From the Sperry Gardens – March, 2011

New Orleans gate is flanked by crotons in Sperry landscape.

On Facebook a couple of nights ago, a gentleman asked about the best sources of summer color for a group of condominiums. Seems he is in charge of grounds maintenance there, and his periwinkles fell flat last summer. Literally. (From the water mold fungus called Phytophora.)

I prepared a list of the plants that have best served my own personal needs. This list is far from complete, but it’s a great head start on finding plants that will bring brightness and color to the summertime landscape.

Cutting-grown coleus star annually in the Sperry gardens.

Annuals: (Sun) Trailing lantanas, moss rose, hybrid purslane, pentas, linearis zinnias, cosmos, celosia, gomphrena, amaranthus, firebush, copper plants, brugmansias, purple fountaingrass, fanflower, and sun-tolerant coleus. Even ornamental peppers put on a show. As a filler flower with the other annuals, Diamond Frost euphorbia. (Shade) Wax begonias, impatiens, coleus, caladiums, nicotiana. For all of these, buy vigorous 4-, 6-inch or 1-gallon transplants. Set them into appropriately prepared garden soil, then water and nurture them, and you’ll be set for the summer.

Angel Wing begonia for container color in shade.

Tropicals: Crotons, mandevilla, bougainvillea, variegated tapioca, sea hibiscus and tropical hibiscus come from hot homes, so they’re obviously safe. They’re well suited to large patio pots, but you may opt to use them as annuals and plant them directly into the ground.

Perennials: Daylilies, Shasta daisies, Goldsturm gloriosa daisies, cannas, mallows (and many others) are great choices, but use them in small groupings in various focal points of your garden. Plan so that annuals and other perennials will be available to take over the show as each type completes its bloom cycle.

Vines and Shrubs: These round out the list. Madame Galen trumpetcreeper blooms almost continuously from late spring into early fall. Althaeas (roses-of-Sharon) produce most of their flowers in the first part of the summer. And, best of the bunch, our beloved crape myrtles flower time and again from early summer well into September. Crape myrtles are available in shades of red, pink, lavender, purple and white. Their mature heights range from 2 to 25 feet. For lots more information on crape myrtles, visit (website of The Crape Myrtle Trails of McKinney).

Posted by Neil Sperry
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