The Latest Flowering Shrubs

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 ‘Recency is Primacy’
n general, people call to mind most easily those things that have happened most recently.
Each year, the last plants to flower in a freshly beautiful way seem very precious. In fond memory, they seem to stay close by as we go through the grey and white seasons.

Actually anything that we, as gardeners, can do to make the winter feel shorter will probably feel good.
Having some of the latest and the earliest flowering plants of all kinds and sizes in the tree, shrub, perennial and wildling departments helps alot.
Most months of the year in
Zone 5b can have some plants naturally flowering – or otherwise looking fabulous – if you just choose the right plants.

Thoughtfully Shaping the Evergreen Landscape  for satisfying winter pictures helps too.

viburnum summer snowflake and viburnum watanabeVIBURNUM PLICATUM TOMENTOSUM SUMMER SNOWFLAKE  =  V. WATANABE

This wonderful plant blooms continuously in diminishing degrees of fullness from Memorial Day into September, even carrying a flower here and there until frost. Throughout the summer season, red berry clusters ornament the branches wherever it has flowered. Look quickly though, you may not have much time to enjoy the beauty of those berries since the birds and squirrels will take most every cluster, once they decide they are just right. Delicious, apparently.

This Viburnum likes a woodland edge situation, with at least a half day of sun, and 2/3+  is better. While often presented as a small and slow growing thing, in my experience it matures fairly quickly in a good exposure and a small specimen can grow into the 12’ height range after 6 years or so. While it can accept a shadier situation, it won’t flower as much and grows more slowly.

Although Viburnums are thought of as shrubs, not trees, this one tends to have a nice shape on its own without much trimming. It can easily have the appearance of a small and well-formed pyramidal tree if you start it young and keep it to a single trunk. The white flower highlights may be enhanced in a view including other plants with white in leaves or flowers.

Allocate some width for its future, 10’ on center perhaps, as it has a graceful architecture when its limbs are given some radial freedom. You can prune it up later and treat it as a canopy tree as it matures. It is rarely troubled by pests and has proved solidly hardy here in zone 5b for 13 years.

Viburnum x rhytidophylloides 'Willowwood'VIBURNUM RHYTIDOPHYLLOIDES WILLOWWOOD

Another handsome and reliable Viburnum is V. rhytidophylloides willowwood, shown above, which  often flowers here in fall and also in spring. The flowers are, however, a modest attribute compared to the handsome glossy, corrugated foliage which is particularly  since it is evergreen through most winters in zone 5B.

It is especially useful because it can be grown in modest light conditions, and we all have our shady spots.
It is somewhat drough tolerant and competes well even in rooty surroundings. Although a shrub, it attains a tree type height and stature, with the advantage of keeping its leaves at the bottom as well, if you want it to. Or prune to taste.

( Not to be confused with  Viburnum rhytidophyllum varieties, for while their leaves are similar, this shrub is very different in ways that have made it less useful in my experience. It seems to need more sun, more water and its leaves are less cold tolerant. )


Daphne t. summer ice is somewhat new to the trade, but destined to be a centerpiece wherever it is grown, a truly beloved plant. She has proved very reliably hardy in zone 5B for 6 years. This Daphne is somewhat similar to the familiar Daphne Carol Mackie, the beautifully variegated form that many gardeners know and love, just with less ivory variegation on the leaves.
The difference between them that matters so much is that Daphne summer ice produces  fragrant flowers continuously and abundantly throughout  the entire summer and into late fall.
While D.
Carol Mackie has an extravagant and fragrant flowering time in May for a few weeks, there will be no more flowers until next year, though her leaves contribute beautifully in the garden until hard frost.

Daphne summer ice is more floriferous  and sturdier here, hardiness-wise, than the green leaved, reblooming Daphne transatlantica and D. caucasica forms I have so far tried.

All the aforementioned Daphnes are semi-evergreen to one degree or another, so their leaves will please you even as the early frosts come in.

These Daphnes need a good amount of sun but not too hot of a place. With some wind protection, adequate water and drainage they will please you for many years to come.

It seems to be the natural habit of all of these Daphnes to want to lean and drape, so find a spot where that will be ok with you.
When you choose a place for a Daphne, choose carefully because they do not transplant well.

For all of these Daphnes I would choose a specimen with a sensible volume of roots. Very small young ones have shown a dismaying failure rate when transplanted to open ground. A bit bigger and older is better to avoid problems in this crucial matter, but if they get much older and fuller and reach 2 feet or more in height and girth, they may have adjustment problems in a new home, perhaps from having lived a long while elsewhere.


Heptacodium micionoides flowers wonderfully late in the garden. In early September or so in Marblehead, it will be freshly covered with white panicles of flowers that last many weeks. These myriads of blossoms emit a subtle intoxicating aroma, pleasing to both pollinators and people. Their silvery exfoliating bark is an attribute through all the seasons.

After flowering, the pink calyces stay behind (originally the sepals of the flowers), and these miniature bouquets redecorate the whole shrub / tree with a rosy glow. I harvest some of them and let them dry for winter indoor arrangements. A bowlful is lovely to have.

The greatest challenge is the pruning of Heptacodium for good shape, since her branches go eagerly in many directions. You need to decide which ones have good shape, leave them and ruthlessly prune off the odd ones. Without such attentions, her overall look can be awkward.

Lespedeza gibraltar pinkLESPEDEZA

One of the latest glories of the garden, there is little else as exciting as Lespedeza gibraltar at this time of year when her fountainous form will be covered with deep pink flowers. Lespedezasometimes referred to as the ‘lets be friends’ plant, since it’s a tough name to remember – is invisible through the winter and spring, and develops modestly through the summer, so she takes up virtually no room in the garden, though she is preparing for spectacular glory in the fall.
Sometime before winter, the ritual is to cut her back to a nubbin some inches high and she will start all over next year.
In this way, it will be out of the way of other plants until next midsummer when its drama will begin again, from the ground up.
The white form, Lespedeza avalanche, is even a bit later, and gives us flowers in October. Equally hardy and beautiful, it is especially easy to site because white is so versatile.Lespedeza avalancheBoth of these Lespedezas prefer quite alot of sun, but can be rewarding in places that only have a 2/3 day exposure, they will just lean towards the light, but you can plan for that. I tie mine up on an arch where earlier in the season, the place was adorned  by Daphne Carol Mackie, then miniature climbing Rose Jeanne la Joie and Clematis Julia Correvon, and they all live quite happily together.
The cut down system is very convenient in a small garden where the fountainous excesses of Lespedeza’s leaves and flowers wait to shoot up until after the understory plants have finished flowering, so you can have earlier things sharing the same places as these lovely late ones.

Lonicera sempevirens and Ampelopsis elegantissimaLONICERA SEMPEVIRENS DROPMORE SCARLET

So long flowering and sturdy that, though a vine and not a true shrub, I wanted to link you to things I have written about this Lonicera’s stellar late performance.

There are quite a few more favorite late flowering shrubs that I will write about later, along with a raft of the best Late Flowering Perennials and self sowing Annuals.


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One Comment

  1. Posted March 12, 2016 at 9:35 pm | Permalink

    Im very pleased with your work.

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