July GBBD: The Energizer Bunnies of Summer

Carolyn’s Shade Gardens is a retail nursery located in Bryn Mawr, PA, specializing in showy, colorful, and unusual plants for shade.  The only plants that we ship are snowdrops and miniature hostas.  For catalogues and announcements of events, please send your full name, location, and phone number (for back up use only) to carolyn@carolynsshadegardens.com.  Click here to get to the home page of our website for catalogues and information about our nursery and to subscribe to our blog.

‘Westerland’ shrub rose just keeps sending out new sprays of blooms.  EB

Summer is here, and we have reached the middle of the month when I encourage each of you to walk around your garden and assess what you need to add to make this season an exciting time in your landscape.  This time of year I like to focus on the “energizer bunnies” of the garden: plants that bloom or rebloom from late spring through fall. Plants in this category will have “EB” following their caption description.  They give me a reason to stroll in my garden when the weather is not as inviting as spring.  Make sure your garden doesn’t end with the spring rush by adding plants that bloom through summer. 

I love irises, and I think Japanese iris, I. kaempferi, is my favorite.  The colors and the flower shapes are magical.

Make a list and take photographs so that when you are shopping for plants you know what you need and where it should go.  You never know what you might find waiting in your garden like new blooms on my ‘Westerland’ rose (photo at top), which I photographed during my own  inventory.

The remontant or reblooming daylilies are some of my “bunnies”.  They start early and rebloom all season.  Clockwise from left: Hemerocallis ‘Black Eyed Stella’, ‘Stella de Oro (d’Oro)’, and ‘Happy Returns’.  EB

July 15 is Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day for July when gardeners around the world show photos of what’s blooming in their gardens (follow the link to see  photographs from other garden bloggers assembled by Carol at May Dreams Gardens).  Here are  some more highlights from my July stroll through Carolyn’s Shade Gardens, starting with woody plants:

I cut back my ‘Purple Robe’ smokebush, Cotinus coggygria ‘Purple Robe’, every year to improve the leaf color so it never blooms, but I think the red beebalm, Monarda didyma, compliments it nicely.

My grove of native bottlebrush buckeye, Aesculus parviflora, is stunning in bloom in full shade.

St. John’s wort is a woody subshrub that I cut back almost to the ground in the spring when I see signs of new growth.  Hypericum calycinum on the left and H. androsaemum ‘Albury Purple’ on the right.

I don’t grow ‘Winterthur’ beautyberry, Callicarpa ‘Winterthur’,  for the flowers, but between the lime green leaves, the pink flowers, and the striking light purple berries in fall, this shrub is a workhorse.  EB

Himalayan leptodermis, L. oblonga, starts blooming in June and doesn’t quit until later in the fall.  Its flowers are small but abundant.  EB

‘Black Knight’, Buddleia davidii ‘Black Knight’, is my favorite butterfly bush cultivar.  It is the first to come into bloom in June and doesn’t stop until at least mid-fall.  EB

My native honeysuckle vines are still throwing out blooms after a spectacular spring show, here Lonicera sempervirens ‘John Clayton’.  EB

And here native Lonicera sempervirens ‘Crimson Cascade’.  EB

Native oakleaf hydrangea, H. quercifolia, will keep going until winter with its beautiful flowers turning colors and then forming a dried arrangement.  If you don’t have this shrub, it should go to the top of your list!  EB

I am surprised that more gardeners do not grow native flowering raspberry, Rubus odoratus.  It is a gorgeous tropical looking shrub for full shade with brightly colored raspberry flowers.  The native bees love it.

There are so many perennials in bloom that I had to leave a lot out.  I am focusing on the unusual plants and the ones that bloom for a long time:

The deep violet flowers on red stems of ‘Caradonna’ sage, Salvia ‘Caradonna’, continue to rebloom all summer while the yellow corydalis, C. lutea, behind it blooms nonstop from April to December.  EB

This rare and unusual plant, Chinese foxglove, Rehmannia elata, appeared in my rock garden without my help, but I am glad it did.

