By Natalie Carmolli, Proven Winners ColorChoice
Photographs courtesy of Proven Winners
There are few things more satisfying than seeing your beautiful garden in full bloom…and it's especially thrilling to see it abuzz with the activity of butterflies and bees. Want to bring more activity to your garden? Here's a guide to choosing unique, colorful, easy-care plants that provide a much-needed place for pollinators of all sizes to do their work.
Let's start with the ever-popular butterfly bush. My favorite is a dwarf buddleia series from Proven Winners ColorChoice called Lo & Behold, which comes in six colors and blooms continuously without deadheading. Unlike the typical tall and rangy buddleia, their growth habit is low and wide-spreading, which makes them great for use as a ground cover, or they can be planted in a decorative container. Best of all, the Lo & Behold series is a sterile variety that does not produce unwanted seedlings.
If you're looking for alternatives to buddleia, a similar look can be found with Itea virginica, commonly known as sweetspire. The award-winning 'Henry's Garnet' sweetspire can be planted in sun or shade and is a great choice for colder climates. Long, white flowers fill the plant in early summer and its fall foliage is a rich red-purple. If you don't have the space for its 4-6' size, you can try Proven Winners 'Little Henry', a dwarf sweetspire that has the same characteristics, but only grows to about 2-3' tall.
Another alternative to butterfly bush is Clethra alnifolia, or summersweet. A popular variety is 'Hummingbird', which was selected by Callaway Gardens for its compact growth, heavy flowering and shiny foliage. Its fragrant spires of white flowers will keep the butterflies engaged with your garden late into the summer. Summersweet can reach heights of 6' tall and is hardy down to zone 4. For smaller spaces, try Sugartina 'Crystalina', a Proven Winners dwarf clethra that matures to just half that size.
Abelia is also a great choice for anyone looking for a sweetly-scented flowering shrub that will attract pollinators from miles away. Abelia is a deciduous to semi-evergreen, medium-small shrub that grows to about 3 to 6' tall, and just as wide. Flowering starts in May, then continues throughout the summer. Typically, abelia can only be planted in zone 6 or warmer, however, Proven Winners 'Sweet Emotion' abelia can withstand cold weather down to zone 4. This plant can be heavily pruned, is easily transplanted, and can be sited in full sun to partial shade. A smaller version is Proven Winners 'Pinky Bells' (which boasts the largest flowers on any abelia) that will reach a tidy 2-3' tall.
To keep your garden colorful all summer, partner your early-blooming abelia with Caryopteris, commonly known as bluebeard, which blooms late into the season. This drought-tolerant plant is hardy down to zone 5 and yields an abundance of blue flowers, attracting pollinators of all sizes. A popular cultivar, 'Longwood Blue', has deep blue flowers and grayish-green leaves that are mildly fragrant. For contrasting foliage, consider partnering it with 'Lil Miss Sunshine' or 'Sunshine Blue II', both yellow-leafed caryopteris from Proven Winners.
It may be mid-winter, but this is the perfect time to start planning spaces in your garden that will attract butterflies, bees, and maybe even a hummingbird or two, all summer long. For more information about some of the plants mentioned in this article, go to www.provenwinners-shrubs.com.
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