Currently blooming trees and shrubs

Ka-bloom!

Ka-bloom!

The first heat wave of our not-yet-officially-summer season is well underway, alas. And the thunderstorms that doused many neighborhoods near me missed my house. Entirely. As in, no rain. At all.

Wonder Spouse and I are doling out water carefully to the vegetables and a few tender transplants, but otherwise, all we can do is hunker down in the shade and pray for rain.

So far, the veggies are doing great, and I’ll provide updates soon. But today I wanted to share with my fellow piedmonters a few of the shrubs and trees that you can grow to continue your spring bloom period in your landscape well into summer.

First up is that lovely flower known to all southerners — Southern Magnolia. Technically, it’s native to more southern parts of the US, but it thrives here.

My 50-foot specimen has been blooming for several weeks, and continues to perfume the heavy near-summer air every morning as the Yellow-billed Cuckoo tries to call the rain with its “kowp-kowp-kowp” call. The fragrance is especially intoxicating in the evening as fireflies flicker among the trees and Eastern Whip-poor-wills call repeatedly from a clearing on the other side of our creek.

On the floodplain, the Poinsettia Tree (also called Fever Tree) is displaying its flower-like, showy bracts.

From a distance, the pale bracts are not as obvious, but I wanted you to see how well it has grown.

From a distance, the pale bracts are not as obvious, but I wanted you to see how well it has grown.

The showy bracts are evident when the tree is viewed more closely:

This tree is native to SC, but technically not in NC. I've sited mine well, and it has responded accordingly.

This tree is native to SC, but technically not in NC. I’ve sited mine well, and it has responded accordingly.

My native Oakleaf Hydrangeas are almost in full flower now. I grow “Peewee,” which is supposed to remain no taller than four feet. I’m not sure mine know that.

The leaves of this hydrangea really do resemble oak leaves, and their fall garnet color makes this shrub gorgeous year-round.

The leaves of this hydrangea really do resemble oak leaves, and their fall garnet color makes this shrub gorgeous year-round.

Flower clusters on the Oakleaf Hydrangeas are about the size of a volley ball.

So pretty, and they dry beautifully to a soft tan color that looks lovely in autumn dried flower arrangements.

So pretty, and they dry beautifully to a soft tan color that looks lovely in autumn dried flower arrangements.

A non-native shrub that is favored by bees, butterflies, and even hummingbirds is my pink abelia. I’ve forgotten the variety name, but this shrub blooms for at least six weeks. The flowers are fragrant, especially first thing in the morning.

This non-native shrub withstands any kind of pruning --or none at all.

This non-native abelia withstands any kind of pruning –or none at all.

The heat has made my non-native Chindo viburnums bloom faster than I like, but they’re still putting out flowers. I have two specimens growing side by side. These non-native, evergreen shrubs (really small trees) are at least 15 feet tall, probably more like 20 feet. Their flower clusters routinely attract an astonishing diversity of pollinators, and the shiny evergreen leaves look handsome year round.

To get the entire shrubs in the photo, I had to step pretty far away from them.

To get the entire shrubs in the photo, I had to step pretty far away from them.

Chindo viburnum flower cluster

Chindo viburnum flower cluster

The native Sourwoods (Oxydendrum arboreum) are just starting to open their graceful flower clusters. This four-season understory native should be part of every piedmonter’s landscape.

Sourwood flowers are beloved by bees -- another reason to include this native in your yard.

Sourwood flowers are beloved by bees — another reason to include this native in your yard.

A native that is just finishing its bloom period is Elderberry. You can see this shrubby tree growing in almost any wet spot in the landscape. Mine line the creek that borders our property, providing food for wildlife.

Elderberry bloom

Elderberry bloom

Cotinus x 'Grace'

Cotinus x ‘Grace’

The Smoketree (Cotinus x ‘Grace’) in my yard is a cross between a European species and a North American native, and now that it’s grown to a height of about 25 feet, it takes my breath away every year. It does look a bit like smoke, doesn’t it — or pink cotton candy perhaps? Technically, those are not the flowers. The flower clusters are relatively inconspicuous. Its the seed clusters that steal the show with this tree.

It really is pink, and if planted as an understory tree, where it remains shaded, Grace's leaves remain a deep purple-green all summer -- a lovely contrast to the pink seed heads that often persist for as long as a month.

It really is pink, and if planted as an understory tree, where it remains shaded, Grace’s leaves remain a deep purple-green all summer — a lovely contrast to the pink seed heads that often persist for as long as a month.

Those are not all the woody plants currently blooming in my yard, but it’s a fair sample. I’ll share more another time.

In my part of the southeastern piedmont, there’s really no reason you can’t have blooming plants in your landscape year-round. Every piedmonter with a yard should take advantage of this fortunate fact to enhance their landscapes with perpetual color and fragrance.

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