Butterfly weed, Asclepias tuberosa, with catmint, Nepeta ‘Walker’s Low’

Many hosta have quite beautiful flowers, especially if they are compact and white, here the species Hosta tokudama.

Reportedly there are 8,000 hosta cultivars, but some just stand out in the garden: Hosta ‘Summer Lovin’

The gorgeous corrugated blue leaves, white flowers, and elegant habit of Hosta ‘Blue Angel’ have stood the test of time.

Hosta ‘Great Expectations’ is also a classic with white flowers.

I am infatuated with the mouse ears series of miniature hostas, and one of their wonderful attributes is that their flowers are compact and proportional to their size, here ‘Holy Mouse Ears’.

I have tried so many of these orange coneflowers, Echinacea cultivar,  only to have them die, revert, or display a virus.  This is the only one that survived and, of course, I lost its tag.

‘Concord Grape’, Tradescantia ‘Concord Grape’, is my favorite cultivar of US native spiderwort.  I cut it to the ground completely after flowering to rejuvenate the plant.

Giant ox eye, Telekia speciosa, is an unusual sunflower-like perennial that reaches 4 to 6 feet tall and 2 to 3 feet wide in the full shade of my London plane trees.

Solitary clematis, C. integrifolia, just keeps blooming and blooming, here with orange million bells, Calibrachoa ‘Aloha Hot Orange’EB

I always read that the groundcover autumn leadwort, Ceratostigma plumbaginoides, blooms in the fall, but in my garden it starts in June and keeps going through fall.  You can’t beat the true blue color all season.  EB

I have a collection of hens and chicks, but I think this is my favorite: Sempervivum arachnoideum ‘Red Cobweb’.  When not in bloom, the chicks are red and covered with cobwebs.

This is the second flush of bloom on ‘Sarastro’ bellflower, Campanula ‘Sarastro’, the first flush has double the flowers.  I have tried several large-flowered bellflowers, and ‘Sarastro’ is the best.  EB

I devote a large space in my meadow (you have to, it spreads) to beebalm, Monarda didyma, the flowers are so spectacular.

I always let some of my onion sets get away from me so they will produce this beautiful flower after all my other alliums are done.

If I had the right growing conditions for red hot pokers, Kniphofia ‘Alcazar’, I would have every cultivar, but sunny, hot, dry, well drained conditions are few and far between at Carolyn’s Shade Gardens.

Spiny bear’s breeches, Acanthus spinosus, just keeps blooming and blooming.  EB

I will leave you with the very unusual and long lasting  ‘Miss Willmott’s Ghost’ sea holly, Eryngium giganteum ‘Miss Willmott’s Ghost’.  Miss Willmott was a 19th century English gardener who secretly sprinkled seeds of this sea holly in gardens she visited leaving behind her “ghost”.  EB

Please let me know in a comment/reply which flowers are “energizer bunnies” in your summer garden.  If you participated in GBBD, please provide a link so my nursery customers can read your post.


I made this collage for a customer email, but I couldn’t resist including it in this article.  The flowers of summer:

Notes: Click on any photo to enlarge.  Every word that appears in orange on my blog is a link that you can click for more information.  If you want to return to my website’s homepage to access the sidebar information (catalogues, previous articles, etc.), just click here.

Nursery Happenings: The nursery is closed until it cools off in the fall around the middle of September.  If you are on my customer email list, look for an email.  If not, sign up by sending an email to carolynsshadegardens@verizon.net with your name and phone number.

46 Responses to “July GBBD: The Energizer Bunnies of Summer”

  1. Gorgeous plants! I particularly love the monarda-continus combo.

    The Echinacea looks like ‘Arts Pride’ to me, but I’m no Echinacea expert!

  2. Cynthia Kardon Says:


    So beautiful. I love the pictures and inspiration I get from your blog. I have the clematis Betty Corning which blooms delicate blue flowers all season. I also have Alstroemeria Sweet Laura, which has a delicate scent. I also have bottlebrush, hosta, daylilies (many varieties) and native plox that tries to take over my garden but has a wonderful scent. Right now I would say my garden is at its best. It’s more spring and fall that I need

  3. You have so many beautiful blooms! I think my crepe myrtles give me the greatest color through the longest, hottest part of our summer. Another summer favorite is Hastata pavonia, which will bloom till frost, and autumn sage and purple sage also bloom a long time. Then there are those knockout roses!

