In the Garden:
Western Mountains and High Plains
August, 2010
Regional Report

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Appearing now in my garden is Shrub Althea 'Minerva'. It will bloom non-stop through the month.

Tropical blossoms in the heat of summer

Shrubs are as diverse as the gardeners who grow them and they can serve several different functions. They provide a solid background for perennial and annual flower beds. Many shrubs have unique flowers, handsome bark, and fruit that will add color and texture to the landscape.

Shrubs can provide privacy, screen out unsightly views, or even serve as a windbreak to protect some of our more tender and vulnerable plant selections. They can provide shelter and food to attract wild birds, an important asset for those of us who believe that the landscape should be heard as well as seen. The sweet fragrances of grandma's lilacs at the back door are a treasured memory. Over the years I've planted quite a few lilacs in a variety of colors. Just wish they would have a longer blooming period.

Growing the diverse group of shrubs successfully begins with making the right choices, being sure to select a shrub whose needs match the special growing conditions in your area. Most shrubs are relatively resistant to insects and diseases. If a problem should develop, it's generally the fault of the gardener, not of the shrub.

One of my favorite shrubs that will add a touch of the tropics to the landscape is the Rose-of-Sharon, also known as shrub Althea (Hibiscus syriacus). It puts on a show with eye-catching blooms in mid to late-summer while other shrubs start to wane.
Depending upon the variety, flowers range from 2" to 4" and can be single, semi-double, or double. Rose-of-Sharon works well as a focal specimen in the landscape or can be planted as a group in a shrub border. Though this shrub is known to die back to ground level in winter, it endures our erratic climatic conditions very well and will grow new, vigorous stems the following spring. This "Nature's Pruning" will result in a smaller shrub, but much bigger flowers. If you prefer, you can selectively prune the shrub to maintain shape, height, and flower development.

The shrub Althea or Rose-of-Sharon is a summer-blooming shrub that deserves more attention as a way combat the dog days of summer.


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