaff', an antique variety bred in 1927!) interspersed with the super roses 'Knock Out' (cherry red) and 'Blushing Knock Out' (pastel pink). This is beginning to sound a bit like a Valentine's Day combination, but the inspired addition of some screamingly red, tropical-looking cannas yanks us out of that little reverie and straight into a hot-blooded summer planting with strong colors to stand out under the intense summer sunlight.

A few gladiolus stalks would complete the view but, unfortunately, I have just rediscovered the corms, quite shriveled and still in their paper bag, albeit complete with their labels. Spring is such a mad dash! Successful gardeners should be more organized or take notes (Note to self: Next year, plant all impulse purchases promptly!) and photos or use labels or, if you are the more relaxed type, just hang loose and enjoy what happens. Either way, I hope your summer garden is full of color and (happy) surprises.


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