  4. Thanks so much for sharing your garden,such beauty really lifts the spirit.

  5. Like you, I have many more to show than can be posted. It has been a great June/July in the Falls. It is dry now, but still a lot is blooming. You do have a lot more colors than the purple and orange. Your garden must be a bright and happy place even with all the shade.

  6. Carolyn, I like your energizer bunnies. Happy Returns is also one of mine; in fact, I’ve often described it as “the energizer bunny of daylilies.” I have a number of flowers that begin blooming in July and just keep on going until frost — and I love them all!

    BTW, you wondered about scheduling posts. If you are working in the WordPress editor, look at the “Publish” box on the top right.

    The third line down says “Publish immediately” and has a hotlinked “edit” next to it. If you click on that “edit,” it will give you drop down menus for choosing the date and time to schedule publication.

  7. You have so many energizer bunnies! My roses mostly rest in summer, I am glad to see your Westerland is still going strong. It was great to see blooms on your hostas, I wish I could grow them too…

  8. We have many of the same bloomers, and some of what I don’t have I am jotting down the names. The oakleaf hydrangea is an EB as is the monarda, echinacea, and calibrachoa in my garden. I am planning to get some re-blooming and some later blooming lillies. I have come to really appreciate the color and brilliance they add to the garden. I have the Black Knight butterfly bush, but I need to move it to a better location with more room. Happy GBBD!


  9. So many lovely things – and I love the collage. I really like that asclepias + nepeta combination, I need to make a note of it.

  10. Lovely blooms and colour in your garden Carolyn. But what especially takes my eye is the support for the honeysuckle. It looks like a gate. Lovely combination.http://planticrunotes.blogspot.com

  11. Great post. It’s good to know what plants have a longer blooming season. One of the tricks of putting together a bed seems to be knowing when plants bloom so you have succession but also which ones can provide colour as a backdrop to others throughout a longer period of time.

  12. Becoming a fan of sea hollies.

  13. Thank you for sharing such gorgeous blooms. I like the way you put nice looking pots among the flowers.

  14. I look forward to your Bloom Day posts each month. I am in the planning stages of some full shade gardening, and your blog helps so much!!

  15. Great to see the diversity of plants in your gardens! Wish the orange echinacea would be hassle free for all of us…

  16. Carolyn, as always your beautiful garden is an inspiration to me! Stunning.
    Happy GBBD 🙂

  17. NWPhilly Eric Says:

    In addition to the Corydalis lutea, C. ochroleuca with it’s creamy white flowers goes from April until after frost. And are you familiar with Tinantia pringleii? It’s hardy here in Philadelphia, though self-seeding is profuse. It’s clearly a relative of tradescantia with green foliage speckled with purple (and purple undersides of leaves as well) and periwinkle blue flowers from July to October…..shade or part shade.
    And, as a self-seeding annual for shade, Impatiens Balfourii has just started really showing it’s flowers in my shade garden.

  18. Always impressed with the amount of color and growth found in your shady garden. That bottlebrush buckeye is really sharp. Happy GBBD!

  19. I enjoyed my visit to your lovely garden on this July Bloom Day. My energizer bunnies are the bright colored zinnias. I call them my fiesta flowers. Oh and my ‘Don Juan’ climbing red rose that is only a year old just keeps on going. I’m so glad I planted it!

  20. So many beautiful blooms! It is so hot here now that only the plants that stand up to the heat are holding their own.

  21. You have such a wonderful plant collection. I enjoy learning something new every time I read.

    Someday I long to have a “grove” of bottlebrush buckeye too. I have long admired them.

    Thanks for the tip on C. ‘Sarastro’. I look forward to trying it out!

