I had such a great time talking with Terry and Charlie Blair, owners of Ashwood Gardens & Nursery, www., about plants for summer. They have some fantastic new varieties of trees, shrubs, perennials, annuals and tropicals — plant material that is gorgeous and fun. I came away trying to figure out places that I can carve out in my yard to accommodate some of these beautiful blooms!

In fact, I got so much great information from them, that is going to be a two-part blog.

First, trees and shrubs…..



The burgundys and chocolates are especially “hot” this year. “Summer Chocolate” is a stunning mimosa tree boasting a beautiful frond-like leaves that are truly a deep chocolate brown. The color of the foliage is offset by light, lovely pink flowers. Summer Chocolate grows moderately quickly and needs full sun. The tree will grow to 20 feet and has a canopy that spreads out about 15 feet. Once established, it doesn’t require excessive amounts of water, so it will not be a drain on your watering system. The late summer blooms are a visual delight at the end of the season, when so many things seem tired and spent. And, best of all, “Chocolate Summer,” is a favorite of butterflies, hummingbirds and is resistant to deer. These are chocolates that will not melt away in the August heat.


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Hibiscus “Mahogany Splendor” is another new variety of the ever popular heat resistant annual that so signifies “Summer.” Its leaves are somewhat narrow (not as narrow as Hibiscus Coccineas, more like a Japanese Maple) and it has a lovely upright form. Great for borders, it will grow up to 3 – 5 feet tall and spreads 2 – 2.5 feet across. One truly astounding thing about these plants is that they are both drought resistant and water tolerant. They must have a truly amazing root system! I did purchase one (I may go back for a few more…) and it hasn’t flowered yet, but, from what Terry told me, the blooms are a brilliant red. And, according to they might be perennials in zones 7 – 11.


Ninebark is another shrub that flies off the lot at Ashwood. This deciduous shrub comes in a variety of colors from a burgundy/brown that matches the colors of “mahogany splendor” or “summer chocolate” to bright leafy greens! Very hardy, they thrive in full sun, but will tolerate light shade. They are also drought tolerant once they are established. Growing to 8 – 10 feet tall, and wide, they are a perfect border plant and easy to grow!

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Next up is the Venus Dogwood. I have been seeing this stunning trees around town this spring and did not know what they were. They seemed to be an amazing example of a Kousa Dogwood — with an upright growing aspect and were covered with lots of large flowers. I am sure that I have been seeing the Venus Dogwood, which, according to Rutgers University’s website, is an “award winning new variety was selected as the Grower of the Year Award, 2009 – Most Successful New Plant, U.K.  The variety has also received awards for the best novelty of the year. This was at PLANTARIUM 2007 in the Netherlands and at IPM 2008 in Essen, Germany.” Charlie said that they are going to be featuring this fantastic, drought tolerant, exceptionally beautiful dogwood!


Next week we’ll talk about TROPICALS…!!!


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