  22. Thanks so much for all the wonderful comments from everyone. I am doing less blogging over the summer so can’t respond individually right now, but know that I really appreciate your comments. Carolyn

  23. I always love seeing your beautiful posts! My EB plants are my golden shrimp plant, red gingers, ice blue plumbago, puakenikeni, and false heather/Mexican heather (Cuphea hyssopifolia). A couple of these are on my GBBD post today. http://subliminalintervention.blogspot.com/2011/07/garden-bloggers-bloom-day-july-2011.html

    I would love to try hydrangeas in my yard. I think I have one or two spots where they might actually do OK, but I’m not sure.

  24. You certainly have a lot going on. Most of my color comes from annuals at this time of year, but my EB perennials are ‘Miss Huff’ Lantana and ‘Black and Blue’ Salvia. Don’ turn your back on that Rehmannia.

  25. Carolyn, if you want cooling off you should come over here right now, daytime temp in the past 10 days has been between 52f and 62f add the cloud and rain, perhaps you are better off where you are. You show us so many spectacular plants, I start off by saying I will tell Carolyn how much I like this one, then as I proceed there are so many favourites to choose from. I will look out for Clematis, C. integrifolia, and I do like the simplicity of the Hypericum, we have one named magical beauty with very small flowers and multi coloured berries of a peach shade.

    • Absolutely spectacular! I love the way you describe these plants as the “Energizer Bunnies.” They have to be pretty hardy to survive northern winters and bloom in the heat of the summer. Thanks for all the great plant recommendations, too!

  26. I’ve never grown the beautyberry but I’ve enjoyed so many images of the berries but I have never seen the flowers. Thanks.

    On the hens and chickens, I just did a post on The Philosophy of Hens and Chicks you might enjoy.

  27. What Beautiful Blooms! I just saw an Echinacea that looks a lot like yours on a blog called “A garden of threads” http://agardenofthreads.blogspot.com. It was called the Sunset Series Echinacea. Maybe that helps. What beautiful photos. Thanks for sharing! Mindy

  28. Thank you Carolyn you have solved a a riddle. I have Asclepias tuberosa but didn’t know its name. You have so many lovely plants. The plants that I would call my EBs are Perovskia, Gaura Tubaglia and Penstemon. I agree about R. Westerland, which is still a new plant but flowers and flowers, two other roses I would add are R. Queen of Sweden and R. Scepter’d Isle. Christina

  29. What beautiful gardens and flowers. I like the postcard! I agree about red hot poker – wish I had the sun to grow lots of it … My long-blooming plants (EBs) are Salvia guaranitica, purple coneflower, Abelia, and Rose of Sharon ‘Helene.'”

  30. My gosh you have a beautiful garden.

  31. Cheerful and energizing I would say. I have a few of the same plants as you including the native raspberry. I too find the bees love it. The plants seem to love my garden too much as it is spreading a little too quickly for me. I wonder if you find it spreads as well,

  32. making me jealous! The orange westerland is gorgeous! I have not seen that one available by me! I have had similar results with the orange and other ‘New” variations of Echinacea. I still have one orange to :-). I just love orange in the garden and especially with purple, yet I do not know of hardy any!
    Also, Im going to have to hunt for that Acanthus Spinosus!

  33. Everything is stunning, stunning, stunning. Our honeysuckle is also still sending out blooms here and there. I love it! The crazy weather has confused many of our plants.

  34. Wonderfull colour in that rose! And all the pictures are so colourfull and perfect. I think your garden is a piece of Eden these days!

  35. Dear Carolyn, You have a lot going on in your July garden. Some of the flowers you show, such as the iris, have already finished blooming here. I love that unusual foxglove. P. x

  36. Your flowers are all spectacular, no doubt even a bit!

  37. You have so many gorgeous lush plants…Mine are dying or dormant from lack of water and intense heat…oh well…I have campanula Cherry Bells and it seems to grow like crazy as does Octopus Pink.

    • Donna, All the photographs for this post were taken in June so things don’t look as nice now. However, I really find that once plants are well established in the shade, they can survive through a drought. The sun is a different story. Carolyn

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